As the Church of England’s Anti-Racism Taskforce publishes its report this Stephen Lawrence Day, and the world continues to respond to the conviction of Geoge Floyd’s murderer, Ryan Diaz urges Christians to persevere in the fight for justice
It’s safe to say that we are tired.
A year of lockdown has only served to exacerbate our feelings of helplessness as we have watched the horrors of America’s racial history play out again for all to see.
To my Black, Asian, and Latin brothers and sisters: I can only imagine how tired you feel. Too long have your cries gone unanswered. Too long have your plights been dismissed. Too long have you fought alone for rights and privileges that are yours by the right of the Imago Dei you bear.
The fight for racial justice wearies the best of us. It has been long fought and has come at the cost of the brightest our world had to offer. In light of the relentless hate, one is tempted to give up the fight, shrink back, and abandon one’s prophetic duty to stand in the face of a broken world and demand justice and mercy.
We are Eden’s heralds, and the Gospel is both our message and our marching orders.
Yet those of us who have been entrusted with the gospel, the good news that Christ reigns, cannot afford to shrink back or shirk our responsibilities. The gospel’s cruciform imperative demands that we serve in the gap, bridging the divide between God and men; between oppressed and oppressor.
But we are tired. For many, the passion that drove us to the streets has begun to wane and flicker. How do we continue the fight despite the odds? The answer is found in our relation to history and our unique perspective that holds together both present pain and future hope. Our activism, if it’s going to endure, needs to be apocalyptic.
The Greek word apokalypsis means to reveal or disclose. The gospel is just that. According to Paul, it is a mystery; a mystery revealed through the resurrection and which reveals the actual state of the world. We now know the truth: Christ is the ascended messiah, and his kingdom is on the advance. Christ has bridged the gap between God and men. The way to Eden, long shut off from us, has been reopened through an empty tomb. Eden is spilling into creation as Christ makes all things new. This is the Christian hope. This is the lens through which we view history, and it’s this vision that empowers our present work in the world.
We press on and fight because we know that ultimate victory is coming
The people of God do not rest on Christ’s laurels; they partner with him and bring his work into the world, calling people to go further up and further into the reality of his blessed kingdom. We are Eden’s heralds, and the Gospel is both our message and our marching orders. Like Christ, we declare: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 4:17, NLT) and then, in turn, we live as if it has arrived. This is why the Church gets involved in doing justice, and it’s why we march against systemic injustice. It’s why we take up the cry of the marginalised and oppressed; this is our vision and our mission.
But if we divorce our work from this vision, we risk burnout and failure. As Will Willimon states: “our lives are eschatologically stretched between the sneak preview of the new world being born among us in the church, and the old world where the principalities and powers are reluctant to give way.” We must learn to live as people that live between the times. This means acknowledging the fact that ultimate restoration is both a future and present reality. Will we see the end of human hostility in our time? Probably not. Will we see brief glimpses of redemption and restoration as we labour for a more just world? Absolutely.
Pressing on and pressing in
We press on and fight because we know that ultimate victory is coming. Every temporary success is the breaking in of that victory, reminding us that a new creation is coming. If we want to fight the good fight, we must have an apocalyptic vision for our activism. We don’t give up, we don’t give in and we don’t lose heart when it seems as if the principalities and the powers have won the day because we know their victory is a false one.
If you are among those wearied and tired, if you are starting to lose heart and give up the fight, be of good cheer, for “the people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those who living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2) Keep up the good fight, do not lose heart. We know how this will end. We know that a new creation is coming. Let us press on towards victory, even in the face of defeat. Don’t lose sight of hope. Keep working. Your reward is nigh.