“Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened and he would not listen to them,
as the Lord had said.”
I have frequently heard, in these days, “Why do people need to protest? Why are they so angry?” I acknowledge that there is no way to answer this complex issue easily in a short devotion. Any societal change is hard, but racial inequity is particularly complex.
In 1963 Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote a letter from a Birmingham jail, where he had been arrested for protesting. He writes the letter because he was criticized for the protests. People called the protests “unwise” and “untimely.” This is the same sentiment that I’ve heard raised in these days.
We are now studying the book of Exodus and I would encourage you to watch the sermon from last Sunday, June 7. In it, I detail some overarching themes of Exodus, as well as confront racism and white privilege. Probably the greatest theme of Exodus is that we need to trust that when we find ourselves lost and in the wilderness, God calls us to self-reflection and into a closer relationship with God and others. We now find ourselves lost, so instead of questioning the protest of others, let’s look more closely at our own hearts and seek the compassion of God.
In the early portions of Exodus, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, some twenty times! He just couldn’t see past his own agenda towards compassion. As mostly white, middle-to-upper class Americans, we fall into the same sin. Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Stephon Clark, Botham Jean, Breonna Taylor and now George Floyd – do you know how each of these black lives ended? It is easy for our hearts to be hardened and to want things to stay the same – so we discount the need for change. Our agenda is to keep a calm and comfortable way of life, but when we do this, nothing really changes. We need to be better than this. We need to see the injustice of our nation, and not just focus on our own neighborhood.
In an excerpt from King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, he wrote, “…when you see vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers… when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smoldering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she cannot go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television… then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”
The reality is that black Americans are poorer, less educated and literally dying because of the systemic injustice of racism that is, and always has, pervaded our country. If you find yourself questioning our current protests, please learn more with an emphasis on compassion. I believe black lives matter, I believe those supporting black lives want neither protest nor destruction. The pain in our society is real and troublemakers are taking advantage of this, but please do not discredit the cause because of the problems. And please do not harden your heart because you want life simpler for yourself.
Dearest God, we pray for the strength – your strength – to open our hardened hearts, so that we might bring a greater compassion and understanding for the violence from which we are insulated.
Written by Pastor Greg Bouvier
Pastor Greg heard God’s call to Sheridan in 1999 and that began a journey that has become his life’s work. Having played a variety of roles as pastor of Sheridan, Pastor Greg was called as the Senior Pastor in 2011. He now leads the staff and his primary focus is on the creation of culture, the overall direction of worship and partnering with our amazing team.
Pastor Greg has been married to Rose for more than 30 years and together they have two servant-hearted grown children.