Genesis 3 offers us a story of cosmic treason. A man and woman who are to reflect the dignity, relationships, cooperation of the holy God, ignore the majesty of God and worship the false idea of being something more. What is the 'short term fix of power or pleasure?" There is something that I am supposed to have. What I have is not enough. Dignity is not enough. Having relationships that will be fruitful and expand throughout this creation is not enough. You and I working together in the presence of God is not enough. Being made in their image and according to their likeness is not enough. The fall offers us the extensive damage that has been done to our relationship with God, with one another, and with creation. Our dignity has been marred. Our relationships will be characterized by domestic abuse, corruption, segregation, sexual disorientation, and death. Our cooperation with one another will become competition, classism, sexism, gentrification, and manipulation. Yet justice must prevail. All that has been made wrong in our dignity, relationships, and cooperation with one another and ultimately God must be made right. "And I will put hostility between you and between the woman, and between your offspring and between her offspring; he will strike you on the head, and you will strike him on the heel" (Genesis 3:15)
I want to continue to trace this thread of dignity, relationships, and cooperation as it relates to social justice. The Exodus is the narrative of redemption for the Israelite people and it is only surpassed by the Redemption and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Exodus narrative offers the framework for the Israelite people to reclaim dignity, the need for fruitful relationships, and cooperation in order to carry out the purposes of God. After four centuries of dwelling in the land of Egypt and suffering under the weight of slavery, God responds to the groans and cries of the Hebrews. He restores the dignity of the people as a unique community of men and women that he declares holy, chosen, and treasured (Deut 7:6). Dignity implies the affirmation of a person or group. Dignity is the recognition people are not property to be moved about as a chess piece or a cog in the machine of a national dynasty. The dignity of the people rests on the activity of God who chooses and redeems. The foundation of the Exodus and the affirmation of dignity on the basis of God, informs the quality of relationships the Hebrews were to have with one another.
Consider for a moment the second half of the Law in Exodus 20: 13-17. Those six commandments emphasize the importance of fruitful relationships within various aspects of the community of faith. Parental, marital, and neighborly relationships are meant to reside in this environment of fruitfulness. When these relationships exists in fruitfulness there is another foundation laid for the mankind to reflect his creator, in dignity, in relationships, and cooperation. The Exodus serves to provide the Hebrews with the opportunity to create an environment of flourishing and central to that flourishing is the tabernacle of God. The latter portion of the Exodus narrative provides the Church with an early example of cooperation in which men and women contribute what they have towards the construction of the tabernacle (Ex 35:4-9). The tabernacle would be the central place where men and women would know atonement, reconciliation, and behold the shekinah glory of God. It is through the cooperation of giving, skilled labor, and corporate worship (Ex 35:30-36:2; 40:1-33) the people begin to experience human flourishing of the highest degree because God was in their midst.
So from Exodus and the beginnings of human flourishing, the Israelites know dignity, relationships, and cooperation. Centuries later, dignity, relationships, and cooperation once again suffer under the weight of idolatry. The poor receive no aid because "pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease" become the life of many (Ezekiel 16:49). Relationships are eroded through theft, oppression, and gentrification (Micah 2:2). The work that is to be accomplished in being a shining light has dimmed and the glory of God has departed Israel (1 Sam 4:21). Exile becomes the new situation of God's man, Israel. God creates Adam and he is exiled from Eden. God creates Israel and they are exiled from the land. When shall justice be brought to the earth?
How will God's project of dignity, relationships, and cooperation be realized and he receive the maximum glory?
"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
We ask that your administration and purposes would manifest on this good place which you have given us to live and flourish. Make our world to be the manifestation of your eternal realm.
Give us this day our daily bread,
Provide for us the necessary food that will strengthen our bodies.
Give to the poor homes that are adequate for living.
Make a way for the foster children of our state and nation who move from home to home.
Give to the immigrant-legal and illegal-the appropriate assistance they need to flourish.
