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Ears to Hear: When Church Folks Are Tone Deaf


Campbell Robertson observes a Black Exodus in his New York Times piece: there are black protestants in predominantly white congregations who can no longer abide with congregants who are deaf to our unrelenting grief and trauma, deaf to this country's foundation of systemic oppression and racism, and deaf to our warnings that they are aligning themselves with these systems rather than with God.

We're leaving.

I am thankful that he was compelled to document the trend, if only because he might be heard more than I. And of course, his piece literally hits close to home: pastoral leaders in my area persist in erecting a wall between believers, gilded with coded language, political endorsements, and a legacy of selective hearing and situational compassion. 

We are terrified of y'all. Estranged. Alienated. To add insult to injury, when we point out the walls that have been created, we are castigated for observing. As if the observing of a thing is the thing itself.

Still, let those who have ears, hear: TEAR DOWN THAT WALL. 

Jesus often said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

LISTEN UP, Jesus would say, right after He described the Kingdom of God. In Matthew 11, for example, Jesus turns over the listener's expectations of the righteous.

John the Baptist, Jesus' forerunner, languished in a cell, experienced doubt, and was beheaded.

Jesus, Son of God, was reviled by religious experts, betrayed by one of His own disciples, and crucified by His enemies, who used the law of the land to murder an innocent man.

Listen up: the kingdom of God is not at all like the kingdom of this world. Too many of the believers endorsing Trump without criticism, but releasing vitriol--or apathy--toward people who still muster enough grace to share "we are hurting," don't seem to get this. 

Listen up: Jesus tore down the barrier of the dividing wall. Paul wrote about this in Ephesians 2:13–16. He's our peace now. Jesus is enough.

It's vulnerable to live without walls. It's impractical. You hear a lot better without walls up, and you're forced to interact with what you see, hear, and feel. Without walls, only God Himself can protect you.

Listen up: John 17:20–21 was part of Jesus' pre-crucifixion prayer for us: "I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me." 

How we doin' with that?

Deaf ones:

Who is pharaoh in this current black exodus? How long will your hearts be hardened? What will it cost you for you to repent? We just want a place to worship our God...together. 

God is on the side of those who worship Him in spirit AND in truth. And the truth is, we are not at peace. We are not one. And God will not be mocked.

God honors repentance. He loves you. You can be a part of His kingdom come. 

Hurting ones:

Jesus Himself couldn't get everyone to hear; we won't either.

Pray for God to raise up Sauls/Pauls: people who are transformed by Jesus and leverage their heritage for global equipping and worship.

Resist the urge to erect golden calves of identity in the middle of your wilderness of rejection and disillusionment. 

Encourage the hurting. Mentor the willing. Help people to develop a keen sense of compassionate hearing.

Keep your hearts tender. God is for His people. Overcome evil with good.



Abolishing Walls

The Church Should Be a Refuge. Let's Do Better.