Only God can judge me (and He will)

Nobody likes consequences. I don’t like them. You don’t like them. Relient K hates them.

But they’re real and unavoidable. Get pulled over for speeding, you pay a fine. You can be mad all you want, but…consequences. You don’t water your flowers, and they die. Frustrating, but…consequences. You’re upset with decisions being made by the governor? Elections have consequences.

We can whine and complain all we want, but the truth of the matter is that we are blessed to be in a country where we have a part in the nation’s decision making process. We have a voice. We can vote. We can contact our representatives at any level of government, and we will almost always get a response. We can even get heavily involved in choosing the candidates for various offices.

However, instead of being involved, most people just sit at home and complain. Well…if you aren’t involved…consequences.

The Bible talks a lot about consequences. Often times it calls them ‘judgement’. That struck me yesterday morning. It was our first Sunday following the MN governor’s mask mandate that requires masks indoors. I know that the order is not popular with my church congregation. I also know that the Bible teaches that we are to respect governing authorities. That makes for a complicated decision-where is the line between standing up against what we believe is wrong, and respecting and submitting to leaders that are put in place by God.

As a side note: to some, the idea of pushing back against a mask mandate is ridiculous: its there for the protection of our communities, it has science behind it, and its a small thing in the scope of a worldwide pandemic. For others, a mask mandate is a clear violation of personal freedoms in the face of an overblown situation. I’m not going to argue either direction on this, but both sides of this argument would do well to listen a little more to the other side.

Regardless of what is done day-to-day, I firmly believe that Sunday morning church is not the place to take this kind of stand. The church should be above this argument-the work of the Kingdom of God is far beyond whatever petty thing this world is dealing with. If we can follow the rules placed on us and still do the work that God has called us to do as a church, then we follow the rules at church.

Another side note: I fully support those churches in California that have chosen to violate the order placed on them to not meet. We are called to gather together, to worship with songs and hymns and spiritual songs, to study the Word, to love God and love others.

While I was preparing for church yesterday, I had to make a sign asking people to wear masks in church. I took a lot of time to prepare the wording. I knew some people would be mad, and I didn’t want that. On the sign I put the following passage:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

Romans 13:1-2

The second verse there stood out to me: there are consequences to our decisions, and making the wrong decision brings more than just some earthly consequences like a threat or a fine, it potentially brings with it judgement by God. That isn’t good.

We don’t often consider our decisions in life with the idea that judgement by God is something potentially hanging over us. We talk about making right decisions, about following God’s leading, and about being faithful. But we don’t talk about the consequences of when we don’t do those things. We will be judged, and that can be bad.

This passage has often stood out to me:

For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Hebrews 10:30-31

The thing that stands out to me here is the fact that this is written to God’s people, the church, and not to non-believers. Christians are the ones that are falling into the hands of the living God, as a consequence and as a judgement for following our own desires rather than following God’s calling and commands.

We have a lot of decisions to make, every single day, and right now there are some big things going on in our country that require us to take stands: elections, virus response, social justice issues, marriage and sexuality, religious and personal liberties…the list goes on and on. I pray that we take the time to think biblically about our decisions, consider that the judgement of God will be on us when we choose to act selfishly or pridefully, and that there is forgiveness for us when we do make mistakes.


Cancel culture started as an stupid social media thing. Someone would say something that fans of someone else didn’t like, and they would be canceled: they were ignored and no longer relevant on Twitter. What a crushing blow…

But then something terrible and stupid happened: it moved to real life. Lake Calhoun is now Bde Maka Ska (I think my daughter sneezed that once…), because John C. Calhoun, former Vice President of the United States, once had slaves, like the large portion of successful men of his time. Woodrow Wilson’s name is being removed from a Princeton school because of “racist thinking and policies”. The Minnesota Twins removed the statue of long-time owner Calvin Griffith for a statement he made in Waseca in 1978. There’s even a movement to completely remove the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC.

