“So, why’d you go to Ferguson?” people asked me.
I went for many reasons, but mostly because I couldn’t not go.
I have three passages of scripture I use as my marching orders. They rest soundly and squarely atop John 3:16, because where would I be without For God so loved the world?
Of course, all of this presupposes the idea that I believe the Bible. I’m not trying or wanting to get theological about it. I don’t want to go down that route, because I’m not trying to set up camp. No. I’m trying—hoping—to set a table, or build a bonfire, or spread a picnic blanket on the ground and invite whoever will come.
The first passage of scripture is in the letter we call Ephesians. You’ll find the words in chapter two, verses fourteen and fifteen:
The Messiah has made things up between us so that we’re now together on this, both non-Jewish outsiders and Jewish insiders. He tore down the wall we used to keep each other at a distance. He repealed the law code that had become so clogged with fine print and footnotes that it hindered more than it helped. Then he started over. Instead of continuing with two groups of people separated by centuries of animosity and suspicion, he created a new kind of human being, a fresh start for everybody.
You know what? I’m foolish enough to believe that. Call me crazy. It won’t be the first time. Or the last. But, I honestly believe Jesus is in the business of tearing down the walls we build to keep us separated from each other. We build the walls. Not Christ. In North America, most of us calmly accept the sad reality of white churches and black churches and you-fill-in-the-blank churches where most of the people who sit next to us and preach to us and lead us, share our skin color and language and culture and model of car parked in the parking lot.
I believe Christ means more for us.
The second passage of scripture is Matthew 18:15, which says, “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend.”
I believe that one, too. I believe Jesus knew we’d get on each other’s nerves, even in the Body of Christ. I believe he knew we’d see things differently and step on each others’ toes, and that we’d be tempted to let that cause a rift between us. I even believe Jesus knew how we’d tend to take to Facebook and Twitter before we’d walk a mile or so to stand in front of the person who ticked us off and try to work it out between us. Jesus knows the way we think and so He said to us, “Hey, when you get on each others’ nerves, go to that person—face-to-face—and try to figure things out.”
I may be oversimplifying things. I don’t know. But I think it’s worth it to at least give it a try. I mean, if I believe the gospel is true and the Holy Spirit is real, then what can it hurt to try to do things the way Jesus laid them out for me while He was here, you know? If it doesn’t work out, you can always say, “I told you so.” There’s always that.
The third passage of scripture is this: “This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” (John 13:35, MSG)
Church (as my pastor used to say), the world is watching us. Like it or not, it’s the truth. The world is watching us. And when we get it right, it’s our love for one another that the world finds attractive. It doesn’t matter what you’ve heard or read, but it’s not programs or numbers or followers or shares that make the world sit up and take notice about the things that matter for eternity. It’s not even miracles and signs and wonders. Jesus didn’t say they’d know we’re His disciples because of how much money we raise or how many books we’ve published. He said the world will know we’re His disciples because of our love for each other.
That’s something, isn’t it?
I have this crazy idea that if the Church—the Body of Christ—could figure this out and stop building walls and holding grudges and let the world see a new kind of extravagant love, we might actually be able to speak truth to power and let God set a table of grace, even in the presence of those who see things differently than we do.
And so, I went to Ferguson. And it didn’t make sense to some. I’ll be honest, it didn’t necessarily make sense to me. But, I have ignored the call of God before and I didn’t like the way that turned out. I regretted letting logic and fear, or discomfort and inconvenience, keep me from accepting His invite.
I went to Ferguson because we need to stop building walls and drawing lines to keep one another at a distance. I went to Ferguson because I needed to be reminded of the power of forgiveness. I went to Ferguson because love hopes the best, and because hope does not disappoint us.
You don’t need to go to Ferguson, but where is God inviting you to join him? It may not be as far as you think. What’s keeping you from saying yes to Him? What if God wants to grow that seed He’s planted in your heart and all you need to do is let Him do it?
When I said yes to God and to Ferguson, I had no idea how to get there. I had no money, but money showed up, without me asking for it. I had no connections, but God put me in front of the right people at exactly the right time. I had no itinerary, but we heard exactly what we needed to hear and we saw exactly what we needed to see. And when I left Ferguson, I was changed. I will forever be changed by that experience.
All God. Only God.
You are the salt of the earth. You are like a city, set on a hill. I am crazy enough to believe that. I don’t write this to say I am the salt of the earth and that going to Ferguson was some great thing I did that you should admire. I write this because I believe God is inviting you to join Him in something incredible. And, when I say incredible, I don’t necessarily mean something that will get picked up by the Huffington Post or land you on the Jimmy Fallon show. When I say incredible, I mean salty.
I believe God is inviting you to join Him in something that will make you fall in love with Him even more, and that might catch the attention of someone in your neighborhood or at your dinner table. I believe God wants to invite you to something worth savoring, and something that will advance his Kingdom, while changing you forever.
What passages of scripture serve as your marching orders? What is God inviting you into today? How can we pray for you as you try to say yes? What stands in your way?