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A confession and a commitment

June 2, 2020 by Eric Stillman 1 comments

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

Let me begin with a confession. In my almost 14(!) years as the pastor of NewLife, I have almost entirely steered away from social and political issues, choosing to focus as much as possible on preaching the Biblical text that is in front of me on a Sunday and the people who call themselves a part of our church. I know that there are a wide range of opinions in our church on many issues, and for better or worse I have tried to stay above the fray and point people to Jesus.

Having said that, I now believe that I have wrongly erred on the side of silence too often, when my voice needs to be heard. For that, I ask your forgiveness. This sermon series on lament has helped give me a voice from which to share my perspective on the world. It has helped me to realize that speaking up does not always have to mean “taking a stand,” but can mean raising a voice of lament: helping people to turn to God, to pour out their complaint – their hurt, anger, doubts, questions, fears, etc. – to ask boldly of God what it is we want, and then to choose to trust in Him.

This past Sunday, I read a prayer of lament that I had written regarding both the coronavirus and racism in our country. I was afraid that by mentioning both, some might feel that I was minimizing one or the other, but my intention was simply to come before the Lord with two lamentable situations that are very relevant in this historical moment. I did not expect to be overcome by my emotions the way I was, but I am thankful that I was. As I read my words with tears running down my face, I realized that the language of lament enabled me to weep alongside those who are weeping in a way that I had not previously done. I wept not only for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and the many other victims of racist violence, but for their families and for every target of racism whose shoes I have never truly walked in. I wept for all the families who have lost loved ones to the coronavirus, for all who have been beaten down by isolation, death, and despair. My words and tears will not make the coronavirus or racism disappear, but I hope they will serve to bring compassion, unity, and most importantly, God’s power to bear on these situations.

Racism is wrong. It is wrong because every individual is an image-bearer of God, and it is wrong because the gospel teaches us that we are all in the same boat, all sinners in need of a Savior, no one better than anyone else. It is wrong because in God’s eternal kingdom, every tribe, nation, and language will gather together in unity to worship Jesus (Revelation 7:9). James tells us that “everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). We would be well-served by listening to the experiences of those who are different than us, that we might learn to better love and appreciate our fellow image-bearers. And we will continue to preach the gospel, because it alone has the power to replace pride with humility and fear with trust.

I commit before the Lord and before you all to do better and to lead better. Once again, I am thankful for the language of lament and how it can bring unity instead of division. Pray for me, that God would give me wisdom on when to speak and when to stay silent, and how to lead as Jesus would. More importantly, pray for those who are suffering, angry, and wounded, that they might experience the healing and hope that is found in the gospel. Amen.

1 Comments

I just read this blog from a couple of weeks ago, and I just want to say how grateful I am to have a pastor who demonstrates transparency and compassion to his church family in his messages.
Mary Solazzo on Jun 21, 2020 at 1:25pm

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