Cancel culture has led to the attack on statues across the nation by BLM, Antifa and others over the last few weeks. These statues have included numerous Confederate and Christopher Columbus statues; a statue of Jesus Christ in Florida and a statue to the Virgin Mary in Chattanooga; police officer memorials in Richmond VA and Dover DE; several statues related to the founders of our nation, including Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Francis Scott Key, Ulysses S. Grant; and a statue of Frederick Douglass, an African-American abolitionist and statesman (they may have lost the plot on that one).

First off (and I don’t believe I have to say this, but…), slavery is bad. It always has been. Jefferson shouldn’t have had slaves. It was wrong.

Are we all on the same page there?

Despite that fact, history is history, and there are few people as significant to the history of the United States, and of the world over the last 300 years, than Thomas Jefferson. He can’t be cancelled—his work is long done, and he did it extraordinarily well and should be honored for it. Could we have conversations about how he is remembered based on the bad aspects to his life? Sure. But, we can’t change history in the process. Slavery was a thing in his day, and it was widespread. That doesn’t make it ok in the least, but we can’t simply judge men and women from that era based on modern-day thinking and perspectives. If that is the standard we will use, then we will have to eliminate every president before Lincoln, and Lincoln was a Republican, so…

This is the hugely dangerous and insidious nature of cancel culture today. There are some that mean well and legitimately want to call out wrongs; I may not agree with all of their methods, but I can appreciate their goals. But, there are others that are clearly trying to change history, and that is exceedingly dangerous.
History is important, because it tells us what happened in the past, why it happened, and thereby gives us an opportunity to learn from the best of the past and avoid repeating the worst of it. But, history is also exceedingly dangerous when it is manipulated. Winston Churchill highlights this idea when he said: 

History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.

Churchill was an exceptional leader that played a pivotal part in saving the world from Hitler and Nazi Germany. In other areas of life and leadership, he was a failure, but when the world needed him, he was extraordinary. However, he also knew that those failures were there and, to use some modern parlance, he wanted to “shape the narrative” so that those failures would be minimized or eliminated from the record.

It’s one thing for a man like Churchill to do that, but its another for others to do that with the express purpose of manipulating future generations, as dictators and oppressive regimes have done throughout history. It’s happening in America, now, to our public school kids. I’ve seen it, and it needs to be pointed out and stopped.

Historical figures need to be viewed with consideration to their time period, and we need to remember that they were human and made mistakes that, while those mistakes shouldn’t be written off, also shouldn’t define them as historical figures. Martin Luther, at the end of his life, wrote some pretty terrible things about Jews, possibly as a result of dementia. Ulysses S. Grant worked on the farm of his slave-owning in-laws and owned a slave named William Jones for a time before emancipating him pre-Civil War.

There was also some guy named Paul, who was once a horrible persecutor of Christians. There was a guy named Abraham, who gave away his wife another man twice. David was God’s king and committed adultery and murder. Peter was a Christian leader that distanced himself from certain people that God had called him to serve because of their ethnicity.

The Bible teaches right and wrong, good and evil. But it also shows us that we are all deeply flawed sinners in need of a Savior, and in need of grace from God and from others. That doesn’t negate the evils of racism, slavery, oppression, sexism, violence, or any other sin that so often invades humanity. We can respect and honor the powerful achievements of those who came before us without changing history or in any way condoning their moral failures. Maybe that means we need to remove statues, maybe it means we need more comprehensive education. It doesn’t mean that violence, vigilantism, or editing history is the answer.

It is my hope that, in the future, I will be looked on in the same way—as a sinner trying to serve God. If not, I’m sure to be canceled some time soon.

Maybe I’ll throw a party.

Don’t Cough On Me

Last week my family and I went shopping at Walmart. That used to be insignificant, but now it’s sort of a treat for my girls to get to go shopping. The location we were at does not require face masks, and few shoppers wear them. My family did, largely because I want my girls to get used to them in the event that there is a statewide mandate or they have to wear them more often. I often do not wear a face mask myself unless I am asked to, or there is a large percentage of people at a particular location wearing them. I don’t care that much one way or another.

