I don't even know what to do right now. I have so much I want to express, but when I open my mouth I feel tongue-tied.
I want to scream in anger and cry in grief, while wrestling with a heart that just wants to be numb to the pain.
I want to run up to every person of color I know, and even those I pass on the street, just cry, and say, "I’m sorry.”
Apologies We Need to Say
I'm sorry that hundreds — a handful is horrible enough, but far more showed up — hundreds of wicked men rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia behind evil ideologies of racism, white supremacy and Nazism.
I'm sorry that this murderous hate has any place in our nation. I'm sorry that you have ever faced it, and that you have to debate with others to even have it acknowledged that you still face it.
I'm sorry that I will never truly understand what you are walking through. I can only imagine how you might be wrestling with fear, anger, and betrayal in the face of both open hostility and silence from friends. All I can do is weep, pray, listen — and pray some more.
There are those who will say, "But what about antifa, the riots, the reverse racism?" To be perfectly honest, I don't care about that at this moment. Today is not a day for "what-abouts." It's not a day for distancing, and assuaging our individual consciences with "Well, I would never be a part of something like that."
The Insidious Nature of Racism
The truth is, these men with their polo shirts and tiki torches felt that they could march under these evil banners with impunity in America today. What does that say about our nation and culture?
Do they sense some silent racism that they viewed this as an acceptable, legitimate thing to do? Did they think the white majority in America and elected officials would not bat an eye at it?
Maybe you don't hold or help foster these racist ideologies. But have we each done enough to stamp them out in our circle of influence? Honestly, have I?
Blood is being spilled in our streets, hate is festering in the hearts of men, and I must have more of a response than "Well, it's just the way it is" or "They’re just responding to the other group or this event that happened.”
I believe the Gospel of the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ demands more from me as His ambassador. This scourge of racism and hate must end. I know that true peace and justice will only come when Jesus comes to reign on the earth.
But, Heaven forbid, if I should stay silent in the meantime and not stand up in the zeal of His heart. The prophet Daniel could have easily chosen to be silent. Let’s unpack his story.
How the Prophet Daniel Responded to Collective Guilt
The Lord made clear that His chastisement of the Jewish people through exile was in response to their continued rebellion and wicked deeds, specifically in shedding innocent blood — as revealed in 2 Kings 21:11-16 and Jeremiah 15:4.
This was decades before Daniel was even born. He was just a teenage boy when he was marched off to Babylon to be subjugated to Nebuchadnezzar. Rather than giving in to despair at his lot, indignation at his forefathers, or offense and rebellion to the pagan ruler he was forced to serve, he set his heart on honoring the Lord and seeking the welfare of the city. One can just imagine him recounting the story of Joseph with the other three Israelite men as they tried to encourage themselves in the Lord.
Whatever wrestling with the Lord’s sovereignty and the depravity of man that Daniel went through, the testimony of the Lord over his life was that Daniel was esteemed as a model of righteousness (Ezekiel 14:14). So how did this great man respond when viewing the sins of past generations, ones for which he could rightly say he had no part in?
Fast forward decades and we find Daniel now in his late 80s peering into the Scriptures of Jeremiah. The weeping prophet had written the Lord’s promise that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. Can you picture this noble but tired man? Daniel has seen not just kings, but empires, come and go in a night. He has stared down murderous tyrants and starving lions. Perhaps the memories of Jerusalem are starting to feel more like a dream than a real, tangible city he once saw in his youth a lifetime ago.
Here before him is a sacred promise from the God of Israel that He would return the Jews to their homeland and rebuild the city of the Great King. I can just picture tears in his eyes. He does the math from his own march to Babylon and realizes this is it: he is living in the promised time.
Does he start to ponder if he can even survive the long desert road back, or will he be consigned to watch out his windows as caravans of Israelites embark on the journey? But how will God fulfill this promise?
Daniel does something that astounds me every time I read it. He doesn’t go to the king to appeal to him; that’s someone else’s calling. He doesn’t gather friends to start packing their bags, or form a committee to gather petitions. This weathered saint “turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes” (Daniel 9:3).
This righteous man repents, but not for what they had done. Instead his prayer was filled with taking on the corporate guilt of his people. Just look at a sampling from verses 4-19:
“I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed… we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets…we are covered with shame… because of our unfaithfulness to you.
Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us… We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.”
Daniel neither sat back just awaiting God in His sovereignty to make good on His promise, nor prayed for “those people.” In an act of intercession, he counted himself amongst the sinners and pleaded for the Lord to have mercy on his people, and in justice fulfill His purposes in restoring Israel for His name’s sake.
A Call to Zealous Prayer
Daniel was willing to step into a messy situation that was not his own fault in order to bring reconciliation. It reminds me a lot of Someone else who did not hesitate to be numbered with the transgressors (see Mark 15:27-28).
The Bible teaches that the heart is deceitful above all else, and that includes my own. The call for Christians is to have the Lord examine our own hearts, remove the planks from our own eyes first, and then demonstrate Christ's love for our brothers and a broken sin-filled world by laying down our lives and our rights.
If it doesn't sound pleasant or cozy — welcome to the way of the cross. It’s illustrated so well in a story recounted in Numbers 16.
When a plague broke out in the Israelite camp for their willful disobedience to the Lord, the high priest Aaron had a choice. He could stay where he was, safe inside the tent of meeting — after all, he wasn't a part of their evil disobedience. He could have rationalized that they deserved the results of their actions.
But at the suggestion of Moses, without any sign of hesitation, Aaron grabbed incense; this is biblically associated with prayer, as we see in Revelation 8. He ran to the center of the plague, and stood between the living and the dead so that it might be stopped.
Are we — am I — willing to become uncomfortable, and with our prayers run to the center of the plague of hate in America? Will I speak up and act in humility to say: this far and no further?
Will we let the winds of hate and accusation continue to sway our culture to its merciless whims, or will we stand with the One whose heart grieves over injustice and has the power to say, "Peace, be still to the waves"?
Terri Shepherd serves on staff at Capital Life Church in Arlington, Va. She earned a degree in social work from the University of Central Florida and also graduated from International House of Prayer University in Kansas City, Mo. Active in pro-life and justice advocacy, she lives in the Washington, D.C. area with her husband.
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: August 14, 2017