Racial Reconciliation Sunday is February 14.
Over the past year, my small group has steadily worked through the narrative story of the Bible, and a few months ago, we found ourselves in Judges 19, a story that isn’t for the faint of heart.
Over the chapters and generations leading up to that story, we had watched the slow spiral of God’s people as they made small choices over and over that took them further and further from a white-hot love of God. We saw those choices impact them in a lot of ways, including in the way they cared for the people who needed them the most. Then we saw that gut-wrenchingly displayed in Judges 19, the story of a man who allowed the abuse and murder of a woman he supposedly cared about – while he slept through it.
As I studied the passage, even though I’d read it before and knew what was coming, I felt fresh rage and deep sadness – this man, a Levite, is supposed to be a man of God. What is he even doing? That’s no way to portray the God we know; the One who weeps for the hurting and the voiceless and runs to their aid. I felt myself growing in what I felt was righteous anger for the name of God, His love for all people, and this defenseless woman.
And then it happened, I was reading through the questions in the small-group tool, Judges: Forgetful People, Faithful God, and the writer of those questions, Jen Wilkin, flipped the script. Instead of asking me to stand back and look at the man and ask, “What should we do to change the hearts of people like that?” the question put me in his skin: “The Levite slept as his concubine was being brutalized and killed. What injustices does the modern-day church sometimes seem to be asleep to? Like the Levite, what does the church sometimes value more than standing up for the defenseless?”
It wrecked me, I’m not him, I quickly thought. I want to love people, all people. But I couldn’t shake the thought . . . but don’t you think there are plenty of ways you get it wrong, you don’t even see? Or injustices going on that are easy for you to forget or not actively try to understand or change because they seem too big?
In the weeks surrounding that, the issue of racial injustice began to come to the forefront in our country, and as I thought about Judges 19, I asked God to show me where I’m spiritually asleep as others hurt. I’ve been trying to listen and learn the stories of people who aren’t like me and hear what they’ve gone through. I have a long way to go, but I want to understand as best I can – and find ways to help.
Judges 19 shows a truth we see played out in the world every day, that all our hearts are broken without Jesus giving us new ones to love people as He does. But I can start there – I can wake up and intentionally pray and move toward a changed heart and a more active love, a love that isn’t asleep to injustice.
Reprinted from the March 2021 issue of Missions Mosaic, Woman’s Missionary Union, Birmingham, Alabama. By Grace Thornton. Used by permission. To receive this issue, or subscribe to Missions Mosaic, call 1-800-968-7301.