While we were walking through the store, I saw a guy eyeballing me from up ahead. He was a younger, tall, muscular guy who was wearing a smedium shirt and no face mask. As he passed by, I noticed he was unusually close to my cart, and just as was about to pass me, he turned his head towards me and coughed. I felt it on my face.

So, I immediately turned, punched him in the head and knocked him out, while my daughter Bella cheered me on.

Just kidding.

My immediate reaction was a bit of shock: did he mean to do that? That’s the kind of thing other people have been arrested for around the country! Is he walking around trying to start a fight? Maybe he’s just an idiot and didn’t realize what he did-I am a firm believer in the stupidity of humanity.

Ultimately, I don’t really care. I’m not paranoid about the ‘rona. If I get it, I get it. But what strikes me, especially in light of this incident, is how disconnected from each other we’ve been. We’ve got people fighting retail employees for doing their job and asking people to put masks on. We’ve got others melting down because someone disregarded the aisle arrows at the grocery store. There’s no grace. There’s no care. There’s anger, and fear, and hate.

Why can’t we just respect each other? If a business or city (or state) requires a mask, then put it on and stop complaining, or simply don’t do business there. If you are a business or city that requires masks, understand that people can make choices for themselves, including where they do their business. If you don’t like what your city or state has decided-elections have consequences. Vote for someone else next time.

If you think everyone should wear a mask, have some understanding that there is a lot of conflicting data as to whether or not they really matter, and some people simply are going to choose not to wear them if given an option (data does show social distancing to be very significant in preventing the spread, which is worth noting as cases are skyrocketing around the country). 

If you are a person that isn’t going to wear a mask, remember that there are a lot of people who are afraid, who have lost loved ones to Covid-19, who have preexisting medical conditions, and who simply cannot remain at home for the entirety of the pandemic. Show them some love and consideration, and if you can love them better by wearing a mask, then wear a mask or give them a lot of space.

There are a lot of emotions going in a lot of directions right now. Don’t let your emotions cause you to forget what’s right:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.

And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Mathew 22:36-40

“The Second Coming”, by W.B. Yeats

This poem, written by Irish poet W.B. Yeats in 1919, is a rather dark view of a world that he felt was failing. I think it holds significant relevance today. While it holds spiritual imagery, it is not written as a “Christian” poem.

Pay attention to his imagery related to the problem, especially in the first verse: “the falcon cannot hear the falconer”, “the centre cannot hold”, and “the best lack all conviction…”.

I pray that, today, godly men and women would have conviction and be filled with passionate intensity.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Rewind: Dirty

This is one of my favorite past posts, originally written in 2011. I thought it was worth revisiting now. I hope it challenges you as much as it challenges me.

Sometimes the way I read my Bible is a little delusional.

Take, for example, the story of Hosea. I used to love that story. God tells his prophet Hosea – a spiritual leader, one of those “church guys” – to go out and marry a prostitute. Not a reformed and repentant prostitute either; he is supposed to go up to some street-walker and take her into his home. I can only imagine what would happen today to the church where the pastor spontaneously marries a prostitute.

Hosea obeys. Apparently he and his new wife Gomer get along OK, because they have a child in relatively short order. However, two more children are born shortly thereafter, whose names are “No Mercy” and “ Not My People.” What kind of father names his child “Not My People”? No father does…that’s the point. Hosea 1:3 says that Gomer “bore [Hosea] a son,” but verses 6 and 8 simply say that Gomer gave birth to children. These children were not Hosea’s.

The message of the story is dramatic. God is telling His people that they are cheating on Him, that “the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” (1:2, ESV) God isn’t pulling any punches here, He is stating it the way it is. Instead of being passionately, deeply in love with the groom, the bride is out sleeping with whoever she can pick up off the street.

