Did you march or protest?
These have been popular questions over the past two weeks.
"Where do you stand?"
"Which side are you on?"
In full honesty, I have been afraid to answer.
As a Christ follower and a conservative leaning constituent, my lack of knowledge and zeal are disheartening and disappointing to myself and others.
I am afraid to speak because I want to say the right and perfect answer. I want a formulaic response.
But what comes instead is a line from Martin Luther King's life:
"The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict."
So, no, an apathetic stance is not what I want to live out nor is it what I want to be remembered for.
The problem for me, is both sides are so loud. So dichotomous. But both sides also hold certain truths that I absolutely hold dear. Both sides support issues that make me want to fight, to march, to protest.
Over the past couple of weeks I have kept wondering, as we likely all have: What would Jesus do? Where would He be in all of this? Where would He land on these issues? What stance would He take? Would He be marching, posting, and protesting?
Because wherever that place is or that stance is, that's where I want to be.
Jesus was no stranger to political and religious frustrations. Religion and politics were beyond corrupt at the time of his birth. Upon His arrival to this earth, the king at the time, Herod, had mandated an order for all baby boys, under the age of two, to be killed in the region near Bethlehem for fear that one greater than he may one day overpower him.
And in this moment, when thousands of precious lives were being murdered, Jesus' parents did not show up at Herod's courts protesting his decision. Instead they fled. They hid. And neither did God's wrath step in and overrule Herod's horrid order.
Over and over again Jesus' life would brush up against the corruptness of the ruling political and religious systems.
One of Jesus' dearest followers, John the Baptist, had his own experience with King Herod as he was arrested for calling out King Herod's wickedness. Not knowing what to do, John's friends with him at the time of his arrest, went running to Jesus to tell him of the news. But when they came, Jesus did not come to John's rescue. He did not pray for Herod's death nor for the jail walls to collapse so John's freedom could be restored. Instead, he kept healing. He kept saving. He kept raising to life those who were dead. And then he told John's friends to send him this message:
Go back and tell John what's going on:
The blind see,
The lame walk,
Lepers are cleansed,
The deaf hear,
The dead are raised,
The wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side.
But Jesus mentioned nothing about help coming John's way.
As John's followers left to return back to John with Jesus' message, Jesus began speaking to the crowds about the greatness of John. He praised him. He commended him. He called him one of the best prophets that had walked the earth...but he did not save him.
Can you imagine John's response as his friends returned with Jesus' message:
You mean he's not coming?
He is not going to use His power to overrule the political corruptness that is the cause of me being locked in this jail cell?
But I did everything right. The only reason I am locked in here is because of Him. Because of my obedience to God. But nothing.
He's going to do absolutely nothing to fight for my life and my freedom?
Unfortunately, these were some of the last days of John the Baptist's life as he was shortly thereafter beheaded by Herod.
Upon learning of this news, John's friends were at a loss. They buried him and then quickly went to the one they knew had the power to bring him back from the grave.
"Jesus! Herod had John beheaded. He's gone. We came as soon as we could. Because we know it isn't too late. You can bring him back. You can raise him back to life. You can make this right again. We believe. We have seen your power and your miracles and we know you can do this."
But Jesus performed no resurrection that day.
Although part of me believes he wanted to.
The text says after he received the news, he slipped away by boat, to a lonely place by himself.
When Jesus got the news about John, we know He was surrounded by a very large crowd (John 14:12-21). He was performing miracles and teaching. This was His routine. So if I am reading between the lines of what transpired in those moments, it is very likely the crowd heard and saw Jesus receive the news of John's death. And while the text does not go into depth about their response, part of me believes they were angry and furious over what Herod had done to John. They had plenty of reasons to hate Herod already and John's death served as the last straw. They had to of thought:
"Jesus, let's take Herod down. You have healed us, you have unlimited power, now is the time to act. Now is the time to fight. Lets march, lets protest. Lets go to Herod's courts and condemn his wickedness. We will get behind you if you lead the way."
And at this, Jesus slipped away.
He went to the water to be by himself. Away from the noise. Away from the demands. Away from the desire to bring His friend back. Because now, more than ever, He wanted to fight. And John's death seemed like the perfect opportunity to invite wrath and justice into a very broken world. His heart broke for the loss of His dear friend and His anger raged. So He got away. He sought the voice of His father.
"How could you let this happen, Father?"
