When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.
Relate: It has been a long time since I was last in the United States. It would have been four years this past summer since my last visit. During that visit, I was in the car with my cousin and his family when he got a text that caused him to say, “Oh man, they did it again. When are they ever going to learn?” He then pulled up a video link and we watched Philando Castile get shot because he had “looked like someone else.” An innocent black man was killed by the cops… again. And again… and again… and again.
Part of me wants to say, “My hands are clean.” I’m not a cop. I’m not a racist. I barely even consider myself an American anymore. More than friends, I’ve got black family members. Six of my siblings were adopted and five of them are black. Maybe I have not done all I could, but I have written and spoken out for racial justice more than once in the past. I put my life on hold to cross oceans and work with refugees. If anyone could say. “This is not my problem, I would think that I am pretty high up on that list.”
React: But I wonder how many of the people in Isaiah’s day would say the same. How many could say, “I haven’t shed the blood of innocent victims.” I mean, I’m pretty sure that more than 99% of those who would have heard his words were not in and of themselves murderers. I am sure most of them had never even seen such a crime and would have been appalled and horrified if they had. But how many of them benefited from a society and a system that exploited the poor? How many didn’t care why they got their clothes so cheap or intentionally turned a blind eye when so and so’s land was up for sale at bargain prices just weeks after the father of the family died fighting in Judah’s wars?
Is it enough to simply not participate in racist activities myself? Am I guilty just because I have benefited from a system of oppression? Slavery existed for more than three centuries in America, and Jim Crow another eighty plus years beyond that. America was built on the oppression of others. And it maintains itself on similar oppression. There is absolutely no way on earth the entire world could survive if it all consumed resources at the rate America and the West does. Maintaining that lifestyle demands that the third world remains the third world. Am I guilty for living an unsustainable first world lifestyle without even realizing that I am doing so? I am not saying yes or no. I don’t have answers to these questions. But these are questions that I, and all of us, need to be asking. There comes a point when we need to start asking such questions. Instead of telling the world what we think is right, we need to talk with our neighbor and simply say, “Help me learn.”
Let Your justice roll. Help me to be a carrier of that justice. Help me to do what I can, when I can, where I can to help bring peace and healing and justice to my neighbor. Even more, help me to shut up and listen. Before I go spouting off telling the world what ought to happen, help me to sit down at a meal with a friend and simply ask, “tell me your story.” Help me to vastly expand my vision of who my neighbor is that you have called me to love.