Reading this story in the past, I have often pointed to the sinfulness of Israel, to God’s patience and kindness, and to how generally sinful humanity is. My problem was that I never really saw the personal message for me in the story. As I put myself into the story I was always an observer to the story, someone watching the pain of Hosea and the ridiculous rebellion and rejection by Gomer with sympathy; or I would identify with Hosea, understanding the feelings of helplessness and rejection.

My problem was that I wouldn’t accept the fact that, in the story, I am Gomer. I am the prostitute that was rejecting my Groom. I am the one that is continually walking away from the One that saved me, that loves me in spite of myself and is willing to provide for my every need.

It hurts to put ourselves in the role of Gomer because it becomes painful. We begin to see our rejection of God clearly and we begin to have an idea of the pain that we cause God. We have to come face-to-face with the ridiculousness of our choices: that we have walked away from something so good for something so terrible. We have to say, “I am the prostitute, whoreing myself out to whomever I meet.” That hurts.

However, the story doesn’t end there. Despite the rejection, the deception, and the pain God sends Hosea back out to get Gomer. Even after the adultry and two illegitimate children, Hosea takes her back. It isn’t even Hosea being willing to accept her after she comes crawling back full of apologies and remorse. Hosea has to go out, find his wife, and even pay for her; things have become so bad for this unrepentant adulteress that she has fallen into slavery.

Like Gomer, we have to recognize that, on our own, we are at a rock-bottom level of hopelessness. But God hasn’t given up on us; He still wants us and will redeem us. He loves us so much that He has paid for our rebellion and our mistakes. Despite the terrible things we have done to Him, He is still there to bring us home. On the other side of the pain we feel in understanding our rebellion and extreme sinfulness is a joy and a love that we otherwise could not understand.

God is desperately, passionately, deeply, and completely in love with you. Despite whatever it is that you’ve done, He is still there to pay the debt and bring you home, without any worry of guilt or resentment. Return to Him with joy and feel His love surround you as He holds you in His arms and carries you home.

Trust the process. Or blow it up. Whatever. But be in it.

The fallen Christopher Columbus statue outside the Minnesota State Capitol after a group led by American Indian Movement members tore it down in St. Paul, Minnesota, on June 10, 2020.

OK, so everyone’s still mad about everything, so let’s keep it up with the politics.

A couple of weeks back, a group of protesters pulled down the Christopher Columbus statue at the capital in Saint Paul. At first glance, it seemed to be another act of destruction in the rioting that has been happening since the inexcusable death of George Floyd. But it wasn’t.

It wasn’t, because the authorities at the state capital were informed several hours previously that the protesters intended on pulling down the statue. There was a plan in place, and it was publicly known. The state patrol, which are capital law enforcement, were ready to be sent out. The destruction could have been stopped. But it wasn’t stopped.

Instead, a group of capital leaders met with the leaders of the protest. Then, the state patrol stood to the side until the statue was brought down, then secured it shortly afterwards so that workers could remove the damaged statue and base to a storage facility.

The protesters were angry about racial injustices, and Columbus has been a frequent target for decades now, especially from Native American groups. In fact, MN Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, a member of the White Earth Nation of Ojibwe, said afterwards; “I can’t say I’m sad the statue of Christopher Columbus is gone. I’m not.” (you can read a very good article on the incident here)

Now, I don’t want to get into a debate about whether or not the statue should have stayed at the capital. I want to talk about process here.

In life, there are right actions and wrong actions. Thats the way things work. But, there are also right ways to do right things, and wrong ways to do right things. This was the wrong way to do this, whether or not the act of removing the statue was right. It was the wrong way for a variety of reasons, the first of which is that there is a process to remove statues and pieces of art, and guess who is in charge of the group that oversees those monuments: MN Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan!

Across the nation people are upset about our current political climate. Approval ratings for our government officials are extremely low. People are constantly complaining about all kinds of things. But, the truth of the matter is that most people aren’t willing to do anything about it.

