Our community has been rocked, and we are seeking our footing. This last two months are paying a toll on our souls – our mental, emotional and spiritual health. We have experienced the isolation of social distancing and quarantines. We have been humbled as businesses are struggling for survival, and family members have been laid off due to a state-wide stay-at-home order. We have been going stir crazy, stuck at home debating on social media about all the opinions and misinformation around COVID-19. It has not been easy, like it has not been easy for much of the nation around us.
And then, a video is leaked revealing the unthinkable shooting of a 25-year-old black male. In a 24-hour period, the nation knew the name Ahmaud Arbery, and Brunswick (Glynn County), Georgia became the epicenter of national news. The video of the shooting has obviously created an uproar and calls for justice. The story has not only impacted our community, but has obviously touched a nerve far beyond our coastal community. Many people have run exactly 2.23 miles in the last week, and posted it on social media with a hashtag — #IrunwithMaud.
How much more can we take? How much more heartache can we bear? How do we seek to recover? There are many lessons to be learned, and the Lord will use all of this differently in each of our lives. My first thoughts have begun by being willing to begin “within” – and look my own self in the mirror. By that, I mean I think it is crucial for me to look at my own heart. Most people want to believe that they generally have a good heart. The scriptures, however tell us we have a heart problem. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus said there are evil things that come out of the heart and defile us. These are things such as “evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, and slander” (Matthew 15:19). There is true evil in the outside world around us. The evil around us can be so tempting at times though because of the sin and evil within us. My worst problem is facing me every time I look in the mirror. I know I am greatly loved and valued by God but also know the struggle with my own sin. I need to own my own sin and pride before I begin to call out someone else’s. I have seen plenty of my own sinful thoughts and attitudes in the midst of our community’s crisis with the pandemic and with the shooting of Ahmaud.
I have been confronted with my own frustration, impatience, selfishness, suspicion, anger, judgment, prejudice, racists attitudes, etc. I have again realized that I am in as much need of mercy and grace as anyone else in the entire community. I am thankful Jesus can forgive me, cleanse me and change me as I confess my sin and brokenness before Him. I believe it will take the humility to let Jesus heal us, so that hopefully we can be a part of bringing healing to a heartbroken community.
Obviously, the local tragedy with Ahmaud arouses many questions and tensions regarding race relations, justice, prejudice, and pain. These are terribly sad but not necessarily new realities. I want to share more and say more on these issues from a truly biblical perspective. We need to be able to have these conversations as a community in the days ahead. It will not be easy. Satan would love to use this moment to divide us further racially; but I know in God’s heart He wants to make us more unified. For the church of Jesus Christ (white, black, and all people of color), I pray we can enter conversations and take steps with this thought in mind: “God loves every person on our planet as much as he loves you. Now he is calling you to do the same.” We must push through our prejudicial and racial biases to come to a place of mutual love, respect and a full desire for justice for all people. And we must denounce every form of racism, separatism, hate, supremacy and pride in the name of Jesus. I stand on really solid biblical merits to declare that these have nothing to do with the Kingdom of God. So let’s look within and face our own sin, and discover God’s grace so we can then face our neighbors with love and do the hard work of reconciliation and the pursuit of justice. It is heart of God to do so. And that’s the Word.
The Rev. David Yarborough is pastor of St. Simons Community Church. Contact him at david@weare community.church or 912-634-2960.