“Anger without a new assignment is wasted rage!” Dr. John Adolph
This past week we witnessed an amazing show of solidarity across the country in the form of protests in regards to the George Floyd murder, police brutality, and racism. These demonstrations happened internationally, in all states of the United States, and even locally here in Sumter, SC. Two of the most memorable quotes from the gathering on the steps of the old Court House in Sumter, SC organized by David Simmons, Kenneth Hargrove, Pastor James Goodman and several others were made by two senior statesmen. Dr. Marion H. Newton said, “Get angry, get so angry that you go out and vote!” Dr. Ralph Canty said, “Protest must lead to progress, and confrontation must lead to change.” Canty went on to say, “We can't apologize for protesting, but we can't just protest for the sake of protesting!!”
No truer sentiment has ever been spoken. The fact that the tension of America’s injustice has bubbled over into these acts of protest is all well and good, but if there is no change, if there is no transformation, then these acts could simply be written off as temper tantrums, and eventually after the smoke settled and the protesters went home things would return to normal and the systems that have been allowed to fester would remain in place.
However, seemingly that is not the case in this instance. No, because the people are coming together in protest we are seeing evidence of the start of change. Within the first ten days of protest: Minneapolis has banned the use of chokeholds by police; Dallas adopts a “duty to intervene” policy requiring officers to stop other officers they see engaging in inappropriate behavior; Louisville, Kentucky signed the “Breonna Taylor Act” stopping the ability of police to issue no-knock warrants; and police departments everywhere are reevaluating unjust practices. All because the people came together in protest. Because the people came together to protest, sports leaders are speaking out against racist practices, Confederate statues are being removed, Nascar and the United States Marines have banned the displaying of the confederate flag.
While many of us are asking, “Why did it take so long for these measures to be taken?” The reality is, at least they are being taken, for this means at least our voices are being heard. There are so many other steps that need to be made, and I am in no way suggesting that we have gotten to the place where the protests need to stop, but I am also encouraging all of us to pause and see the blooming of the fruit that has grown out of the manure of social injustice. And this is all a result of us coming together and allowing our voices to be heard. Small steps, but steps none the less.
Those of us who have a relationship with God, understand that this has always been God’s preferred position for His creation. In fact, many preachers when talking about racial reconciliation quote Jesus’ Pre-Passion prayer in John 17:20-21, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” While this is a powerful prayer, Jesus was simply encouraging those who heard Him, His disciples to move to create a movement of unity. Why unity? Well, Jesus knew the power of coming together. Jesus knew that the trauma that was going to be caused by His wrongful arrest, trial, and crucifixion had the power to scatter those who had dedicated their lives to Him, and He needed them together to birth a movement. That togetherness was recently celebrated by the Lord’s church on Pentecost Sunday (5o days after the resurrection of Jesus) where Luke in Acts 2 records that 120 persons gather together in an upper room praying and with one accord experience the filling of the Holy Spirit which led to the birthing of the First Century church and the immediate growing from 120 to 3,120 after one protest message challenging the misbeliefs and improper practices of a Jewish legal system that wrongly put a man named Jesus to death.
Jesus knew that if they came together, real change could occur. But the question is how did He know. Well, He had seen it before. This wasn’t the first time that persons came together and saw immediate change. They saw change in 2 Chronicles chapter 20 when Jehosephat called a national prayer as a result of the threats of Ammon, Moab, and Mt. Seir. They saw change in 1 Samuel chapter 7 when Samuel told the House of Israel to, “return to the Lord with all their hearts, put away their foreign gods, and prepare their hearts for the Lord and the Lord would rescue them from the Philistines.” They saw change in Joshua chapter 6 when the people came together and marched around the impenetrable walls of Jericho once for six days in silence and seven times on the seventh day when the walls fell down flat with a community blasting of the horns. They saw change in Exodus when one million Israelites walked out of Egyptian captivity together led by Moses, and even at the threat of Pharoah approaching from the rear, together they marched until the Red Sea was changed into a paved highway for them to cross and a burial ground for Pharoah’s army.
Coming together had always been the catalyst for change in the Old Testament and Jesus wanted it to be the testimony of the New Testament and beyond, but not just because He wanted it, but because that is what God wanted. How do I know, well because that is what God said God’s self in Genesis chapter 11. There Moses records that the whole earth had one language and one speech and decided to come together to build a tower, and when God came to see their work, this is what God said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.
So it is God’s mandate for us to come together, for when we come together we will consistently see change, not just surface-level change, but systemic change. Change that will be unlike what we have ever witnessed. Change that will make the world better for our children, and our children’s children. Change that will make God pleased and the enemy angry.