By: Rev. Traci Blackmon, Associate General Minister, Justice and Local Church Ministries, UCC National
“For me, slavery abolition sought to end an evil institution and death penalty abolition sought to end an immoral government practice. But [in this new abolition movement] I felt responsible for organizing and molding abolitionist futures with other people, which was much broader than the elimination of any one particular system practice. It was a politic, a paradigm to organize, navigate and re-create the world.”
– Derecka Purnell, Becoming Abolitionists: Police, Protests, and the Pursuit of Freedom
I love that we find this brief but rich passage of scripture tucked in the middle of Paul’s “spiritual survival guide” to followers of the way in Rome. Paul is teaching the cultural and political etiquette necessary to live peaceably in society when he interrupts himself to remind the hearers of the current oppressive realities of their day. He admonishes believers to remember that ultimately their commitment to follow the teachings of Jesus is a commitment to live counter-culturally for the sake of the gospel.
This is a wakeup call for those of us living in the midst of deepening chasms of social, political, and cultural disdain of the other. Like contemporary abolition movements, Paul provides a way for us to name the bleakness of this time and be reminded there is a more faithful way. He admonishes us to awaken from our slumber and prepare for battle, yes battle, by choosing the light of God’s truth.
And every decision we make toward goodness and mercy moves us further away from hatred and revenge. Every step toward liberation and equity for others is one more step toward freeing ourselves. Every reach across the chasms that divide us draws us closer to the one body we must become. Paul reminds us that leaving the comfort of darkness can be frightening, until we see the light of day and feel the warmth of its sun.
Holy One, Giver of Light,
awaken us from our slumber,
assuage our fears of change,
fill us with compassion,
cover us with grace,
and embolden us with your Spirit
as we clumsily leave places where we see justice dimly,
moving toward the dawning light. Amen.
Artwork: “Dismantle” by Yohana Junker (discover more at: https://www.yohanajunker.com/)
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