EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a guest post from Stephen Partain, Parish Pastor of Grace Community Church in the Bywater area of New Orleans and Leadership Council Member of the Missio Mosaic Network. His post is part of a larger series called “To the White Church From a White Pastor.”
I tried to pray yesterday, but I couldn’t. Each time I started the words my mouth failed and all I produced was tears – tears for the centuries of racial injustice, for the suffering and pain of my Black friends and neighbors, for the smoldering cities, and for the world that’s emerging for my children.
The Apostle Paul wrote in the book of Romans that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). That’s what I experienced yesterday: the longing in my heart for justice, the reality that no pause button exists for the crisis of morality, leadership, and Christian courage that seems pervasive. It’s a tough pill to swallow.
It’s good for us to cry, to feel the pain and sit in the tension of the moment. It’s essential to feel the weight of the moment, the despair that neighbors made in the image of God have wrestled with for decades. It’s necessary to weep. We see this practice of lament poured out by Jeremiah as in the ruins of the temple, and in the New Testament, we see it in the heart of Jesus as the people of Israel reject his message and call for Barabbas. Lament expresses deep things inside of us that rarely see the light of day but begin healing when we finally let them surface. This honors God, softens our hearts, and cracks you open for spiritual renewal, but –
Our tears are not enough.
God wants to expose our brokenness so we will act against injustice. Our tears, without change, are in vain. Our social media posts, without commitment to a new way of life, are offensive. Our private communications to Black people about standing with them, while also meticulously guarding our public communications in front of other white people, stinks of hypocrisy. Our silence against the spiritual darkness that has plagued this country and culture since the inception makes us complicit in the demonic, toxic, and soul-destroying sin of racism.
We can be assured of one thing: that God’s heart desires justice, and he will move towards that, with or without us.
The Prophet Isaiah says, “When the Lord noticed that justice had disappeared, he became very displeased. It disgusted him even more to learn that no one would do a thing about it. So, with his own powerful arm, he won victories for truth. Justice was the Lord’s armor; saving power was his helmet; anger and revenge were his clothes” (Isaiah 59:16-17).
So let us shed the tears, but let us also answer the important questions:
- Will we join the Lord in his work of justice?
- Will we act in new ways to see his kingdom come and will be done?
- Will we decry injustice, even when it’s costly?
- Or will we be hollow people, with vain tears, who shrink back from loving our neighbors in the very moment we are tested most?
Let’s join the Holy Spirit’s work together, demonstrating hearts and lives that have been transformed through the love of God, and let’s do it starting today.
With Tears and Action,
Grace Community Church
New Orleans, LA