We Cannot Remain Silent
Guest Post by Sean and Dana Cordell
Sean and Dana Cordell live in a diverse inner-city community of Raleigh, NC. Sean serves as the pastor of Treasuring Christ Church in Raleigh, NC and also as the Executive Director of the Treasuring Christ Together Network, a church planting network that Christ Fellowship Church belongs to.
It’s Sunday morning after church and as I (Sean) walked the streets of downtown Raleigh, my heart hurts once again. Shattered windows, looted businesses, graffiti riddled sidewalks and buildings. There’s such pain behind everyone of these outbursts. I’m drawn back to earlier in the week as I virtually walked the streets of Minneapolis through the videos of a pastor friend as he documented burning buildings, the absence of police presence, and a city terrorized by riots. It’s a city I called home for two years so it’s not as distant as the miles might indicate. But behind the rising smoke in Minneapolis was a small church’s commitment to speak; a church’s commitment to love. They set up a prayer tent outside a looted Target, with bottles of water and offered hope and prayer for the pain of those around them.
As I woke up, more cities were experiencing a similar pain from the death of George Floyd and the countless people whose lives his story represents. It seems everyone is talking or posting about this. But the question for us today is will the church join the conversation? Will we actually lead out with gospel proclamation and Christ-like love?
WE CANNOT REMAIN SILENT
Brothers and sisters, as leaders in our homes or the church, we cannot remain silent–with our words or our actions.
As SBC leaders wonderfully wrote in their “Statement on the death of George Floyd,” “...as a matter of Christian obedience and devotion, followers of Christ cannot remain silent when our brothers and sisters, friends and/or people we seek to win for Christ are mistreated, abused, or killed unnecessarily.”
We cannot remain silent because all people are made in the image of God. Therefore we all have dignity, worth, purpose, and significance because of our maker–the one whose image we bear. His glory is at stake. When humanity not only fails to love but callously and calculatedly chooses to oppress, abuse, or even worse kill another person, grief, outrage and pleas for justice must fill our prayers, posts, and actions.
As leaders, how do we care for our people in the wake of George Floyd’s death? Here are a few gifts we need to give our people as we shepherd them through the heartache of our present circumstances.
GIVE THEM GOD
When the people of Israel find themselves broken down under oppression, wearied by their race-based enslavement, and almost hopeless that things would ever change, we read these words, “Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel- and God knew” (Exodus 2:23-25).
The God we give people is a God who listens, who cares, who doesn’t forget his promises, who knows our pain and who is deeply present in our suffering. Before we give people anything else, give them God. Give them a Savior who is not afraid of emotion but was filled with it as he faced imminent death (Matthew 26:37-38). Give your people a big God who weeps over death on the one hand, yet sovereignly and gloriously raises dead men to life on the other (John 11). We need the security that only our resurrected Christ can bring.
GIVE THEM YOURSELF
Give them your presence. As a counselor friend once said, “Pain is prickly.” People process it differently. Some rage, others withdraw. Some rationalize, others feel. Be present and invite people to share their thoughts, their pains, and their confusion, even if it’s prickly.
Give them your ears. In our desire to comfort the downcast, there can be a pressure to know every nuance or emotion people are feeling. As leaders, we are to be faithful to love, not perfect to understand. We don't have to provide answers for every pain. Job’s friends provided much comfort when they sat quietly- the problem came when they tried to have answers for it all. Much healing comes through allowing people to process the raw emotion in a safe place. Our churches must be this kind of people.
Give them your journey. Before we call our people to lament or act, we genuinely must lament and be stirred by Christ to act. No one is served by faking it. Be still before the Lord. Ask him to fill you with His Spirit and to cause love to abound more and more. Pray for George Floyd’s family and friends, your minority friends or family, and for minorities in your congregation. Ask God to uproot sin in us and make us an extension of his comforting arm to the hurting.
GIVE THEM YOUR PRAYERS
Lament together. God has designed our own personal suffering to open windows of compassion into the pains and emotions of the brokenness of others all around us. Lamenting is an invitation to take our tears to the Lord both personally and corporately. We held a virtual prayer gathering before our service Sunday where I invited those who attended to pray about their loss or the loss that other brothers and sisters were feeling. The prayers were raw, honest, vulnerable, courageous, Godward, Scripture-filled, and tear-filled. One woman commented, “I just needed to cry with others about this. Thank you.” We need to process our tears to the Lord and as leaders we need to make space to do that with others. It’s a gift the grieving need.
One caution here is that lament doesn’t follow a script. For some, a brief time of prayer helps them “get it out” but for many, where George Floyd’s death represents years of oppression and race based injustice, lament must linger. So, don’t judge “quick healers”, but also don’t despise the “lingering lamenters”.
Give them Promises. While laments over loss and cries for justice are necessary so are promises of God’s mighty grace. We must pray God’s promises before one another. This is not to diminish the pain or to run from the uncomfortable lament, but to bring resurrection hope into the picture of our pain. Take promises like Psalm 34:18, “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”, and text them, pray them, and speak them.
GIVE THEM YOUR VOICE
Speak his name. First, we must say the name, George Floyd, because he doesn’t simply represent a cause to defend, but a man, made in the image of God, whose life was unjustifiably cut short.
Speaking, not avoiding the tension. We must not only speak his name but we must speak about the tragedy. We don’t keep peace by avoiding serious issues. We keep peace by being peaceful, respectful, loving, and gentle when we discuss serious issues. As Romans 14 says, we must lead our churches to refuse to despise, judge or quarrel with a brother or sister with differing opinions. Instead we must demonstrate welcoming one another for the sake of Christ.
Speak the gospel. While listening is vital to healing, so are words of truth and grace. Give your church and those in the community the gospel as our only hope against the darkness. Remind your people that the church, the unified and diverse Bride of Christ, is the luring light of hope to an unbelieving and darkened world.
Fellow leaders, wherever God has given you influence, Speak! Pray! Listen! Act in love! Give them Christ! But whatever you do, don’t remain silent.