Come let us reason together with the Lord.
a thought to consider:
“Even semantics have conspired to make that which is black seem ugly and degrading. In the Roget’s Thesaurus there are some 120 synonyms for blackness and at least sixty of them are offensive, such words as blot, soot, grim, devil and foul. And there are some 134 synonyms for whiteness and all are favorable, expressed in such words as purity, cleanliness, chastity and innocence. A white lie is better than a black lie. The most degenerate member of a family is the “black sheep.” Ossie Davis has suggested that maybe the English language should be reconstructed so that teachers will not be forced to teach the Negro child sixty ways to despise himself, and thereby perpetuate his false sense of inferiority, and the white child 134 ways to adore himself, and thereby perpetuate his false sense of superiority.”
Where Do We Go from Here? by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
something Jesus said:
“Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss. God spoke: “Light!” And light appeared. God saw that the light was good and separated light from dark. God named the light Day. He named the dark Night. It was evening; it was morning—Day One.
So, is there anyplace we can go to avoid God’s Spirit? If we climb to the sky, He is there. If we go underground, He is there. If we could fly on the morning’s wings to the farthest horizon, He will already be there waiting. If we try to pull the darkness like a cloak over us, He still sees us. We can bury ourselves beneath the darkest night and light still finds its way. Darkness is not dark to Him and conceals nothing from Him. In fact, to Him the night shines as bright as the day—and darkness and light are all the same.
Genesis 1 & Psalms 139
When my daughter and I lived in our beloved Chicago in a neighborhood called Lincoln Square, our sanctuary was our library. This seems like I’m not really saying any big thing. But sanctuary really is a too small a word. It was more.
It was our hope on days when I was so broke and wondering how was I going to feed this little 4-year-old. Don’t worry—the answer was always with manna. So many times food just came and I truly, like the Israelites, stood puzzled saying, “What is it?” Like the Israelites, I would gather this manna like a daily blessing. And, if the Lord had so provided such manna on those lean days, how could He still have room in His wallet of grace to bring us into this tabernacle of books, and movies, and story hours, and art exhibits, and museum passes, and have the audacity to invite us to feast on all our eyes could see? We would sit for hours in this holy place and gorge ourselves, making sure to sample everything.
One day on our way to the second floor of the library where I would have my turn to nibble through a selection of delicacies, we paused on the mezzanine to take in a bronze bust of President Abraham Lincoln. With her tiny 4-year-old hand tucked into mine, I shifted a bag of books and DVDs of her liking perched on my hip. Then I leaned down and whispered to her, “This is President Lincoln. He’s the president that set black people free.” With a genuinely surprised look, my baby stared back at me and asked, “What black people?”
“Ummm… you and me black people. Us black people,” I said, stunned.
“But I’m not black,” she snapped, scrunching up her face with utter distaste at the very thought. Then, without pause and a subtle smile piercing my faux pas, she announced, “I’m brown.” To which I had no rebuttal. After all, she was brown, and so was I. So, what was the deal with this black and white business? Was there even any science in those labels?
Let’s look and see: In the world of science, some say neither white nor black is a color. Others say that this is debatable. However, most would agree that any color’s existence is really dependent on how much light is reflected. They just can’t agree on whether black and white are part of the color spectrum. What they do know is that the amount of light reflected back to us from any given object determines the color of that given object. Black and white are basically the bookends of this spectrum. Black stands on one end absorbing all light while White stands at the other end reflecting all light. Both are totally and fully representing the presence of every color. Both are totally and fully necessary if we wish to continue living in a world of color. It’s a beautiful tension: One can simply not do without the other.
And maybe, remarkably, this is one of the best imprints of God’s Presence. It’s all about the tension of His Light. At one end of the spectrum stands Justice but at the other end stands Mercy. At one end of the spectrum stands The Alpha and at the other end of the spectrum stands The Omega. At one end of the spectrum He is the God we love and on the other end He is the God we fear. At one end, He loves us. At the other end, He hates our rejection of Him and of each other.
Think of a stretched out Jesus hanging on the cross with His arms wide open. Imagine His right hand totally and fully absorbing our hang-ups, our pain, and all our brokenness, while His left hand is totally and fully reflecting our redemption, our freedom, and all our Eternal glory. The Light shines in the Darkness and therein lies the tension: What if at one end of the spectrum we are “loving our neighbors as we love ourselves,” even though at the other end all our lust, all our emptiness, all our weakness, and all our ignorance still stands? And what if, maybe, we will never be able to fully love our neighbors as ourselves until we can embrace this tension within us? Perhaps the reason that we can only see Black as 120 synonyms of all things offensive, and White as 134 synonyms of all things good, is that we don’t accept the inky blackness and spoken light swirling within each and every one of us. God hovers over the inky blackness and somehow He is inspired to speak, “Light!”
1. Where else in Creation have you seen this kind of tension?
2. Are you comfortable in the tension? Do you find yourself accepting only one end of the spectrum? For example, are you okay with God’s justice but struggle with understanding His mercy? Or is it vice versa? Do you accept that He was the Creator of the Beginning of time but have a hard time believing that He is also the Creator of the the End of time?
Jesus, forgive us that we don’t recognize that the same Savior who rose for us is the same Savior who sinks into the deep darkness of brokenness with us. You, Lord, are one in the same. Forgive us that we see Black as shame and criminal, and miss the beauty of black in robes of judges, the tuxedos of gentlemen, the elegance of limousines, the holy priestly vestments, the black belt of well-trained students. Forgive us that we see White as only pure and perfect, and we miss the ugliness of white in infection, the sting of cold ice, the walls of a padded cell, the robes of lynching mobs. Jesus, forgive us and change our hearts so that we weigh black and white as the same—not separate and unequal, and not even separate but equal. Forgive us for not seeing black and white as part of Your All, with each filled with Your presence. Jesus teach us to hold the tension of the All of this world, absorbing and reflecting everything with our arms stretched wide and holding each of our hands open. In Your Name, we pray. Amen.
By the sweet tension of His justice and mercy, may we go and love bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things and enduring all things. For from Him all things originate and through Him all things live and exist and to Him are all things are directed. To Him be glory and honor forever. Amen.
1 Corinthians 13 & Romans 11