This is my sweet friend, Ve. God has given her the spiritual gift of bridge-building. From a very young age, she was placed in circumstances to open the hearts of white folks to black folks and vice versa. The love of Jesus mingles with her precious smile, and she shares her African American heritage in such a way that I am awed, intrigued and humbled. I used to think that NOT being prejudice meant I had to think people of color were the same as me. Ve has taught me that's not true. Some African Americans are very different than me. Some are more similar. Some, like Ve, embrace a rich African American heritage and revel in its uniqueness. I love that and I'm learning its nuances through the loving, patient teaching of my bridge-building friend. Ve is writing her memoires, and though racism is not the central theme, it is a golden thread that is woven throughout her lifestory. I'll let you know when it's published! Racism is the mistaken belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others. God chose a single race for His purposes, but God is NOT racist. He did choose Israel, however, to be the apple of His eye, to guard and retell His-story (history) in order that redemption could come to all people.
Ezra 9:1-2 – “After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, ‘The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness’” (emphasis added).
- After the incredible joy and celebration of his successful journey, Ezra is almost immediately faced with a crisis of public rebellion to God’s command (sin) not only by the people of Jerusalem but by those in leadership as well. Notice that the scandal was not just that they had married the neighboring people, but that they had not separated themselves (remained holy) from these people’s detestable practices. It is not the people God hates, but the sin those nations represent.
Ezra 9:3-4 – “When I [Ezra] heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled. Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me because of this unfaithfulness of the exiles. And I sat there appalled until the evening sacrifice.”
- What do you think went through Ezra’s mind to cause this violent reaction? Why did those watching join him in this reaction? When was the last time sin (mine or someone else’s) affected you this deeply? Sin seems to have become the norm and obedience the oddity at which we marvel. Until we are reawakened to sin’s appalling affects on our lives and the lives of those around us – we can’t feel or communicate the desperate need for our Savior.
Ezra 9:5 – “Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the LORD my God… (emphasis added).”
- Having a regular time of personal worship is essential to break the cycle of whatever has captured our minds – discouragement, sin, materialism, unreal expectations, etc. Even godly sorrow must end in order to move forward, and the personal discipline of consistent worship recenters our focus. It gives us the opportunity to voice upward all that churns inward.
Lord, some problems could overwhelm me. They’re too big for me to fix, too vast for me to feel any hope – until I break that cycle of hopelessness by coming to you on a regular basis and laying it at Your feet. Only there can these huge issues roll off my shoulders and into Your capable hands. My responsibility is to be obedient and faithful in my own attitudes and actions toward those around me. Let it be so, Lord, to Your glory.