Sunday, July 14, 2013

Adopted: Heirs to Promise

Back at it. Hebrews 11.

In doing this series, I have really come to respect the preachers who do verse by verse sermons as opposed to topical. Both are difficult, I'm sure...but this verse by verse stuff is murder. I always want to skip a verse! I'm always thinking: I don't get it.

So here I am in the Hall of Faith with vs. 21:

By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. - Hebrews 11:21

This seems very similar to the last verse about Isaac blessing Jacob and Esau. Except it's not. Up to this point, there has been a pattern of God giving what, by law, belonged to the elder son to the younger. In every case though, the reason is different: 
  1. Ishmael's inheritance went to Isaac. Why? Because Isaac was the son of promise; the result of faith in God. Ishmael was the son of self-reliance, born out of distrust of God (see Galatians 4:22-23)
  2. Esau's inheritance went to Jacob. Why? Because of God's sovereign will. The younger will serve the elder. 
  3. Manasseh's inheritance went to Ephraim...stop! That's not actually how it goes down.
Manasseh and Ephraim don't get an inheritance from Jacob. They're not his kids. These children are first, adopted by Jacob and then given a standing equal to that of his biological sons.

“Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine..." Genesis 48:5

The blessings they receive are both great. Not like what happened with Ishmael and Esau. Both of
these children have been adopted into the family of God, and the future of both is great. Jacob extended his inheritance to them by faith, knowing the will of God for the two of them corporately and individually. He was blind, and Joseph was guiding his hands over their heads, but by faith he crossed his hands over their heads giving the blessing out according to the will of God.

So what? Who cares? 

I'll agree this is a tough one, but I was moved by the thought "The first shall be last, and the last shall be first" (Matthew 20:1-16).  Both with these children and the workers in the Matthew 20 parable, people receive a part of the inheritance from the Father, but not in the order and not in the amount expected. The work of Christ was so radical. The things he said about salvation and it's application to those who were not Jewish was unheard of. 

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." - Galatians 3:28

All one, all the same, all children of promise with an inheritance from God.

At the end of Jacob's blessing he says:

By you Israel will pronounce blessing, saying,
‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!

This blessing is still pronounced on sons in Jewish families, and there are a lot of differing opinions about what it means. Some think it's about brothers who don't fight, because they never fought over this blessing like their predecessors. Some think it's about being godly in an ungodly surrounding (Israelites living in Egypt). But I think they were blessed in their adoption. Blessed in being grafted in and raised to the position of son...because that's what we all want. To be heirs together with Jesus Christ. To be claimed by God. 

So...may God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh. 


Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Justice System Works? Thoughts on Trayvon Martin

My blog is generally of a spiritual nature. But I felt like I had to put in my two cents about Trayvon Martin.  

Disclaimer: It's legitimately my two cents. A lot of people will disagree with me and that's fine. Some might agree with me, and I don't really care about that either. This is not about changing minds or educating someone. I'm just getting my feelings out there. I tried to think of ways to tie it in to the biblical principles for which I Martin Luther King did. And I came up empty. Please feel free to leave me some verses for encouragement.

I often marvel at Dr. King because he preached a message of love, forgiveness and turning the other cheek in a time when it was obvious that our justice system was broken. That was 50+ years ago. And now, in the wake of this case, many are asking us to respect the justice system and say that the verdict we received is an example of a healthy justice system at work, but I have to wonder:

When did it start working?

It didn't work when Emmitt Till's murderers were acquitted. They were acquitted and 1 year later made a confession in Look magazine. Emmitt Till's crime? He whistled at a white woman while buying candy at the grocery store. They were paid $4,000 by the magazine; profiting cheaply off of the murder of a 14 year old boy who was invaluable to his mother.

We no longer live in the same world that Emmitt Till was murdered in. I understand and believe that.  But I wondered if we're glimpsing it. Maybe next year George Zimmerman will confess to his crime, and get paid something greater than the $30,000 a month he's been making for the past two years (profiting handsomely if I must say so). Or maybe he didn't commit a crime and that money is restitution for his pain and suffering at being wrongly accused. I will leave room for that. Perhaps he really acted in self-defense. The justice system says the killing of Trayvon Martin was justified. However, something worries me...

There's no lesson. There's no advice.

Trayvon Martin didn't know George Zimmerman even existed. He didn't target that man, he didn't follow that man. Trayvon wasn't a gangbanger. He wasn't a robber. He wasn't a rapist. He wasn't even in the wrong place at the wrong time (as this "place" is often in the path of a stray bullet, at a night club, on the sidelines of a street fight, etc., etc.). Rather, he simply wanted some candy, much like Emmitt Till did. Perhaps candy is the lesson? Don't eat it. It rots your teeth and it might get you killed. Or maybe it's similar to the lesson society teaches young women: don't walk alone at night. For us women, we're told not to make ourselves easy prey to depraved men who might rape and murder us. Likewise, is the answer is to tell black youths: don't go outside at night, because someone might be afraid of you? That person might follow you, and engage you in first a verbal, then physical altercation. Suddenly, the answer hits me and I think: in the event of the aforementioned, Don't fight back. If you fight back, they can kill you with impunity. If you don't fight back...maybe they'll stop. Or, if you don't fight back, and they still kill you, there is a chance you'll get justice.

Don't fight back.

Sure, it backtracks us more than 50 years to a time when we stepped off the sidewalk so as not to be in the way of white people. "Don't fight back" speaks to a time when we willingly sat in the back of the bus. "Don't fight back" speaks to a time when we used separate bathrooms because white people were afraid of our germs. "Don't fight back" speaks to consented "learning" in segregated elementary schools (like the one that my own mother attended).  "Don't fight back" was the underbelly of the laws that prevented black people from coming into contact with white people as equals. "Don't fight back" also extended into our courtrooms, just ask Mamie Till, the parents of the Scottsboro boys, and maybe now...the Martins.

I like to think that I'm exaggerating. I like to believe that the Martins aren't an echo of the Tills. I like to believe that what happened in Florida is an isolated incident, and that the little boys with dark skin that are important parts of my life are immune to the kind of death Trayvon Martin suffered. People ask me to respect the justice system, because it works. I thought it worked in a "if you don't wanna do the time, don't do the crime" sort of way. But if the person who pulled the trigger finds justification through our justice system, that means the culpable party was...Trayvon. If I am to believe that our justice system works, he did something wrong, but I need help figuring out what it is.

This isn't about white vs. black for me. For me, it's about minimizing risk, and for that I need to pinpoint the mistake Trayvon made that led to his demise and the subsequent release of his killer. I'm desperately trying to think of a way to tell my nephews Kenny, Kayden, Gabriel, Jhalil, and Caeli how to avoid the fate of Trayvon Martin, and all I can think of is "don't fight back." And that truly terrifies me.