There is a way that things work. Our country operates by a two-party system. Each party breaks itself down from the national political organization to local precincts and caucuses. Starting at the bottom, candidates are endorsed, platforms are changed and priorities are set, and they move up the ladder to the national group. Change can happen slow, but when there is a wave of people pushing in the same direction it can change very quickly as well.

A quick aside: I really, really don’t want to be partisan on this, but I feel like it should be pointed out that most of the cities that have seen the most dramatic protests in the last several weeks, including Seattle, Minneapolis, Atlanta, and Baltimore, have been under largely one-party control for decades. People are upset about the system, but they keep voting the same types of people with the same perspectives, with little or no diversity of political thought, over and over and over again. In Minneapolis, the city has been in a process of voting in candidates that are more and more and more liberal, year after year, and they keep demanding more and more of that liberal thought, yet it ends up being conservatives that get the finger pointed at them. I don’t get it.

People get upset about where our politics and our government is at, but as someone who has been involved at several levels of the political process with the Republican Party for many years, I can tell you that very few people are interested in the process. Precinct meetings are sparsely attended. Not that many votes are cast there. Most people wait until the final elections in November, which is probably something like Step 117 of the process, and then they complain about not having a voice in that process.

Don’t like the process? Fine – step up and get it changed. Make your voice heard. That’s why I’ve been a part of the process. My schedule isn’t lacking in things to do, but I’ve made it a priority because I want to help see good people put into positions of authority, and the local level is where it starts. I’ve stood up in front of rooms of strangers and campaigned against candidates that I didn’t believe would serve the people well, as well as actively push candidates that I feel will serve us well. This year, I sat out of the process in protest of decisions made by state leadership. Next year I’ll likely be back, trying again to help make our nation a better place.

It isn’t easy. It usually isn’t fun. There isn’t much one person can do. But I’ve met many men and women that share my beliefs and perspectives, that are working in the same spirit that I am. I also pray that there are those in the other party that are trying to do the same thing there.

We need to see changes made in our nation. Some of them are personal, some of them are cultural, and some of them are political. I hope that we are all committed to doing our part and putting in the time to affect positive changes, the right way, for the good of everyone.

A woman, to Benjamin Franklin: “Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?”

Benjamin Franklin: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Freedom and ‘Merica.

OK, so everyone’s already mad about everything right now, so let’s just do some politics on here. What can it hurt.

My little girls are 4 and 6 now, and they’re hitting an age where they are really embodying the stubbornness of their parents. One of the most common phrases in our house right now is, “I don’t wanna.” It can be used for anything from picking up some toys to eating food on their plates.

Its also fascinating (thats the nice word for this) to see that they know better. We will very often have this conversation:

Father: “Do the thing.”

Offspring: “I donn’t wanna.”

Father: “But I told you to.”

Offspring: “I know.”

Father: “You know you have to do what your parents say.”

Offspring: “Yeah.”

Father: “And I told you to do the thing.”

Offspring: “Yeah.”

Father: “So do it.”

Offspring: “But I don’t wanna!”

As a dad of 2 girls, I’m getting used to the idea that logic will never mean anything in my house.

We all do this all the time. We know the right thing, we know the reasons, but we don’t wanna, so we either justify around it or we ignore it entirely. Now to the politics:

Many of us are fiercely independent Americans. We do what we want, when we want, ’cause Freedom and ‘Merica. We do what the government tells us to do only when it’s convenient to follow the rules, ‘cause Freedom and ‘Mercia. We let common sense rule rather than some suit in Saint Paul or Washington DC, ‘cause we know better, and Freedom and ‘Merica (even though, if we’re honest about ourselves, our common sense is questionable at best).

But, is that what the Bible says? Is that what is right? Because our focus isn’t supposed to be on Freedom and ‘Merica, its supposed to be on the gospel, on the cross, on loving God and loving others, and on doing the right thing, all the time, not matter what.

