You Talking To Me?
DAY 1 – YOU TALKING TO ME?
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”
Matthew 23:23, ESV
Perhaps one of the most famous lines of Robert DeNiro is from the old movie “Taxi Driver”. His character, Travis Bickle is a Vietnam vet who finds himself struggling to stay afloat in NYC. To deal with insomnia and fight boredom, he takes a job as a taxi driver. In one scene, he practices some lines which he may use to defend himself. He says, “You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me?" He repeats this over and over. The line has gone down in American history of street talk. While I’ve actually never seen the movie, I have used it for years, in a joking kind of way, when battling with my brothers, when wresting in the back yard.
GRANDMA AND JESUS SAY IT LIKE IS
I grew up having a grandmother who often said she just “says like it is.” It was true, she did little to refrain her thoughts. The good, the bad, and the ugly, it all came out. When we look at the life of Jesus, we see that he’s not afraid to say it like it is. In fact, he was comfortable with confrontation. He was collected and yet calculating. In Matthew 23:23, He says to the religious leaders of his day, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”
IF I MISSED IT, MAYBE OTHERS MISSED IT TOO?
See, I was born in the racial south, where racism was an everyday experience for me. In high school, I had run-ins with the KKK, Bloods, Crips, race riots, gang violence, and more. It was part of the teen culture in Little Rock, AR, for years. But after becoming a Christian, I received all sorts of education: a bachelor’s degree in business, two master's degrees, and have worked as a teacher of the Bible for nearly 20 years. What’s interesting is that while I have worked hard to communicate core doctrines, and bring clarity to the gospel, I look back and can’t help but think that in some ways I might have missed something; I have, perhaps as Jesus said, ”neglected some of the weightier matters.” Matters such as justice and mercy. As Jesus commanded the Pharisees for tithing, he also chastised them for neglecting to care for the poor, seeking justice for the widows, the sojourners, the outsiders of society.
I, like the Pharisee, see how I had dealt with many of the other implications of the core doctrine like the creation of humanity, by teaching on issues such “The Right to Life”, speaking up and out against abortion, or speaking up about marriage as a relationship sanctioned by God between one man and one woman. Yet I have not done much for speaking up about racial injustice.
THE HOLE IN HOLINESS
As one someone once said, there seems to be a hole in my holiness. I somehow missed that part of my biblical teaching If I missed that, and have the experience of growing up in the south, and all the education I have, I wonder if others have missed that too. Maybe they didn’t realize Jesus was talking to them. Maybe many more have somehow missed Matthew 23:23. They dealt with the minutia but failed to work out the weightier issues of their faith such as justice and mercy.
So yes, I am guilty. I could have and should have done more. I should have taught more on the subject. I should have listened more to my black friends. So, now I see that Jesus is talking to me. I believe he’s talking to you too. Remember as a Christian we all must give an account one day before God about how we lived (Romans 14:12, 2 Corinthians 5:10), how we dealt with the issues of our day. And this racial issue is a big one. Racism violates more than one of the core doctrines of our church. It’s an issue worth fighting over.
LISTENING AND LEARNING
But how do we fight? How do we do justice? These are questions that we will answer after we have had a more thorough look at biblical and theological foundations for racial unity in the church.
For now, I’d suggest to apply what I’ve learned from our black brother and sisters. In the following days, I will share some ideas to help you grow in unity, in the midst of racial tension.