God's Vision

When I was growing up, sometimes my dad would go all day wearing his shirt inside out. He usually didn’t realize it until he came home and saw himself in the mirror or until my mom noticed and immediately began roasting him for it. Needless to say, he’s not a big fashion guy. I’m sure we can all relate to this at some level. Maybe you look in the mirror and realize you’ve had a piece of lettuce stuck in your teeth since lunch. Or maybe you’re like me and you get back from class only to find out that the shorts you thought were black were actually blue all along (colorblind probs). Usually after something like this happens to me I think, “wow, have I really been walking around like this all day? And no one bothered to tell me? How dumb am I?”. Maybe you can relate.
 
I’ve found myself thinking these same thoughts the past few years and even more so the past few months in my own attempt to process the racial division in our country. Let’s rewind a little bit though. Over the years, I’ve prayed this prayer more times than I can count: “God, give me eyes to see things the way you see them. Give me a heart for what you have a heart for. Break my heart for what breaks yours”. I still pray this sort of prayer frequently. You should too if you aren’t already! But if you’ve been walking with God for a while, you’ll know that one of the most dangerous parts of prayer is when God gives you what you ask for. It sounds so spiritual to ask God to give eyes that see what He sees. The trouble comes when God does what you ask and forces you to bring the spiritual into the physical.
 
This is where I found myself earlier this year. With the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, I found myself with a new set of eyes. Eyes that were now seeing things in a new light. Just like that moment I realized I had been wearing the wrong color shorts and thought, “wow, have I really been walking around like this all day?”, I was now thinking, “wow, has this stuff really been going on right under my nose? How was I so blind?”. By a work of the Holy Spirit, the scales had fallen from my eyes and I was now seeing with those new eyes I had asked for.
 
“Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way.” - 2 Corinthians 7:9 (NLT) 
 
This “wow” moment cut straight to the heart and led me to a face to face encounter with sorrow.  These feelings of sorrow about a people still enduring so much pain and hurt after centuries of suffering brought me to a place of repentance. Personal repentance for my own failings and ignorance but also corporate repentance on behalf of generations of racially motivated sin by my white ancestors and the church. God doesn’t use repentance to shame us though. In fact, “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance” (Romans 2:4).
 
But repentance is not the end. In the order of salvation, good works are the result of repentance and faith in Jesus. That’s good news! Likewise, when God brings us to repentance on an issue like this, it should be expected that we will move forward in the same manner of producing good works as a result of our realignment with the heart of God. As Jesus says in Mathew 3:8, “produce fruit in keeping with repentance”. Through this realignment we’ll find ourselves with the same heartbeat as Jesus, and a desire to become more and more like Him. To follow Him wherever He leads. And when you read about Jesus’ ministry on Earth in the gospels, where is He going most of the time? It’s usually into the mess. Visiting those deemed undesirable. Into trouble. Towards persecution and his own execution. Luke 9:51 says, “Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem”. To be a Jesus follower implies that you are going somewhere. He invites us to follow. To go. To take the first step in a long process. Judges 6:14 says, “Go in the strength you have”, no matter how little that may be. We can take heart that God’s “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). 
 
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” - Psalm 51:10
 
In this journey of processing the racial division in our country, a journey I’m by no means finished with, God has graciously and gently revealed shortcomings in my own heart. He has shown me that too often my heart doesn’t match His heart. Too often I don’t even want my heart to match His heart. I want things to be the way I think they ought to be. As the Backstreet Boys say, “I want it that way”. And while the truth of God’s character should shape my opinions and desires, too often it’s the other way around. Unfortunately, I frequently find that my understanding of God is shaped by my opinions.
 
Realizing our shortcomings is never easy. This case is no exception. But as God graciously draws me to repentance and I reorient my heart to His, He reveals a clearer picture of Himself. Through this process, He has shown me that while my understanding of Him is incomplete due to my limited experience, His understanding of me and every other human being is full and complete. Paul put it like this, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12). God is altogether bigger and better than me, and that’s great news.
 
“Wholeness is brokenness owned and thereby healed” – Brennan Manning
 
So where does this leave us? Whether you’re new to the conversation and feel overwhelmed with a darkness in your own heart that you didn’t even know was there, or you’ve been engaged in the conversation for years and your frustration with the division in the world has reached its breaking point, there’s still hope. There’s always hope. “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19). Our hope is not vague sentiment but is living and active. Isaiah 61:3 says God will give “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair”. God is at work. He always is. Personal transformation towards becoming more like Jesus takes time, and so does societal transformation towards becoming more like the kingdom of heaven. Expediency is not God’s main priority. All throughout the Bible we see that He uses wounded and broken people to heal and restore. This is a process, just like our own personal journey with racial division. But through it all we can trust that He “is making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). Even me and even you.
 
Author | Jake Stephens

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