In Romans 13, Paul is writing to Christians in the belly of the anti-Christian beast, Rome. They’re surrounded by paganism and by governmental authorities that, in the best of times simply reject and ignore Christians and, in the worst, actively try to kill them. Still, Paul tells Christians:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

Romans 13:1-2

That is one of those passages that we like to tell ourselves that it doesn’t mean what it says, even though it clearly means what it says. But lets see if we can wiggle out of it: Paul goes on in the following verses to talk about doing right and wrong, and basically says if you do the right thing then you have nothing to fear from the authorities over you-its the idea that you don’t worry about seeing the highway patrol on the roads if you’re driving the speed limit, but you get terrified when you see them and you’re speeding.

But, as the last few weeks have made very clear, that isn’t always the case for everyone. There are bad people in positions of authority. They may not be everywhere, and they may be a minority, but they are there. Sometimes we can get in trouble even though we didn’t do anything wrong. So, does that give us an out?

Hold your horses there, Galloping Gus. Peter has a similar message in his first letter:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

1 Peter 2:1-2

Peter goes on with a similar “good conduct” argument, but I want to point to the context here. In 1 Peter, he is writing to Christians that are in the midst of intense persecution. It’s one of those bad times, where they are being hunted simply because of their profession of faith in Jesus Christ. And still, while they are “elect exiles of the Dispersion” (1 Peter 1:1), they are still to be subject to the governing authorities; to “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:17)

This isn’t a command to blindly follow whatever leaders tell us to do. It was not a command to turn themselves in to the authorities. However, as a general rule, when they (and we) were able to love God, love others, and follow the rules laid down by the authorities, then they were to do so. Even when they disagreed with the rules. Even when the rules didn’t make sense. Even when the rules were inconvenient. Even when the rules weren’t followed by others or by the leaders themselves. “…render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Luke 20:25)

As I have said, we aren’t called to blindly follow, but as followers of Christ we should be marked by our passion for God, our love for others, and our respect for everyone, including our government. We can show respect and protest. We can show honor and disagree (that might be a shocking statement in our current cultural climate). But we should acknowledge that all of our governing authorities; elected and unelected; local, state, and national; Republican, Democrat, and other; they are all in the positions they are in because God willed it.

You’re probably right-you probably do know better. We don’t always get the best and brightest in positions of authority. But they are in those positions, so show them the honor the positions deserve, for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

Paul Harvey on the Common Man

“Why should anyone aspire to be a common man, an average man? Do you realize what it means to be average? That means you’re the best of the lousiest…and the lousiest of the best. Now, if we demand more and more for producing less and less, while the have-not nations encourage, and inspire, and indeed require hard work and maximum effort – if we deify the common man while they encourage and reward the uncommon ones – well, the end result of such a lopsided race as that is too obvious to require elaboration.”

-Paul Harvey

Perkins on forgiveness and love

These are reflections of minister and civil rights activist John M Perkins, as he lay in bed recovering from injuries and ulcers in Mississippi, 1970.

An excerpt from John M. Perkins book, “Let Justice Roll Down”.

“The Spirit of God worked on me as I lay in that bed. An image formed in my mind. The image of the cross—Christ on the cross. It blotted out everything else in my mind.

This Jesus knew what I had suffered. He understood. And he cared. Because he had experienced it all himself.

This Jesus, this One who had brought good news directly from God in heaven, had lived what he preached. Yet he was arrested and falsely accused. Like me, he went through an unjust trial. He also faced a lynch mob and got beaten. But even more than that, he was nailed to rough wooden planks and killed. Killed like a common criminal.

At the crucial moment, it seemed to Jesus that even God himself had deserted him. The suffering was so great, he cried out in agony. He was dying.

But when he looked at that mob that had lynched him, he didn’t hate them. He loved them. He forgave them. And He prayed God to forgive them. “Father, forgive these people, for they don’t know what they are doing.”