Give to all your people the necessary wisdom to show compassion, do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before you.
and forgive us our debts,
Our Father forgive us because we continually dehumanize one another.
Forgive us for withholding compassion to those who experience prejudice.
Forgive us for refusing to forgive those who have shown us bigotry and racism.
Forgive us for valuing our political affiliation as a greater importance than the value of our Christian brother and sister.
Forgive us for refusing to listen to those who have become victims.
Forgive us for the utter lack of respect we offer to our elected leaders whom you have placed in office.
Forgive us because we show compassion to those only when it is in our best interest.
Forgive us Our Father because of our intolerance for those who do not agree with us.
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
We forgive those who have a different doctrinal stance than us. We know that only Christ alone can save us.
We forgive ISIS who seeks our life.
We forgive the LGBT community that views us as intolerant and bigoted.
We forgive the heterosexual community that does not value our human experience.
We forgive our Christian family that agrees with deporting us because of our immigration status.
We forgive those who identify as Progressives because they see the importance of compassion.
We forgive those who identify as Conservatives because they see the importance of restraint.
We forgive those who identify as Libertarians because they see the importance of freedom.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Our Father be our good shepherd.
Lead us away from the temptation to devalue your holiness for our cultural comfort.
Lead us away from the temptation to use violence as the first option.
Lead us away from the temptation of believing politics apart from you will bring about heaven on earth.
Lead us away from the temptation of judging a brother or sister because they stand with Israel or desire a two-state solution.
Lead us away from the temptation of turning a blind eye to the pain in our families.
Lead us away from the temptation of being unsympathetic to the difficulties of another ethnic group.
Lead us away from the temptation of believing we can live apart from your presence.
Deliver us from the evil that is resident in all our hearts. The same evil that resides in Americans and Non-Americans.
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory.
What does it mean to be a Husband?
Being a husband means shouldering a God given responsibility, which is a challenge, as well as, a joy. It is a challenge from the standpoint of mirroring a perfect God and His love for the church. My awesome responsibility is to love my wife as Christ loves the church and this puts me in the position of being the priest of our home. This charges me to lead my wife spiritually, in addition, providing stability and security. As a husband this means I should care for her and guide her sacrificially. Being a husband is a joy because God has entrusted me with a precious gift and He helps me carry out this responsibility. I am nowhere near a perfect husband or very very very good husband, but I will continue to strive to follow God’s blueprint.
What does it mean to be a Father?
Being a father means being a provider, being a guide or one who instills structure/discipline, and I have learned it means being a friend as well. My experience as a father is one of humility and joy. My experience is humbling because I became a father at the age of 20, while attending school and I had no idea of what being a father entailed. Although I had a great model in my Dad, there are many things I wish I had done, as well as, many things I wish I had not done. Fatherhood has shown me my imperfections. However, it is a joy to see the beautiful, independent, and responsible person God is shaping our child to be.
What is the example you are seeking to set for your children?
The most important example I seek to set for our child is that of a personal relationship with Christ. If our child understands and pursues Christ, my purpose or responsibility has been complete.
What contributions are you making to your community or city?
My contribution to my community as well as my city has mainly been through the organization; NAACP. Through my service in this organization, I have sought to help the underprivileged and oftentimes the overlooked by taking action on their behalf when they have felt they were mistreated. But I have also set out to do what Dr. King and many others fought for, which is to bridge the gap between our ethnicities, our businesses, our schools, and the community at large. My hope is that our city will see there is “Unity in Diversity.”
What do you desire as a legacy?
My desire for a legacy is to have those to remember me as an individual who loves God, and though imperfect, strives to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. In addition, I hope to leave a legacy of being a person who cared about his family, church family, and community and one who challenged others to see situations through a lens other than their own.
What is your hope for African American Men?
My hope for African American men is that they will yield to their first love, who is Christ. And upon yielding, I pray we take our rightful place in the home, in the church, and in our community.
In closing, let me emphasize I am in no way a perfect model, but hope to do what I have been called to do without messing it up.