Black pastors, ministers, and political leaders across the city are organizing prayer gatherings, rallies, and marches demanding justice in response to a 15 yr. old that was recently beaten by a cop. While the words “peace”, “justice”, and “rights” are being thrown around with nostalgic aplomb by these pious individuals, it is clear that “wisdom” and “righteousness in the fear of the Lord” are not as well received.
Certainly many individuals and policies in the federal, local, and state governments are far from “holy” as indicated by generations of systemic injustice. Whenever this bitter truth touches someone in the black community, we add the incident to our repertoire of legitimate reasons for being angry. However, the lack of peace and equity in our city, for which we so valiantly strive by optimistic bursts of activism, is rooted in a very humbling reality. Our community is bending underneath the weight of the spiritual and moral bankruptcy that has manifested in the leadership of the church.
In just a few days, one of the largest churches in this city will host a prayer and peace gathering in an effort to unify the black community. As a people, the physical chains around our necks and lashes on our backs have ceased. We are no longer fighting for the right to vote, or the opportunity to drink out of a water fountain. However, the number of fatherless kids and single-parent families in our communities is astounding. Our teens are being swept away by music and media that promotes death, while our young men without purpose or hope, are filling up prisons cells and graveyards. HIV/AIDS, violent crime, illiteracy and poor education plague us while the death decree of abortion is exterminating us as a race. The battle in this hour is for the lives of our sons and daughters.
Meanwhile, our pastors and leaders are brazenly unleashing their newest man-concocted agendas, jockeying for political favors, and inviting a glaring apostate who disgraces the God of the Bible and His Church (Al Sharpton); to lead our city in prayer in order to create headlines. Malachi 2 says that rather than inviting God’s blessing, these things actually bring a curse:
1 “And now this admonition is for you, O priests. 2 If you do not listen, and if you do not set your heart to honor my name,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor me.
3 “Because of you I will rebuke [a] your descendants [b] ; I will spread on your faces the offal from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. 4 And you will know that I have sent you this admonition so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the LORD Almighty. 5 “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.
7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction—because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty. 8 But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the LORD Almighty. 9 “So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.”
In the last 40 years, it seems that in matters of the law, the Black church at large has been completely silent on issues of righteousness and Godly justice such as gay marriage and abortion. However, we have been overwhelmingly vocal on issues of man-centered justice such as health care or perceived racism. In the midst of this, we’ve confused or even chosen racial and cultural zeal, over biblical truth and the zeal of the Lord. This couldn’t be more true than in the case of Al Sharpton. A man who has repeatedly called for racial justice while simultaneously rejecting biblical righteousness. With even a brief look at Sharpton’s public life and the ideologies for which he has been a voice, one can clearly see that he is a man full of words but not a purveyor of biblical truth. His primary identity is found within his ethnocentric religion of being black, rather than the “imago dei” of Jesus Christ. In his January 2009 speech at Tabernacle Baptist church in Atlanta he said this about Proposition 8 which forbade gay marriage in the state:
It amazes me when I looked at California and saw churches that had nothing to say about police brutality, nothing to say when a young black boy was shot while he was wearing police handcuffs, nothing to say when the they overturned affirmative action, nothing to say when people were being delegated into poverty, yet they were organizing and mobilizing to stop consenting adults from choosing their life partners. There is something immoral and sick about using all of that power to not end brutality and poverty, but to break into people’s bedrooms and claim that God sent you.
Malachi 2 speaks of the Lord’s response to such men:
17 You have wearied the LORD with your words.
“How have we wearied him?” you ask.
By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?”
We are further admonished by the Lord as pastors, ministers, and children of light to weigh such men on the scales of God’s Word. The Apostles exhorted us repeatedly to be sober and vigilant such as this warning from Jude:
3 Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God[b] and our Lord Jesus Christ.
However ignoring and embracing such actions is the manifestation of 2 Timothy 4:3-
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;
With this being clearly laid before us in scripture, how can we continue in our wicked ways and expect the Lord to hear our prayers and bring real change to this city? In Malachi 1 the Lord says:
10“Oh that there were one among you who would (U)shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD of hosts, “(V)nor will I accept an offering from you.
He would rather we shut EVERYTHING DOWN and do nothing, rather than to continue with our religious gatherings and well-intentioned plans without purity. In this context, our well quoted and beloved scripture out of 2 Chronicles 7:14 becomes exponentially potent:
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
We must not breeze through this instruction lightly. We need to camp out on every word of this verse and seriously consider our ways. With every homicide and every injustice, I can feel the weight of blood on the doorsteps of the Church and the hands of those who profess Christ. We must repent and return to the Lord because the day of the Lord is near!
15Blow a trumpet in Zion,
Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly,
16 Gather the people, sanctify the congregation,
Assemble the elders,
Gather the children and the nursing infants
Let the bridegroom come out of his room
And the bride out of her bridal chamber.
17 Let the priests, the LORD’S ministers,
Weep between the porch and the altar,
And let them say, “Spare Your people, O LORD,
And do not make Your inheritance a reproach,
A byword among the nations
Why should they among the peoples say,
‘Where is their God?'” (Joel 2:15-17)