The Least of These

Racial Reconciliation: A Series on the Journey of Experience and Understanding

*This blog series is a written through the lens of several writers’ experiences and is thus each writer’s own story. The voices and experiences of each writer are honored and valued, but are not subjected to the experiences or the voice of the UGA Wesley Foundation as a whole. Thank you for taking the time to read about some of our interns’ and students’ experience with racial injustice and what each one believes God is leading them to do next.

June 25th, a hot Thursday evening, I knelt amongst 100 or so other protestors. Our fists raised, our heads bowed, all taking part in a moment of silence. For Tamir Rice, for June 25 would have been Tamir's 18th birthday.

Tamir Rice was an average boy. He went to school, like most kids do. He loved to play in the park, like many children his age. And he liked to play with toy guns, like so many boys all over the country do. But unlike other boys his age, Tamir's life was cut short by a police officer, who shot him while he was playing with a toy gun in a park.

 This happened six years ago. For six years, I've thought about that little boy. Wondered what his favorite subject in school was. Wondered what he wanted to be when he grew up. Wondered what it would have been like to have that smiling boy in my own classroom. To teach him. To know him. To hear about how his life was taken away.

When I think about Tamir Rice, my heart breaks. There is just nothing in me that can fathom the loss of a 12 year old boy. Who had so much life to live. I think "Out of all the deaths, out of all the murders, this one is the worst." As an educator, I see children as the brightest and most beautiful things in the world, and to see one be taken, breaks me down to my very core.

From Tamir Rice to Elijah McClane, each time I see a young Black boy being killed for simply existing, my heart aches. I wept for 30 minutes straight when I learned of Elijah McClane's death. It's almost like a pattern. A death, my tears, my rage, and my action. I hurt, but I tear myself away from my couch and I rage for change. Because I care too much to let something like what happen to Tamir happen to another child, another innocent life.

But recently, amongst the protests and the "Black Lives Matter" movements, I paused, and I thought to myself, "Where are the people that I call my brothers in sisters in Christ? Do they not care too?"

Before college, I used to live in my own privilege. As a middle class American, I lived a comfortable life, and I could easily ignore the suffering. I knew that there was racism, (I’d felt it every day of my life), but that wasn’t my problem, my ministry area. God wanted me to learn about Him and nothing more.
 
For so long, I thought being Christian meant following the rules. Staying on track with His commands. Don’t do this, forsake that. And, in my head, I was doing just that. But the weight of the world began to bare down on me as I felt the pressure I had put on myself.  I must do right, I must be perfect.

It wasn’t until I started education classes in college that I felt God’s anointing and purpose over my life. As I learned more about the injustices of my people and all those hurt by the system and as I felt my heart breaking for them, I felt God telling me, “Stop. Drop everything and follow me. Because this is where I am. This is where I want you to be.”

Too often, I feel we get caught up in the appearances and mechanics of being Christian. We try to earn our way into Heaven by hopping onto the latest devotional and diving deeper into our enneagram numbers. We share a Jesus post online and head to the store to pick up our newest Bible cover. And while those things are fine, we can't do these things while neglecting what breaks the heart of God.

While Jesus was on earth, He was constantly calling out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. In Matthew 23:23, Jesus states, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of yours spices - mint, dill and cumin. But you neglected the more important matters of the law - justice, mercy and faithfulness." Jesus was saying that the Pharisees would do the religious things that looked good on paper, like paying tithe or resting on Sunday, but wouldn't do anything for His people, for "the least of these" (Matthew 25:45).

What does this mean for us? God is in the hurting and the suffering, and all this means that we have to put down our superficial Christianity markers and focus on doing the work that God sent us to do. As His followers, we find peace and relationship with Him when we step into His purpose for us. It is good to start a new Bible plan on the Bible app, but what does that mean if we aren't making God's justice our business? Fighting injustice shouldn't be a White or Black thing, or a democrat or republican thing. It should 100% be a God thing. God is calling us to see His heart for the lost and broken and give ourselves to bring about His justice and His peace. Like it talks about in Matthew 25, He wants us to see the stranger, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner. He wants us to see the Tamir Rice's, Elijah McClane's, and George Floyd's. We are to see those hurting and we are to go out and show them the love of God.

Now, what does this look like today? What can we do? To start, we pray; we ask God to give us a heart for those who suffer injustice and the strength to fight along side them. Then, we have to get educated. We have to learn about police brutality and systemic racism. We can't fight something we don't know or acknowledge exists. We must come to understand the history of injustice in our country, and we must develop empathy and care for victims of injustice and oppression. Lastly, and most importantly, we find a way to show that we care about God's people and His business by choosing a course of action. For me, that has looked like going to protests and joining local social justice organizations. Because that is what it looks like when God breaks my heart.

But what does it look like for you? Ask Him. Because He is so ready to tell you. God wants to break your heart for the hurting. Let Him.

(optional sources)
Resources for self-education:
https://civilrights.org/wp-content/uploads/Toolkit.pdf
https://www.netflix.com/title/80091741
Holy Post -  Race in America
https://blacklivesmatter.com/resources/

Author | Stephanie Seda

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