This summer, I am speaking at a camp in Colorado, and I am fully expecting (somewhere near Colby, Kansas) for my son to ask, “Are we there yet?” After hours of napping, playing video games, or watching a movie, something will disrupt his equilibrium and he will want to know our whereabouts. And when I hear this question, I will look out the window at an endless sea of wheat fields that look nothing like our Rocky Mountain destination, and I will sadly say, “No, son … we are not there yet.” At that point, I am sure I will get the inevitable follow-up question, “How much longer?” To which I will reply, “300 miles.”
Keep in mind, on these road trips, I (as the driver) am well aware of EVERY MILE driven. I know what Colorado looks like, and since I have been looking out the window for hours, I know I have not seen it yet … but my son, as the passenger, has the luxury of tuning in and out — therefore the context of the question. Most of you who are parents can relate …
Our regular lives are full of activities. Napping, video games, entertainment … alongside jobs, teams, activities. These things keep our heads mostly down and our minds occupied for many miles of our daily “journeys”. Then something will come along and disrupt our equilibrium. The events of last week in Minneapolis and the subsequent protests and rallies around the country are notable examples of these kinds of attention grabbing moments. As followers of Christ, we have the promise of an amazing destination where mercy and justice flow like a mighty river among all people, and when we are distracted by other things, many fail to remember that our promised destination is still a long ways off.
I do not want to speak in generalities over entire ethnic groups of people, so let me just talk for a moment about my own personal experience. In my day to day life, I can get lulled into a feeling that justice reigns, and racism is a thing of the past. Then events happen that remind me that we are not “there” yet. These events disrupt my equilibrium and remind me of reality. I am not proud of my distraction, but I am afraid it describes me too much of the time.
For others, though, racism is not an abstraction, but something they deal with daily. Like the driver on the road trip, they do not have the luxury of escaping for hours at a time, but they feel every mile of the journey. Like me, many people of color who also follow Christ are longing for the arrival at the destination where racism is no more … only they have a much better understanding of how many more miles are still in this journey. They feel that pain daily. I have black friends who are followed in stores, called a thug because they are wearing a sweatshirt, are stopped because they are driving a car that looks “too nice,” or fear to go on a jog after dark for how they might be targeted. I can get distracted by other things … they cannot.
I can only imagine that at times like this, black Christians hear my questions and concern and think – Don’t you see how far we still have to go?
Now, this road trip analogy also is important for all of us to consider. When I drive from Norman to Summit County, when I get to Colby, I have come quite a distance. No way are we in the mountains, but we also are not at our origin. Colby is 464 miles from my house — more than halfway there. Failing to remember that can make me discouraged at my son’s question. We are not there yet … but we are making progress.
As I think about this current situation, I also see parallels. We may not be there yet … but we are closer (as a culture) than we used to be. Over the past 250 years, our nation has miserably failed in so many ways racially. We need to own that history. At the same time, progress has been made. Many laws have been passed, wars have been fought, and opportunities have begun to be realized. How many miles we have journeyed is debatable, and I (admittedly) am not the best odometer on this issue (and to my white friends out there … neither are you – we need to listen and learn about the real world experience of others). But some progress has been made, and failing to remember that progress has been made can discourage us into thinking that nothing can be done. Previous generations have fought battles and passed laws that have moved us many miles. So, how can we help drive the last 300 (or 400 … or 500)?
I am not an expert on legal matters or economic issues, so I will leave those areas for others to share insights, but honestly … I think most of the miles left on this trip are driven in the soul … and this is something where the church needs to lead the way. The way we think about our fellow men and women, the way we treat others, the way we stand up for injustice when we see it, the way we teach our kids to excel still more in this area, the policies and candidates we vote for and support … these are all matters of the heart and conscience. We do not legislate them as much as we live them out. And we live them out one day at a time. We drive to Colorado a mile at a time … we can’t skip ahead. We drive to righteousness similarly, moment by moment, relationship by relationship, decision by decision.
So how do we drive these miles better?
Well, it has to begin by paying more attention to the journey. For those of us who have had the luxury of tuning in and out of this issue like a child in the backseat, we need to raise our head and continue to look out the window at the realities around us … and talk to those who have kept their eyes on the road all the while. Relationships between people of different races, backgrounds, and life circumstances are critical to reminding us both of how far we have come and how far we have to go. And as our perspective grows, take action day by day, moment by moment to help move us one mile closer to our destination. What does that exactly mean for me? I’m figuring that out. I encourage you to do the same.
