Jesus wept

By the Rev. Dr. Marilyn P. Turner-Triplett

On the day after the acts of hatred in Charlottesville, Va., aides and representatives scrambled to issue appeasing statements that might explain the White House’s appalling response to the events in that city. Were the subject matter not so heinous, their efforts would have appeared almost humorous. For clearly, the careful omissions and social media silences speak for themselves. No additional explanation is needed when one who holds a position of power chooses to remain silent in the face of evil.

Placating words that seek to absolve wicked intentions are, themselves, malevolent. Isaiah 5:20 clearly brands the attempt to “spin” the silent endorsement of racial terrorism: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (NIV). Although thoroughly disgusted by it, I am not especially surprised by the political posturing emanating from Pennsylvania Avenue.

I do, however, find myself contemplating that brief and simple Scripture found in the 11th chapter of the gospel of John: “Jesus wept.” When faced with the death of his friend Lazarus, with the grief of Mary and Martha, with the incessant grip that sin and death had upon humankind — Jesus wept. He wept at the impact of unrestrained evil. He wept at the havoc such evil leaves in its wake. He wept at the pain and separation it causes. But he wept most deeply because the people had become oblivious and indifferent to its effects on their lives and the lives of their brothers and sisters.

Jesus wept upon seeing the place where they had laid the body of his friend Lazarus. And I believe that Jesus wept on Aug. 12, 2017, upon seeing the places where broken bodies lay in Charlottesville. He wept at the newfound sense of freedom of expression that hatred and bigotry are experiencing in this nation. He wept at the evil that is being unleashed, legitimized and condoned. He wept at the polarization that it is causing. But he wept most deeply not only because many have normalized these evils but also have immunized themselves against the impact of these evils on their lives and the lives of their sisters and brothers.

Jesus wept, but Jesus moved on. By the end of chapter 11, the weeping Jesus of verse 35 had defeated death and terrified the political status quo with his audacious love. In a loud and clear voice, Jesus conquered death by speaking to it from his God-given power and authority. Later, in the 14th chapter of John, Jesus promised that whoever believed in him would do his works and even greater things. Either we believe that or we don’t. If we don’t, our only option in the face of the evil moving across this nation is to weep.

But, if we believe, if we have the faith of a mustard seed, if we have the courage of our convictions, then we have the power within us to move beyond weeping to engage in Godly action. I believe the words of Christ. And I believe that we, the people of God, are in this nation for such a time as this. We are not called to comfort and ease. We are not called to necessarily be understood or admired. Rather, we are called to speak truth to power. We are called to utilize every opportunity that comes our way — be they interpersonal conversations, public forums, pulpits, written word and, most importantly, our actions to courageously proclaim the bold message of Christ. Love trumps hate.

The Rev. Dr. Marilyn P. Turner-Triplett is director of Rizpah’s children at American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.