Thursday, March 2
“Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing” (Joel 2:12-13).
In her book Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation, Jennifer Harvey proposes that a major obstacle to racial justice in the church is “the powerful hold that ‘reconciliation’ has on the white Christian imagination” (Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014], 2). Being reconciled to one another is certainly a worthy goal—but not if white Christians think that “reconciliation” means expecting Christians of color just to let bygones be bygones! As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” white Christians may prefer “a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.” Such easy “reconciliation,” as Harvey reminds us, ignores and trivializes “an unacknowledged history of brutal injustice, harm done, white hostility to and violence against communities of color—histories that are alive and well in the present.” White Christians need to ask, “without repentance and repair having come prior, why would we even assume interracial relations to be desirable or beneficial to Christians of color?” (Dear White Christians, 5).
Joel understands that true repentance means far more than saying that we are sorry! He calls upon his community to demonstrate their whole-hearted desire to return to the Lord, and their deep sorrow at past wrong-doing, “with fasting, with weeping, with mourning.” This can be no superficial demonstration: “rend your heart,” the Lord demands, “and not your clothing.” If this Lent is indeed to be for us a season of new life, as Jesus desires, then we too cannot expect an easy resolution to America’s besetting sin of racism. May God grant us open hearts, listening ears, and the wisdom and courage to do the hard work of repentance and repair.
Prayer: Transforming God, we confess that we often do not see or hear one another clearly. Blinded by our own perceptions, deafened in our own echo chambers, we do not see or hear the oppression that grinds down our sisters and brothers. Grant us opened eyes and unstopped ears, we pray, that we may know our sin, for only then may we truly repent. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who invites outcasts to his table, for food and for healing, Amen.