and yet is relative; in that it somehow always goes beyond itself
and yet never escapes itself.” – T.S. Eliot
This past week a group of ‘urban’ pastors (code for black and brown) were invited to the White House to discuss prison reform. If you’ve read the book “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander, Esq., or watched the award-winning documentary “13th” directed by by Ava Duvernay, you know this topic has great implications to our society. Racial tensions are high in the US. Many believe this has been exacerbated by the statements and actions of President Trump. We are also witnesses to the ever-shifting role of Christian ministers in the current political sphere. Do we no longer believe that clergy are to hold Kingdom statutes as the highest standard and not be swayed from God’s moral authority by political partisanship?
One minister, John Gray, who hails from Cincinnati, was at the center of the firestorm.
Pastor Gray, a preacher and reality TV star, was very candid about his angst and internal war about going to the White House. He cited that his wife cautioned him about the potential consequences of the decision. Gray discussed praying and hearing from the LORD directly
that he was to go and have ‘a seat at the table’ of influence, despite all that he might lose: in reputation in the African-American community, or church members. Many folks expressed black and white opinions – skewed either to one end of the spectrum – (he’s compromising, out for fame, and being used for a photo-op); or the other, (God is trusting him to address powerful leaders). I marveled that our thinking was not more nuanced. We didn’t see or understand the possible PARADOX – a seemingly self-contradictory proposition that when investigated or explained could prove to be well founded or true.
Did you know that more than one thing can be true at the same time? You’ve seen the image on the left. One person says it’s an old woman, the other, says it’s a young lady. Both are true. In the same way, it COULD be true that Pastor Gray heard from God. It could also be true that his wife was discerning in her warning. Some of the pastors gathered might have had pure motives and some not so much. Perhaps a good discussion on prison reform was held and for some, the day opened a future seat at the table. Or, it could have just been a political photo op. We do not know which perspectives will win out in the end. That’s why we trust God.
In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul warns the church not to get caught up in unduly idolizing God’s ministers. At the time, he, Peter and Apollos had great followings. He said, we’re just servants of the LORD, to whom He has assigned tasks. “So no more boasting about human leaders” (vs. 21). In Chapter 4, he goes into what our perspective should be:
1This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. 2Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.