The Ballot, Bullets, and Necessary Repentance

It is a difficult place to occupy as a young preacher living in this world today. I recognize that we have always dealt with injustice, anger, strife, and oppression. We have questioned authority that is supposed to address the needs of the community. Yet, I confess that I am more perplexed by the current state of affairs in our country than ever before.

In Columbus, OH, we are in the midst of an extremely bloody season on many fronts. Another cop shooting has taken place. More homicides and shootings have broken out, we just began the 5th month of the year. We have special elections taking place around the country. We are under the oppressive cloud of separation and hate. We have been trying many ways to address all of these various issues, but we have not taken the moment to address a strategy that will sustain change, growth, development, and empowerment.

It is my contention that every movement taking place at this moment in time is significant to our awareness of the constant decline in the fabric of our society. We can not go around and act as if nothing negative is going on. We can continue to express our hatred for police brutality. We can demonstrate our loathing for apathetic leaders and self-serving individuals.

My concern is that we need a holistic approach to sustaining a movement of power and change. We need our minds and spirits to be renewed constantly from the negative issues before our eyes. We also are in need of being honest about how we arrived at this moment in time.

We can no longer discuss any level of oppression or challenge without admitting that some root cause existed first. Generally, human beings have lost the ability and desire to embrace the sacredness of our nature. We do not celebrate our uniqueness or creativity. We find a million ways to tear down and have not stopped to consider that our survival is directly connected to our spiritual condition.

I believe that spiritual neglect is a major component to the current landscape we occupy. We are outraged and appalled by the insanity that we see. We are enraged by things that seem to be simple to understand. Don’t kill people. Don’t abuse the wounded. Don’t judge harshly the stranger. These issues are measured according to our moral code. The “normal” person sees a person shot unjustly and says “It didn’t have to occur”.

However, we place the story within the media or the court of public opinion and attempt to discredit the humanity of the person harmed in order to justify what happened. We look to our leaders to make simple sense of what has taken place, but they are now governed by their agendas. Being prophetic in action and speech is not financially expedient. Actually governing with heart is not at the forefront for many officials.

So why are we here? Why question all these problems? We need a revival of our spirits. We need a determination to rise in us to the level of active pursuit of right. We must engage in the work of no longer hiding our faith as if it is only a piece of our existence. We must demonstrate to the world that our convictions, faith, and hopes cannot be compromised for the sake of others comfort. It is time to shift our focus to improvement. It is time to stop settling for second best. We must fully dissect the strategy to begin recovering our sacredness and drive.

I was reading the book of Nehemiah. During my private time, I read something interesting. The nation of Israel began to repent for all of the history that demonstrated their neglect and rejection of God. Think about this idea for a moment. God gave Israel the distinction of being chosen. However, they rejected the notion of preserving the blessing attached to it.

Constantly, Israel decided that it would be okay to reject God when life was prosperous. They chose to run back to God when they were in captivity. It seems really silly to go through that type of cycle when it did not have to be the case. This continuous cycle resulted in captivity and a destroyed city.

When Nehemiah comes on the scene, Israel was in a position to rebuild and recover. They were permitted revive and restore Jerusalem to its former glory. Now, the people needed to confront the root of their issues. They needed to repent. They needed to acknowledge their role in the deterioration of their environment. They needed to recognize change was necessary to bring them to a new season.

As they nation fasted and prayed, they came to a moment of clarity. They knew that God had been with them the entire time. However, they realized that they had been absent from their connection with God. The realization was that every part of their environment was affected by the choice to walk away from God. Something had to give. Check out this prayer.

32 “Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all your people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until this day. 33 Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly. 34 Our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept your law or paid attention to your commandments and your warnings that you gave them. 35 Even in their own kingdom, and amid your great goodness that you gave them, and in the large and rich land that you set before them, they did not serve you or turn from their wicked works. 36 Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves. 37 And its rich yield goes to the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins. They rule over our bodies and over our livestock as they please, and we are in great distress.

38 [a] “Because of all this we make a firm covenant in writing; on the sealed document are the names of[b] our princes, our Levites, and our priests. –Nehemiah 9:32-38, ESV

They realized that even in the current set of circumstances that they were slaves in their own land. Tangible blessings were not enough to compensate for their inner turmoil and oppressed state. They knew that they needed to change to experience the complete manifestation of God’s power at work.

I believe we are in a state that we need to repent. I begin with the African American community. I am a serious proponent of the reality of inequality and injustice that we have faced for over 400 years in this part of the Northern Hemisphere. I will never deny that we face disproportionate attention in many areas of life. Yet, we are the same community that has created various forms of music, businesses, economic advancements, leaders, social change, etc.

It is difficult for me to continue to strictly play from a position of weakness. I cannot continue to look at my skin and believe that am second class or social entertainment for people that do not see my worth. We as a people need to repent. For what? We must repent for tearing down one another. We promote Worldstar fights, but not economic empowerment. We say nobody will give us a hand, but we possess the creative ability to create our own money. If we could create Black Wall Street, the Mount Vernon Area of years gone by in Columbus, and other economic platforms, we can do it again.

We need to repent for telling anyone that they are not going to make it because of their past. We tell single parents that they will never be a success. We tell kids that they are no better than their absent parents. We say the talented lack necessary hood tendencies. We call our street corner the limit to what can be obtained. Every person has the capacity to be more and do more. We are responsible to let them know not to settle for less. We must remind everyone they their are no limits.

Ultimately, we must repent of our neglect toward anyone who needs empowerment. We cannot continue to watch tragedies take place without putting in the effort to aid in avoiding these results. Now before people get up in arms, hear me out. Many people that I know are working hard to push the issues that are most important to the entire society. They are working tirelessly for equality, equity, and justice. That work must never stop.

With that work, another layer exists. We must make certain that people are not only doing the work of rebuilding and empowerment, but builders must also be rebuilt. We must continue to make certain that all do not grow weary in doing the work of change. Everyone needs at least one person to remind them of the promise and purpose of being chosen.

We have times when we go tired of our issues. We grow weary of trying to press forward. We have a tendency to lash out of our frustration because things will not move fast enough. We lose ourselves because our environment changes due to our moments of not being vigilant. We must stop long enough to take a moment to refocus so we will not lose ground and have to start all over again.

I do not want to bury or eulogize another young man (R.I.P. Tyrone Malcolm). I do not want to look up and see anymore unnecessary police-led violence toward anyone. I don’t want to see anymore human trafficking. I don’t want to witness the tearing down of community. I don’t want to see police tape near a house where a conversation could have defused a conflict. Let us continue to commit to no longer neglect our house. Let us rediscover our value and worth.