There are more than a few different things pulling the tears from my eyes tonight…. More than just watching Macklemore and Ryan Lewis sing “Same Love” tonight on the Grammys while 33 couples got married by Queen Latifah (I know how it sounds, but it was actually really cool). More than some other stuff that is weighing on my heart that I don’t really feel free to share about. This morning at Church, I listened to an amazing man challenge a mostly white congregation in a mostly white county to open our eyes to the continuing reality of injustice concerning issues of race and prejudice, and his message still has me reeling. But it’s more than that too. I have felt like I have spent this entire day fighting back the tears. And then I looked at the picture above (you can see more pictures HERE), and I stopped trying to not cry. It was a mess….
I don’t have a whole lot to say. I really just want you, whoever you are, to spend a little while looking at this picture. I don’t know all that much about what is going on in Ukraine that has led to these violent protests and this civil uprising, but I want you to look at this picture. And SEE it…. See the grays of the wall. See the shell of the bus that has been set on fire and burned down to the metal. See the guns and shields of the militarized riot police. See the rocks in the hands of the protestors. See the two sides–Both of them so sure that they are the side who has got it right.
And then see the man standing in-between them. See him clutching a cross in his hand. See the look on his face. See the swath of color on the stole in the middle of all that darkness. See the prayer on his lips. And see his other hand raised in the air–I’m not sure whether he is extending his hand in prayer or using it to call for calm and an end to the violence, and I don’t really care. Because when I see this man standing between these opposing sides–In the middle of the fight–I see Jesus. I see The Kingdom of God. I see a picture of what the Church has been called to be in the world. I see a third way. I see a different way of doing things, and I can barely see the picture through the tears.
And this third way does not “stay out of it.” The third way is in the middle of the fight, but it stands up tall, and cries out for peace. It calls for an end to the fighting, to the bullets, and to the war of words on the issues that continue to divide the world and this country and this city and even our families into “us” and “them.” And so, when the world splits into left and right, democrat and republican, liberal and conservative–both sides so sure that THEY are the ones who have got it right…. We stand bravely in the middle of that fight, clutching a cross, and we declare to the world that there is a third way.
But it’s not that the third way doesn’t take sides–It’s just that it always takes the side of LOVE. And it follows the example of Jesus, who, when given the choice between siding with the law and siding with love, ALWAYS CHOSE LOVE. It naturally roots for the underdog and works for the rights of the powerless and the vulnerable, but NOT by demonizing the opposition. And not through more hatred or violence either, but through the powerful weapon of loving even those who hate you. The third way stands with the powerless and the vulnerable because it recognizes the truth that we are here to take care of each other. And it understands that the folks who don’t get this yet just need a little more help.
So when the internet blows up with people throwing stones of hate and shooting bullets of self-righteousness over an issue like same-sex marriage, the third way stands up and calls for peace and an end to the fighting, and then it stands with the vulnerable and declares love to the broken. When someone in your family has been hurt, and a fight starts over who’s right and who’s wrong, the third way asks for forgiveness and loves mercy. And when the world finds new synonyms for the word “nigger” and starts calling people “thugs,” the third way speaks the truth and doesn’t run from dialog. It takes no joy in more segregation, but rejoices in reconciliation–All while meeting ignorance with compassion, and hatred with love. Oh Church, let us be brave enough to stand in the middle of the fighting, clutching the cross, calling for peace, working towards justice, declaring hope and love and reconciliation to a world that desperately needs a third way!