Today, my heart is grieved. My heart is grieved because the Church as a body has gotten off track. We’ve lost our way. While there are some churches who have been true to the gospel and message of Jesus, many have gotten distracted. They’ve gotten caught up in what the people want. They’ve gotten caught up in preaching about and speaking on what’s popular and what can sell. There are many churches today who will spend time preaching and speaking on topics Jesus spent little to no time on like romantic relationships and topics that seem completely contradictory to the message of Jesus like prosperity gospel but will be silent on the topics for which Jesus was the loudest. My heart is grieved.
My heart is grieved as black people are murdered by police and churches and even pastors remain silent. My heart is grieved as people are incarcerated and as those who claim to be Christians actively advocate for the death penalty. My heart is grieved as we rush to re-open states for the sake of the economy, putting money over people. My heart is grieved as we focus on the ways we can build our own brands and dreams and platforms without realizing those who have been sacrificed and harmed in the process. My heart is grieved as I look at the many things the Church should speak on but remains silent on. My heart is grieved because everything Jesus was about; many churches today have become about the opposite.
As I sit with the reality of what it means to be a black woman in the United States and a Christian, I think “What Would Jesus Do?” I look to Jesus as the example for what ministry and the Church should look like. In considering this, there are two scriptures that stand out for me. One scripture is Matthew 25:31-46. The scripture reads beginning with Matthew 25:44 (NRSV), “Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”” Living like Jesus means caring deeply for our neighbor. It’s not just speaking their names but taking action as it relates to addressing the injustices that have contributed to them being hungry and thirsty and perceived as a stranger and naked and sick and in prison. We have to be willing to address the systems and in the words of either Frederick Douglass or Rabbi Joshua Abraham Heschel, the quote is attributed to both, ‘pray with our legs or feet.’
When I ponder “What Would Jesus Do?” I also think of the time he read the scroll from Isaiah in Luke 4. Jesus reads, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Again, we see the concern of Jesus as it relates to the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed. Jesus’ ministry was a ministry to the marginalized and oppressed and one that challenged the systems and institutions that contributed to marginalization and oppression. This is who Jesus was, and my heart is grieved because this doesn’t seem to be the Jesus we follow in practice. To be a Christian, to be a follower of Jesus, is to speak up in the face of injustices, like Jesus did, and to also take action. To work for the Kingdom of God is to shake up the status quo and challenge the power structures of this world.
My heart is grieved because of the silence and inaction of many Christians, and yet there is time and space for us to come home. It is time for the Church to come home, to come home to the core message of the gospel. It is time for us to not only ask ourselves “What Would Jesus Do?” but to commit to living like Jesus, no matter how unpopular, how risky, how much it cost…It is time for us to really practice what we preach and to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Today, my heart is grieved, and I am disappointed, but I hope that we will see a shift in churches as they begin to come home.