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I spent some time in the Middle East in 2017- back when the world was normal. A dear friend of mine was taking me around and showing me one of the Seven Wonders of the World. While we were there a gentlemen came up of Middle Eastern descent and put a turban on my head and put a stone in my hand. See the above picture. As I reflect on my time with him, I can’t help but think of the tensions that have raged between different ethnic groups recently and even within ethnic groups over the time that the good Lord has allowed this earth to exist. This article will hopefully serve as a road map that will point us all to a Middle Eastern man- not the man I met that day, he just wanted some money for the stone he put in my hand. The Middle Eastern man I am talking about will bring internal and eternal peace that can advance worldwide peace. This will be done by listening and letting this Middle Eastern man expose us all.
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19) Being quick to hear and slow to speak will allow you not to erupt in anger through either your keyboard or words. Right now I am seeing opposing sides barricading themselves from people they disagree with this will not produce productive discussion with people who have differing opinions. You will just keep sounding off in your echo chamber. We need to listen and then speak our concerns because the answer is always Jesus making the two one through the cross. Here is a previous article I wrote on Listening. But, ever since last year, I have wanted to expand on this article.
In my experiences, there are three types of listening- I am sure there are more- but as I have had conversations with people the last forty-three years of my life on God’s earth I have seen these three. First, is passive listening, husbands are guilty of this. They may be listening but their minds are focused on something else a million miles away from the conversation. If their wife would ask them to repeat what they are saying they could not. Although, they are giving social cues that they are listening either with a head nod or an occasional “yep”. However, they are floating through the far reaches of another galaxy in outer space with their mind.
Second, controlled narrative listening, this listening is where you have already built an argument against the opposition that is coming against what you believe. You are not listening to grow your knowledge on the issue. It is pretend listening that is only tolerating the opposing view just to advance your narrative. This is the antithesis of what James is requiring us to do in the text above.
Third, is active listening, this is the listening that your granny would tell you to do. She would say, “boy this why God gave you two ears and one mouth so be quiet and listen to me.” You know what you believe but you are listening actively to pay attention to gain understanding. To weigh what is heard to the truth of scripture. Once you have listened, ask more clarifying questions and then share what you hear them saying. When you do this, either the person or people know they have been heard. If forgiveness or repentance needs to take place this is a good time. Then, you can share your point of view. This type of listening is what James is calling us to do. James is not calling us to be the pushover silent type- just the opposite. He is calling us to listen so that when we speak, what we say can be heard. Silence is not the answer, but it is the coward’s way out because they fear man more than they love truth.
Your continued silence only shows that you are fearing man and you are struggling with truly loving your neighbor. “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.” (Proverbs 29:25) I plead and pray that we would not fear to hurt each other’s feelings but we would be willing to speak the truth. These conversations will force us to listen to each other’s experiences, but let’s beware not to let our experiences override the authority of the scriptures.
African Americans and Whites- Let the Gospel Light Expose Us
So to my African American brothers and sisters, when you read the data below let it sink in and then ask the hard questions. What will cause this bloodshed in the womb to stop? What will stop this bloodshed within our ethnic group? To all the whites, what will stop the bloodshed within our ethnic group? What will stop police brutality within both ethnic groups? And to all, what will bring unity? Do political parties have the best interest of the American people? We can’t keep blaming melanin counts in our skin that’s not going to solve the issue. As a Nation, we have been doing that for centuries now. There are serious injustices that need to be addressed to see justice prevail. All must take internal inventory. African Americans must take a look at what they are doing to themselves. Whites must take an internal inventory of what they are doing to themselves. When you read the below data don’t get mad, but ask what can I do to change it?
To truly love all people means that you will bring the Gospel light to bear on the issues that the majority of people are remaining silent on. Police violence is being discussed on a national level; however, the below facts are not.
- In 2018 2,600 African Americans died at the hands of other African Americans
- In NYC in 2016, there were 47,718 reported African American pregnancies 23,381 were aborted and 1,908 were miscarried. 49% were aborted and 4% were miscarried.
- Margaret Sanger, known as the mother of abortions, who became the founder of Planned Parenthood said to Clarence Gamble in Dec. 1939, “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”
- In 2009 72 % of African American kids were growing up in single-family homes
- White on white murder is higher than black on black murder
This shows that the issue is much deeper than differing counts of melanin that makes up our skin color. It is a heart that is in opposition to God. The solution for both ethnic groups causes us all to look to another ethnic group for the solution.
Let’s listen to a Middle Eastern Man- Vertical Peace Leads Horizontal peace
Let’s walk down the path these three verses layout for us. The walk may be a little blustery so grab a coat. The first thing that God takes care of is vertical hostility. “He himself is our peace who has made us both one and has broken down, in his flesh, the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14) The peace he is talking about here is not what John Lennon is talking about in his song, “Image”. He is talking about the vertical peace that was procured by Jesus’ death on the cross, burial in a rich man’s tomb, and his triumphant resurrection from that tomb. We now have access to this peace by what he did in His flesh. It does- at minimum- two things for us. First, it forces us to know and remember that we are all one flesh. Not in some Buddhistic way of God being all and all being God, but in the way of Jesus being the one that unites all ethnic groups under the banner of his work on the cross. Second, the dividing wall of hostility that separated us from our creator, and each other is broken down. However, the vertical hostility between God and man needed to be taken care of first and foremost.
Don’t forget to button your coat all the way up as we continue down this path. “He has abolished in the law of commands, expressed in the ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two so making peace.” (Ephesians 2:15) The two things from this verse show that the sky is clearing to make reconciliation possible between all ethnic groups. One, he did away with the old ordinances that separated Jews from Gentiles; although, the moral laws can still and should be applied today. Two, peace is found in understanding the previous fact and that truth can be applied to all ethnic groups that have hostility because the answer is the unity we have in Jesus.
You can quit holding on to your coat so tight the wind, rain, and clouds have finally cleared on our walk down this path. The horizontal peace has come. “So that he might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross thereby killing the hostility (Ephesians 2:16) Two things here; one, reconciliation to God through Jesus leads us to be so unified that we are seen from God’s perspective as -one body- the body of Christ that came out of that grave victorious over death. Two, that hostility is dead. This is a matter of fact statement emotions, hurts, and pains can’t change that truth. So when we see hostility in our Nation we know that they are yet to come to terms with how to receive the vertical peace, so the horizontal storm will rage until they find their vertical peace with God through the cross.
For those of us who are Christians, we have no room for anything other than peace. So where there is hurting people and tempers flaring- in the church- let us apply the active listening as I spoke about at the start of this article and not run from the truth of the brokenness inside of our ethnic groups that data shows. Then let’s do the hard work of being a unified voice of peace to a watching and waiting world that needs the hope of Jesus Christ. When we are repentant and unified revival will come.
As I stood in front of one of the Seven Wonders of the World that day, and that middle eastern gentlemen put a turban on my head and that stone in my hand, as I stared at him- I stared- at a man that my savior probably looked like when he walked on earth, but I realized that it did not matter what my Savior physically looked like because he united every nation, tribe, and tongue under the banner of His cross.
“Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18)
“By this, all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
Go out and proclaim the Gospel of peace to see a life transformed. Love you all.
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