"John was one of the best, he did everything right...Let me fix this. Let me bring him back. Let me give Herod what is coming for him. Let me cast your judgement on this corruption. Let's fight. Let's act."
But all Jesus heard from His Father that day was: "Feed them."
"What? Feed them? What are you talking about? That has nothing to do with the tension of the moment. Now is the time to fight...and all you are telling me to do is to 'Feed them'.
At about this time, Jesus' location was discovered out on the lake and the crowds gathered at the shoreline to find out what the next move was. There were enough people present that day to make an army. They could take the city. They were ready to march. They wanted answers and were looking to Jesus to give the orders.
But as Jesus reached the shoreline, He gave into His Father's command, "Feed them...." He knew what He had heard and leading these people towards a fight was not part of the agenda. "I surrender, I am embracing your command...even though I have no idea what it means... I promise to feed and not fight. I will hold on to your command and will wait for your opportunity to speak this truth."
Later that evening, the people were still there, gathered around Him. Waiting, hoping, praying that now would be the time to act. But still nothing. Jesus gave no commands. It had been a long day. They were restless and growing tired. They were frustrated. It was a day of realizing the proclaimed Savior of this world sometimes actually chooses not to save and not to rescue. They were growing weary as they sought to reconcile the day's events. Their minds and their stomachs grumbled with exhaustion and emptiness.
The night grew darker and the disciples were ready to send the people away. "They are hungry, Jesus. Tell them to go away. We can't feed them. We have nothing for them, we are done here. If you are not going to do anything, if we are not going to act, send them away."
And at this, Jesus lifted His head, His heart growing full as He recalled His Father's command from earlier that day: "Feed them."
And at this He responded: "Don't you dare turn these people away. They are starving. Feed them."
"But all we have are these five loaves of bread and two fish," they said.
"Bring them here."
And then he commanded the people, this army, these ready-to-fight hearts, to sit down and receive.
Matthew 14:19-21 MSG
He took the five loaves and the two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread to the disciples. The disciples then gave the food to the congregation. They all ate their fill. They gathered twelve baskets of leftovers. About five thousand were fed.
It was a moment of saying to the world...there's another way: Feed the people. Don't fight in the way the world says to fight. Fight with nourishment. Fight with hope. Fight with selflessness and sacrifice. Go home and tell your family, your friends, your people, that life is not about the fight. The only way love wins this war is through feeding God's people. All people, every single one of them. Forget about politics, forget about geography and foreign policy, forget about race, forget about sex, forget about demographics. Forget about all those things that potentially make you want to avoid a person.
I want you to go home and feed those people...my people.
Because God is after both the fighter and the one who needs to be fed. God could have leveraged the anger and frustration of those people that day to go and march and bring justice. But He didn't. Instead, He said, "No": the need you think you want to fight against is not your true need. I know your true need. You are hungry. You are starving from the fighting. It has landed you here, now, exhausted and depleted. And I am telling you there is another way. There is another way to march. Receive from me the only nourishment that is ever going to fill your emptiness.
So may we do as those who were present that day: May we sit. May we receive. And then, may we go and leverage all that we have for His kingdom. May our hearts be directed by the command to feed and not fight. May we refuse to marginalize people by leveraging our wallets, our talents, our kindness, and our time by showing them it is all being done in the name of love. Not because of politics. Forget the politics. Let His love lead. Let getting lost in serving those around you drown out the temptation to get lost in the shouts of those who are screaming at you to fight; to take a side.
In closing, my prayer is that we may we feed those around us rather than fighting. May God strengthen our hands, our feet, and our hearts, to be the people He is calling us to be. May He silence our desire to seek revenge and to be angry. May our voices grow softer and may our actions speak louder. May we step up. As a person, as a people, as a country who won't lose sight of His command: "Feed my people."
I am working to figure out exactly what this looks like in my own, every-day life. My stomach still sinks when someone asks my thoughts on all that is going on in our world. Because the truth is, I am a very imperfect person just trying to figure out what living in alignment with the one I owe my life to looks like. I am not claiming to know the perfect answer, but for now, this is the answer I believe the Lord has placed on my heart. These are the convictions He has placed on my own life. If you are reading this, thank you. Thank you for listening. Thank you for taking the time out of your day to hear these thoughts. May the Lord speak to you in His own way about the world and the events that are unfolding before us.