A Time for Lament

Responding to the injustice and pain in the Twin Cities

Just three weeks after I wrote “Once Again, Racism Necessitates a Response,” I sit writing this with a broken heart and tears in my eyes as I have watched the events of the past several days unfold in Minneapolis. First, my heart breaks for George Floyd and his family following his horrific and senseless death earlier this week. As I wrote earlier this month, “it is not acceptable that unjust killings of this nature continue to happen in America.” The pain, brokenness and heartache surrounding George’s death have unleashed a flood of anger and violence, tainting protests in the Twin Cities and across America. As the people of God, where do we turn and how do we respond in the face of injustice and civil unrest in our communities?

I sit writing this with a broken heart and tears in my eyes as I have watched the events of the past several days unfold in Minneapolis.
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It is essential we return to the foundational truths of our faith. Jesus is still Lord and King. He has not abandoned us, and He is at work, even in these painful days. The hope we have is eternal and rooted in the life-changing truth of the gospel, which has been “good news” to the souls of people in difficult times for more that 2,000 years. God calls us to a ministry of reconciliation through the gospel. He gives us the responsibility to call people in broken and estranged relationships to be reconciled to God and to one another through the work of Christ. We must remember that our Lord has a heart to heal the broken, hurting and wounded. It is our duty to be a voice of hope and the hands of help to those around us.

In these days, we must pause to grieve and lament. Through our tears, we must cry out to God as we witness the brokenness around us. After we pause, it is imperative we turn—first to the Lord for guidance, faith and courage, then to the people around us. We have the opportunity to speak words of hope and healing to neighbors, co-workers, family members and friends. Silence isn’t the healthy way forward; neither is complaining. Rather, speaking words that reflect the heart of the Lord will bring hope to the frustrated and hurting. It is time for churches and families to have conversations about how our God looks at our present circumstances. We also have the responsibility to build relationships and bridges that reflect the love of Jesus to churches and people around us of other backgrounds and ethnicities. Taking the initiative to develop genuine friendships can chart a path forward toward true reconciliation and change.

Now is not the time to allow fear or anger to rule in our lives. May the Lord show us His mercy and grace during these tragic and unsettling days as we pause to lament, seek His guidance, and share the reconciling heart of Jesus and the hope of the gospel with those around us. I encourage you to use the following prayer of lament, and join me in crying out to the Lord for the people of the Twin Cities along with our EFCA pastors, churches and district staff in these days.

A prayer of lament

The following prayer of lament is from “The Christian's Call to Lament" by Greg Strand, posted earlier today.

We encourage you to ponder and pray through Article 8 in the EFCA Statement of Faith on “Christian Living.” As you do, please ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in your time of lament, and we pray together corporately as an EFCA family.

"We believe that God's justifying grace must not be separated from His sanctifying power and purpose. God commands us to love Him supremely and others sacrificially, and to live out our faith with care for one another, compassion toward the poor and justice for the oppressed. With God’s Word, the Spirit’s power, and fervent prayer in Christ’s name, we are to combat the spiritual forces of evil. In obedience to Christ’s commission, we are to make disciples among all people, always bearing witness to the gospel in word and deed." (Article 8 of the EFCA Statement of Faith)

Our Father and our God, we are grieved beyond words as we ponder the events of this past week. With the mark of 100,000 deaths due to COVID-19 and the grievous death of George Floyd, we are shocked, angry and deeply sorrowful. And our anguish is multiplied as we see the devastating response—the rioting, burning, the looting and shooting—in the cities of Minneapolis, Saint Paul and elsewhere around the country.

We must speak because it is right to respond. This is not about politics. This is about human life, human beings created in the image of God who are fellow image bearers. We want and need to respond, but we often do not know how or in what way. Lord, we are confused and conflicted.

Our initial tendency, Lord, is often activism: to speak, to do, to engage before we prepare our hearts. There is a time and place for responding. But before we move to the response, with the deep grief and heavy sorrow we feel, we must first pause to lament, to weep and cry as we see the devastating and deadly results of sin. As we utter these prayers of lament in the midst of the suffering and pain, we do so with faith and trust in you and your promises. We seek to lament as our Lord Jesus did.

We have failed to reflect the gospel in word and deed, by overlooking that the God of justice cares about justice, especially for those in need.
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We lament that so often in our lives your justifying grace is separated from your sanctifying power and purpose, that the confession of our lips is inconsistent with our character and the manner in which we conduct our lives. Lord, hear our prayer, forgive and renew.

We lament we have not loved you supremely with our whole hearts, that we have made good gifts from you ultimate and thus engaged in idolatry. We have not loved others sacrificially, we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. To the contrary, we have despised the other. Lord, hear our prayer, forgive and renew.

We lament that our faith has been without works, it has not been lived out in care for others in the body of Christ. We have considered others an intrusion into our lives. We also lament that we have lacked compassion toward the poor, blaming them for their state, foregoing a life marked by the compassion we have experienced through Jesus Christ. We also care for justice for ourselves, but we care very little for justice for the oppressed, believing they get what they deserve. We have failed to reflect the gospel in word and deed, by overlooking that the God of justice cares about justice, especially for those in need. Lord, hear our prayer, forgive and renew.

We lament we have engaged in the world according to the flesh, using the world’s means and in a worldly manner. We have considered people the enemy, not the spiritual forces of evil, concluding our enemy is one who has different color skin, or one who disagrees with us, or one who has a different view on a subject, or one who is of the other political party. Lord, hear our prayer, forgive and renew.

We lament that we have been more committed to making ourselves happy and content than dying to self, and that we have desired more to retain the status quo in our churches than to obey the Lord Jesus’ command to make disciples. We also lament we have been more committed to people who look like us than we have been to a ministry among all people, which means we often reflect more of the world’s ways than we bear witness to the gospel, as God’s new community, being a reflection of the kingdom. Lord, hear our prayer, forgive and renew.

“O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name” (Dan 9:19).

In Jesus’ name and for his sake, amen.

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