Are we merely looking?

Take a moment to really look at this image.

Seriously, sit with it before you read any further.

We have heard a picture can say a thousand words, and I believe it can evoke just as many responses.

What do we know about the man in maroon?  We may assume he is white, so what do we think he believes?  He is at the vandalized monument, so does he condone the destruction?  Or is he condemning it?  Is he praying?

What about the man in black?  Surely we know what he believes based on his shirt, but do we really know the nuances of his stance?  Is he covering his face because of the virus, or is he scared of being recognized?

What about those on the monument?  Are they angry?  Are they protesting?  Does the picture of Breonna Taylor indicate they are holding a memorial?

What first caught your eye? The vandalism? The curse words? The diversity? The words “Black Lives Matter”?

If we are honest, we can look at a picture, or read someone’s words, and based on what we personally bring to the table, can make concrete assumptions.

And if I’m honest, this is what has made the last few weeks incredibly difficult for me.

Of the hundreds of you reading this, I know just as many stances are represented.  Some of you are angry that the protests are happening and that the race card is being thrown; some of you are angry that more people aren’t protesting and that so many aren’t confronting racism. Some of you have no clue what to think or do, and are trying your hardest to just lay low and ride out the storm.

And many of you may not actually know how I’ve been processing things. Maybe you believe I am upset, because I am white and it can seem like white people are the enemy. Maybe you’re upset with me, because you think I support “Black Lives Matter” and you have concerns about the Movement. Maybe you’re upset because you feel like I’m not doing enough to support “Black Lives Matter.”

Some may want to ask me “So tell us, what side are you on?”

Short answer? I’m not on a “side”, but stepping intentionally each day towards one agenda: to “Love God and love others.”

For some, this seems non-committal, but it is far from that. In fact, I’ve found myself having to commit at a higher level than ever before. God has invited me to step into several intimidating spaces over the last several weeks — through conversations, through posts, through a podcast episodethat I would have preferred to avoid, but have learned obedience to God is the path I must choose.

While I, like anyone, have strong opinions about certain things (and less so for other things), I am trying daily to base my words, actions, and responses to this core spiritual principal:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

My opinions matter, but God’s Kingdom matters more.

“Doesn’t this just dismiss legitimate issues?” No, quite the opposite. If we are genuinely seeking the kingdom of God first — not simply going to church, or reading the Bible, or evoking the name of God — this is the most powerful thing we can do to address those legitimate issues. No matter how much you care about something, it could never compare to the depth of love God has for it.

You could seek first your plans or opinions, and maybe you’ll get lucky and see some movement; but you will not see total, sustainable restoration. And along the way, you may find that you settled God to the side. When you seek God first, you not only find him, but find the wisdom, strength, and capacity to experience “abundantly more than you could ask or imagine, because of the power at work within you.”

Realistically, we already know that, left to our own devices, we veer; if we don’t continually realign ourselves with the kingdom of God, we will be drawn to the kingdoms of this earth. As John Wyeth puts it:

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
Let that goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

Look at the image above again.

Were you merely looking at the picture the first time? Were our eyes drawn to the things we already liked and already hated? Were our assumptions driven by things we believe we already understand?

What if we asked God to give us “eyes to see and ears to hear”, in every situation? What if the Apostle Paul’s call to “pray without ceasing” means that even seemingly mundane moments can be moments for God to whisper revelation?

In other words, what if God wants to free you from your limited understanding and let you see the world as He sees it? As Proverbs 3:5-6 put it:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

If we release our opinions, plans, desires, assumptions, frustrations, rights, etc. to God — or as Jesus put it, “let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” — and trust God’s direction, He will direct our paths.

He will show you how to stand for what weighs on your heart, whether it is the unborn, the black community, immigration, or any number of things that weigh far more heavily on His heart. And we will see His children in the midst, not “participants in the problem”; specific image-bearers with stories, not our go-to lump categorization. We will see the “imago dei” regardless of our personal opinion.

This doesn’t negate action: it enhances it.

The image above — like many others we see around us right now — is a glimpse at people made in the image of God, trying to make sense of a broken world. This is bigger than monuments and movements, and yet, monuments and movements are impacting those image-bearers.

Can we see them, or are we only seeing what we want to see? Can we hear them, or are we only hearing what we want to hear? When we respond, are we representing the King of Kings, or our own opinions?

Is our goal something of our creation? May we be willing to “seek first the Kingdom”, and “Trust the Lord with all our heart”, and so discover goals and outcomes that are “abundantly more than we could ask or imagine.”




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