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Christian, Check Your Heart

Two hands making a heart shape

We are coming to the end of a week (July 3-9, 2016) that will be forever seared on our national conscious.

But unlike Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamparripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, and Lorne Ahrens, we will live to tell our children about it.

And, God help us, we must.

News headlines swarm our feeds, our televisions, our radio waves, vying for the chance to pimp our outrage and euthanize our capacity to mourn with those who mourn.

How are we called to respond as Christians?

The violence and disunity we are experiencing did not occur in a vacuum. We must stop viewing the massacre of human lives as isolated incidents perpetuated by “bad seeds” or “senseless evil.” This attitude says to a grieving people, This was all just a fluke. There’s no pattern. No history. No ecosystem of hatred. You are imagining your pain and have no right to it.

It’s also terrible theology. A classic, orthodox understanding of the doctrine of sin recognizes that it has infiltrated ALL sectors of private and public life.

Living out God’s Kingdom on earth inevitably means that the way our worldly systems operate matter! Judicial, legislative, punitive, economic, social et al. Nothing is ordinary. Nothing is “secular” anymore to the Christian.

Perhaps we feel like its impolite to challenge the infrastructure that houses “a few bad seeds” but also offers stability and protection. Maybe Its unpatriotic or ungrateful or maybe worse: it forces us to have to do something more than pray. It forces us to hold two complex truths in our hands and squirm at the contradiction: 1.) As a society we necessitate some form an organized domestic force for our peace and protection, AND 2.) A great number of our citizens experience little peace and are routinely mistrusted, singled out, and harmed by this same force. Please take the time to grapple with this reality and be affected by it.

Systems will never save us. But how they exist and function are our daily liturgies–our stewardship and worship to God. The Gospel ransoms our hearts so that we can go forth as a reflection of wholeness and shalom–PEACE.

How our agencies (and our art, and our families, churches, businesses, etc.) flourish or decay directly reflects or distorts this vision for humanity.

We grieve. We pray. We allow ourselves to be angry by injustice. We join hands. But we also must demand a better way. Christ is about the work of making “all things new” . . . and we have the opportunity and privilege of joining him.

We also must prayerfully and continually check our hearts. We must hold every thought captive in light of the cross.

If you can openly grieve the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile but cannot bring yourself to mourn with families of fallen police officers

Check your heart.

If you condemn the hate that fueled the massacre of Dallas officers but refuse to acknowledge the pain, fear, and despair felt by the entire African American community


Check your heart.

If you are more interested in being right than seeking to understand people who are different than you

Check your heart.


If you are lining up behind your political party before recognizing your citizenship is in heaven.

Check your heart.

If you are more concerned with claiming your rights than laying them down in service to others.

Check your heart.

If you have the opportunity to speak the truth in love concerning injustice but don’t because of fear, apathy, or indifference

Check your heart.

If everyone you know looks like you, acts like you, speaks like you, and votes like you

Check your heart

If you are putting your hope in systems, policies, political figures, self-made solutions

Check your heart

If you think Christians are absolved from the difficult work of restoring broken systems, policies, and societal structures

Check your heart

If you refuse to pray but find yourself overwhelmed with anxiety, anger, bitterness, and fear for the future

Check your heart.

If the Jesus you profess seems to hate all the same people you do

Check your heart.

If you have forgotten the Jesus who touched the sick, sought out the lonely, wept with the grieving, welcomed the alien, and stood with the marginalized

Check your heart.

If you hide behind prayer to avoid participating in the Gospel work of racial reconciliation

Check your heart

If your think that everyone else’s sin is responsible except for yours

Check your heart

If you don’t think that the power and love of the risen Lord can and will change hearts, bridge divides, and reconcile enemies

Check your heart

Because the God we serve is infinitely better than anything we could ask for or imagine.

He is All in All.


And He remains our only hope for peace.

-Suzanne O’Dell