So, with that as a backdrop, I’d like to share 3 sets of Scripture passages and add some encouragement for our souls today:
- “a bruised reed He will not break, and a faintly burning wick He will not quench; He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for His law.” (Isaiah 42:3-4) This passage is a prophecy concerning Jesus that was given 700 years before His birth. It describes the ministry of Jesus and His future reign in terms that are universally desirous. Matthew 12:20 correctly identifies Jesus’ fulfillment of this prophecy in His earthly life. What a picture of the character of our Savior! He cares for the wounded and gives an ear to those who are struggling to find their voice. May we who follow Him unto salvation also follow His example in care and concern for all people! … AND, Revelation 20-22 promises Jesus’ fulfillment of Isaiah 42:3-4 in His eternal reign. This is the destination toward which we are all headed: destination without injustice or racism or disease.
When we look out the window of our current life and see the flat reality of our lives, it should remind us that “we are not there yet.” There is an amazing relationship between prosperity and prophecy. The more prosperous we are now, the less we look to the hope of eternity. The more pained we are now, the more we hope for what is to come. Moments like now with COVID-19, injustice, racism, being easily visible to all out our windows, should cause us to long for the return of Christ when justice will reign … and should prompt us to trust Jesus now, because knowing Him now is the only way to enjoy that justice then. Ultimately, this life will be imperfect. We will not build perfection here. No amount of laws passed will ever ultimately solve our problems. Our ultimate hope is not in this world but outside of it. We should fix our hope in Him, and encourage all around us to do the same. Jesus will deliver the deepest desires of people’s hearts.
- “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10) These verses, of course, are the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer. Many of us have prayed these words often. But what do these words mean? Well, in this prayer, we are asking God’s ways to be demonstrated on the earth. We are to ask God to bring His heavenly justice into our world. While this certainly will have its ultimate fulfillment when Jesus returns to the earth and establishes His earthly Kingdom, it is also a reminder that heaven’s values should be lived among God’s people today. His values should be celebrated when they are lived out, and grieved when they are violated.
In the New Testament, we are called “Ambassadors for Christ” – Jesus’ representatives. This makes gatherings of Christ followers “embassies” – churches are little pieces of heaven, a long way from home. People’s experience with and interaction with Christians should be marked by His righteousness, love, mercy, grace, etc. The world should see the King’s values lived out in the lives of those who will be in the Kingdom. Christians, therefore, should not just be people who quote the Bible, but people who live its values out “on earth as it is in heaven.” While we long for eternity, let’s live out eternity’s values in our relationships here and now. These values include loving, caring for, and treating equally people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. After all, Genesis 1 tells us we were all created in His image, and Revelation 5 tells us that people from every ethnicity will be represented in heaven. Those realities should be reflected in the way we treat others today.
- “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:11-13) In moments like this, it is important for none of us (me included) to proclaim that “we have this all figured out.” In reality, we all lose our way from time to time. Like flat tires and wrong turns on a road trip, the journey is sometimes longer than we hoped because our error contributes to the problems. We think we know where we are going, so we stop looking at God’s map. I once was driving to Colorado and mistook I-35 for I-135, and ended up on the road to Kansas City instead of Denver. In real life, we similarly fall short in intentional and unintentional ways.
So what are we to do? Well, we are to have a spirit of dependence upon the Lord. We are to confess our sins to Him and seek His forgiveness. We are to forgive others for their mistakes as we remember we are forgiven also. Then, we drive each mile of the journey in daily dependence upon the fuel He is putting in our tank. “The daily bread” Jesus refers to includes food, water, and shelter, but it also includes the spiritual nourishment of the Word of God and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. I must follow obediently the call in the bread of God’s Word to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8),” knowing that any hope I have of living that out is carried along by the living water of the Holy Spirit inside of me (Galatians 5:22-24). Further, we need to make an earnest appeal to God (as Jesus teaches) to prevent us from wandering into evil in our thoughts, words, and actions. A humble, dependent, repentant heart is needed on this trip.
“Are we there yet?”
No. Sadly not yet.
“How much longer?”
We long for His justice and yet often do not see it here. We watch a man murdered on tape, or hear stories of the mistreatment of people and the brokenness of this world disrupts our equilibrium. We long for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, and when we see the gulf that still exists it grieves our hearts and drives us to our knees … and we pray. But after we say AMEN, we must also take action as the Lord leads to exhibit His values in the world around us. The next several miles on this journey will be driven by you and me. Let’s keep our eyes on the road together.