On 9/12/01 I was on my way to the mailbox and waved at a neighbor who lives across and down the street and was on the way to her mailbox. I barely know her but she immediately crossed the street toward me so I started walking in her direction. She put out her arms and we hugged because it was, after all, the day after 9/11.
What was odd though is what she said as we hugged, “I’m sorry”. She is Muslim and her beautiful face is always surrounded by a hijab/scarf. I said aghast, “You don’t have to be sorry! This happened to all of us”. We smiled sadly and went our way.
It’s 6/18/15 and I’m remembering that moment and understanding my fellow American neighbor a bit more. Because it is, after all, the day after 6/17 and 9 Americans have been murdered in their church at their prayer meeting. It has been reported that the white murderer told his victims that he was killing them because they were black. I am white and realize I feel shame over this man who I don’t know, I’ve never seen, and have no relation to.
I thought my neighbor was so sadly shocking when she apologized but I now get the guilt by association. An association that is about as broad as you can define!
There are about a billion white people in this world of about 6 billion. I associate with a few of them. There are 2,000 million people in the world who claim to believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The Bible says they’re my brothers and sisters. Add up the numbers and percentages and still they really don’t account for much because my association is clearly greater with those who were massacred at that church last night.
Like them, I know the love of Jesus. Like them, I know He created every skin color and said it was very good. Like them, I know He conquered death for those who love Him. Like them, I know that we are all sinners who fall way short of the glory of God. Like them, I know our divisions are sin.
I also know they are in His presence today and while we mourn and drop our heads in disgust over our inhumanity to one another, they dance with joy and lift their heads to the One who loves his broken people and has made these nine whole – wholly loving, wholly good – HOLY.
In the bigger story, 9/11 and 6/17 and every single other date with it’s despicable list of atrocities is not about me, not about you, not about Muslims, not about whites, not about blacks, not about the wealthy, not about the poor, not about looters, not about business owners, not about guns, not about rights.
The bigger story is about separation: separation from Jesus, whom we were created to depend on and called to take on his character. Our guilt comes from disassociation! The bigger story is about how our vain ego and its need to control has made us a broken people. Broken people choose all manner of things over love.
Jesus is love. And my identity is in the One who is Love. That’s the association we’re all needful of. That’s the association He keeps inviting us into.
Last night I imagine that Jesus, filled with righteous anger, wept. And still He chooses to associate with us. How long will he continue to wait for us?