Pastoral Letter Extended 8: Proper lament

This is the eighth and final of a series of posts expanding on my Pastoral Letter post based on my sermon from June 28th.

8. Our lament of wickedness must be consistent.

If we’re going to be virtuous giants, we have to get our emotions in line with what’s true. When that is true of us, we will lament over wickedness…all wickedness.

The week before the US Supreme Court ruling this June, we as a church lamented together over the racist shooting in South Carolina. There were so many pieces of it that made it wicked and lamentable. Not only was it the murder of multiple people, but it was racially motivated, in a church, in a prayer meeting, and it resulted from the brokenness of the killer himself and might have been prevented if sufficient people had responded in a morally upright way to all of the shooter’s racist ideology in the lifetime leading up to his violent act. The level of sacrilege was profound. The disregard for and destruction of things that God loves – those people, their community, their acts of prayer and worship, even Dylan Roof – ought to grieve us tremendously, so we tried to lament together over this whole web of wickedness.

Rejecting redemption

When David wrote about the goodness of God’s word in Psalm 119, he cried out, My eyes shall shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law” (v 36). He lamented not only when people killed each other, but when they rejected God – his truth, his purposes, and the redemption he offers.

Our culture institutionalizes the rejection of God’s plan for humanity when we cloud and overturn humanity’s fundamental definition. That definition includes the inherent distinction of gender, and our rejection of it will confuse generations of people and their understanding not only of their gender, but of their purpose as a human being. The fallout it will produce is enormously lamentable.

The reality of God’s narrative in our world requires that we lament deeply, and that we do so in hope.

If you lamented over the Supreme Court ruling but not over the South Carolina shooting, there is a problem. There is also a problem if you lamented over the South Carolina shooting but not the Supreme Court ruling, because it exposes in you a disconnect between the truth and emotion. If you lamented neither week, there is something wrong. We should lament all wickedness, including the institutionalization of rejection of God in our homeland in all its manifestations.

Compelled by truth

We need the fire of our emotional life to be connected to truth. That, in turn, must be wedded to our rationality and be represented in our disciplined practices. If we neglect these connections, we will fall into being emotive and therefore grasping at power. We will fight back, creating all kinds of damage. We tend to get angry while neglecting to lament, because we are not anchored in the big-picture reality of God’s truth and kingdom. The reality of God’s narrative in our world requires that we lament deeply, and that we do so in hope.

We should lament all wickedness, including the institutionalization of rejection of God in our homeland in all its manifestations.

Rather than reacting out of anger or self-defensiveness, we are called to be faithful witnesses, regardless of slander and suffering, living out the truth of Jesus in beautiful virtue, grounded in a clear understanding of what human beings are and unbroken by people telling us we’re relics on the wrong side of history.

We know we’re going to be on the wrong side of public opinion. But we’re going to be on the right side of history, not because we’re good, but because Jesus is going to pull us into the right side of the future, no matter how many bad sides of history we may have been on (we’ve been on a bunch, and we’re going to be on a bunch more).

Written with contributions by Hannah

Feel free to comment below. Please be respectful and use appropriate language so the dialogue can continue.

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