His enemies hated. But Jesus forgave. I couldn’t get away from that.

The Spirit of God kept working on me and in me until I could say with Jesus, “I forgive them, too.” I promised him that I would “return good for evil,” not evil for evil. And he gave me the love I knew I would need to fulfill his command to me of “love your enemy.”

Because of Christ, God himself met me and healed my heart and mind with his love. I knew then what Paul meant when he wrote:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:35, 37–39

The Spirit of God helped me to really believe what I had so often professed, that only in the love of Christ is there any hope for me, or for those I had once worked so hard for. After that, God gave me the strength and motivation to rise up out of my bed and return to Mendenhall and spread a little more of his love around.

Oh, I know man is bad—depraved. There’s something built into him that makes him want to be superior. If the black man had the advantage, he’d be just as bad, just as bad. So I can’t hate the white man.

The problem is spiritual: black or white, we all need to be born again.

It’s a profound, mysterious truth—Jesus’ concept of love overpowering hate. I may not see its victory in my lifetime. But I know it’s true.

I know it’s true because it happened to me. On that bed, full of bruises and stitches—God made it true in me. He washed my hatred away and replaced it with a love for the white man in rural Mississippi.

I felt strong again. Stronger than ever. What doesn’t destroy me makes me stronger.

I know it’s true.

Because it happened to me.”

-John M. Perkins

In honor of George Floyd

I could write a long list of reasons why I shouldn’t write anything on the turmoil we have seen in Minnesota and around the nation since the death of George Floyd, but the reality is that whatever the list would look like, it would be summed up with the line, “I’m afraid.” It’s a scary situation that holds a lot of emotions for a lot of people.

Being in a rural, and overwhelmingly white, community makes it an even more complicated conversation. But for a decade I lived and did ministry in the Twin Cities. I lived a block from where fires and looting have been taking place. I have stood in the places where I saw protesters clash with law enforcement. I spent a night on a ride-along with a St Paul PD officer. But, even more importantly to me, I have had friends of color that have spelled out personal experiences of racism and fear in their daily lives, including in interactions with law enforcement. 

This is all very real for a great many people. So, maybe what I can do is briefly highlight some things that should be clear to all of us.

  • George Floyd should not have died like that. There is no defense to that heartbreaking act of evil.
  • Our law enforcement is filled with very good people that should be honored and respected, but there are also some very bad people wearing uniforms that need to be identified, called out, and held to a higher standard than they often have been.
  • It should have a powerful impact on all of us to realize that there are large groups of people all around the country that are fearful of the very people they should be the least fearful of-the ones responsible to protect them.
  • We need to respect and listen to the protesters.
  • We need to condemn violence, whether that come in the form of looting and mayhem, or the excessive reactions of some law enforcement officers that have taken place against nonviolent protesters, journalists and aid workers. Again, our law enforcement should be held to a higher standard.
  • Christians should be vocally opposed to racism and violence. If we claim to be pro-life, if we claim to be responsible for the “least of these” (Matt 25:40), then we need to take a stand.

This is a complex issue, and there is disagreement on how to move forward. That’s ok. But we do need to move forward, we need to listen, and we need to love. We cannot continue to sit back and complain any time someone takes a knee without trying to understand the “why” behind the protest. If we are more angry about the protest than we are the injustices that sparked it, that is a problem. We need to be able to distinguish between the legitimate protests and the riots that also have taken place. We don’t have to agree with the protest, but we do need to hear the hurt and the fear behind it, and we need to show love and pursue peace and justice.

I have a lot of other thoughts and ideas. Some of them are almost certainly wrong; many of them would likely make some people very upset; some of them are spiritual, some of them are social, some of them are political. I don’t think now is the time for those statements. I think now is the time to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19) We need peace and healing, and we need a widespread resolve to make things better together.

Please pray with me for peace, for comfort, for perspective, and for justice. May God guide us forward and bring His kingdom to our world.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8