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 I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
I've lived in Baltimore for my entire life. I lived within the city's borders for more than a decade. I worked in the city for most of my professional life and worked for the city for over a year. I've spent a lot of time involved in city law and politics and I've spent countless hours talking to residents and assisting them with legal and housing issues. Thinking about the best ways to assist and uplift the underprivileged has been a major theme of my life.
So, as you can imagine, the events in Baltimore these past weeks have broken my heart. I've watched dozens of 'experts' and 'civic leaders' talking about issues and problems and inequities, but frankly, none of it resonates with me. Justice, social and legal, is of paramount importance to me, but I have come to realize that there will be no true justice in this world without God.
The sin in our hearts will always cause us to want to mistrust 'the other", to want to hold on to what we have with both hands instead of sharing, to feel and be defensive instead of open and accepting when met with differing opinions, to want to label and pigeon-hold ideas and people into sound-bites and stereotypes instead of taking the time to listen and understand, and most of all. to defer any blame or responsibility for our situation (personally, locally, nationally, globally) to others instead of 'owning' our part in problems and humbling ourselves enough to ask for help and make changes in our behavior. Because sin is at the root of all these issues, the only solution is the removal of sin. Jesus came to earth for just this purpose. The willing sacrifice of His life as a punishment for our sin means that by accepting Him as our personal savior, we can be cleansed of our sin and made holy and acceptable to God. It also allows the Holy Spirit to come into our hearts and lives and give us the power to make the changes through His power that we are unable to make in our own power.
The verse above is our prescription for lasting change in our lives, our cities, our nation and our world. First, we must be His people - devoting our lives to God through the acceptance of His Son, Jesus as our Savior. Next we must humble ourselves by allowing the Holy Spirit to show us the sin in our heart that we need to work on: the prejudices, the attitudes, the resentments, the bitterness, etc. that poison our relationships and interactions. Instead, in every action, reaction and interaction we must ask ourselves, 'What would Jesus do?' He struggled with the same issues of oppression, immigration, cultural immorality, injustice and poverty that we struggle with today, and He showed us the perfect way to effect change. Next, we need to pray. Jesus prayed for hours everyday to stay in God's will. Similarly, the response to every disaster and outbreak of civil unrest or epidemic must be to pray. Prayer changes things because it is our way to access God's power in our lives and unleash it in our world. Lastly, we must repent. Repentance means turning away from our old lives, our old sin, and our old path to start on God's path.
Nevertheless, we will never be perfect followers of Jesus in this life. And many will not humble themselves and repent. Many will deny the sovereignty of God. And so true justice will never be possible in this world. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't work for a more just world. If we committed to living like Jesus and doing what He would do, our world would be transformed -- we would be bold in sharing our faith, bold in promoting God's moral laws, bold in loving and accepting others, bold in sharing our wealth and time and talents to serve others.
There will always be trouble in this world -- natural disasters, wars, unrest, oppression. But it is in these times of trouble that we are turned to God to remember that He is in control, to seek Him and to pray. It is the deep peace of knowing that God loves us and is in control that is the only real peace on earth. And living out our lives in service, confidently at peace with God is what makes us the 'light of the world' -- beacons for others to follow, casting out evil and darkness and replacing them with love and light.
I couldn't be more confident that this is the future for Baltimore, and can be the future for our whole nation and whole world. Until Jesus returns to make all things new, it is up to us to be the light and salt of the world, spreading justice and hope and love to every corner of it. This is my prayer.