In the Gospel of Matthew, we hear, time and again, that the Kingdom of heaven is already here. Needless to say, Matthew is my favorite gospel. I want to believe in a heaven on earth; I’ve spent my life trying to find it.
This heaven I’m looking for reveals itself in tiny blink and you miss them sparks, like the moments my son stops everything he is doing just to give me a hug, and moves through the spectrum all the way to blinding days of brightness revealed on the Kairos retreats I love so much.
Heaven is here. According to Matthew, God has given us all that we need to create this kingdom of heaven, we only need to love as God loves and work together to make it so.
It almost sounds easy.
Then I watch the news and remember that nothing in this world, absolutely nothing, is easy. We are a world filled with God’s beautiful creations, with a myriad of gifts, strengths, and weaknesses, yet are unable to fully communicate with and trust one another, which holds us back from all that we could be.
Right now, at this very moment, our world is particularly divided on the issue of black lives mattering and I’m not even sure why. Oh, I’ve seen and heard the arguments, but to me they sound like static in the signal, distracting us from the truth trying to push through. When presented with the question, “do black lives matter?” who could even fathom answering “no.”?
Yet, as a country, we have answered “no” throughout history and at this very moment, which is why we have a problem. I imagine none of us would agree that white lives are more important, but until our systems reflect this belief, we have work to do. If we don’t engage in the work, if we are silent, it is as if we agree, which is extraordinarily painful to admit.
We want to be good. We want to believe we are good. But we can’t pretend we are good if we choose to ignore the systemic pain some groups in our country are experiencing. We have to be a part of the solution. For some, this means demonstrating, vocalizing, changing laws, and redirecting budgets. For all of us this means learning how to listen and being willing to understand.
Once we know more, we know enough to see where we fit in the solution. We all have gifts to bring, but we can’t know how to use them unless we first seek to understand.
Admitting that we have work to do is necessary, especially if we have made a promise to follow God. Scripture is full of stories of salvation, of God and Jesus lifting a people out of slavery and otherness into full communion. We are living the next chapter of that story right now and we have a choice to make.
While making that choice, please listen carefully. Listen to God and listen to the people crying out in pain. Right now, we are creating a chasm between us and if I know one thing, it’s that heaven has no chasms. It’s worth taking the time to decide if we’re going to build bridges or dig deeper.
For the record, I am 100% with the Black Lives Matter movement. It is time. It is their time to be heard and so I’m doing the work to uncover my implicit bias and white privilege and discerning how I can be a part of bringing this community to full communion. But I also know that the people fighting against this movement are in pain, too. They’re afraid, we’re afraid. They may not know why, we may not know why, but it’s worth taking the time to ask and prepare ourselves to truly hear the answer. Bringing heaven to earth requires at least this much of us.
First and foremost, we must listen to those who have been doing this work for years. Before you get to ask anything from a person of color, take the time to hear what they’ve already said. For a few places to start, buy and read the work of these people:
– Austin Channing Brown
– Layla F. Saad
– Ibram X. Kendi
– Ta-Nehisi Coates
Photo by Leonard von Bibra on Unsplash