God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. —1 Peter 5:5
By refusing to move to the back of the bus, Rosa Parks epitomized humility. I believe God gave grace by inspiring and energizing a movement towards racial equality and equity not simply because of her obvious courage but because of her overlooked humility. A humble person says, “I know my place in this world. It is neither above nor beneath anyone. I am a human being created in the Image of God just like everyone else in the diverse human sea. As such, I have as much of a God-given right to be here as anyone else.”
In humility, people created in the image of God take their seat at society’s table. In humility, those already seated make the necessary room. Sometimes, the humble have to change tables altogether, leaving behind those too proud to scooch over—that is, those who perpetuate the mistreatment of ethnic minorities via overt actions or silent indifference.
Advocacy from members of the ethnic majority is needed but so is solidarity. This is especially true for those who follow Jesus. The church, in particular, has a responsibility to promote the kingdom of God’s ideals in every nook and cranny of society. Our goal is not to turn Seattle into heaven for that shall never be. But, our goal is to give Seattle a taste of heaven in the here and now.
One day, Jesus will return and all will be made new. God’s kingdom will then be occupied, shared, and enjoyed by people of every nation, tribe, and tongue. In fact, we will all share a banquet table together. As followers of Jesus, we get to call attention to that future reality now by how, in humility, we make room at society’s table by promoting the equal and just treatment of all races.
Martin Luther King Jr. spoke prophetically to the American church and her proud unwillingness to make room at society’s table for people of color: “In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say, ‘Those are social issues with which the Gospel has no real concern.’”
He then pleaded with the church to recognize the real difference Jesus makes in all of life—which includes addressing social concerns—and warned her of being caught in the cross-hairs of God’s just opposition: “There was a time when the Church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the Church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. . . But the judgement of God is upon the Church as never before. If the Church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early Church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.”
His words have not lost their prophetic appeal.
Perhaps the flashes of violence and the apparent unraveling of the social order occurring in cities throughout our country is but a real-time manifestation of God’s resolve to resist the proud. Cities and cultures eventually reap what they sow. Although not every member of society is guilty of racist or unjust actions, it only takes a little yeast to leaven a whole batch of dough. Perhaps, we’ve reached a breaking point as a society. We are certainly showing our cracks.
It may be tempting to condemn all the current protests due to all the chaos. Of course, all expressions of violence, vandalism, and looting is condemnable. But, just as wheat and weeds grow in the same field, peaceful and hostile protests often occupy the same streets. So, we must resist the temptation to dismiss viable concerns of injustice and much needed societal changes because some weeds have mixed in with the wheat, threatening the fields.
As followers of Jesus, let’s encourage protesting through peaceful means of advocacy and solidarity. Let’s do the hard and humble work of making room at society’s table for all races. And, yes, let’s pray for God’s kingdom to come and for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. As we pray, let’s lift our voices and move our feet towards forming a more just society for all her inhabitants.
This post along with other resources are also available at hallowschurch.org.