Tag Archives: racism

A LOOK BACK: Nothing is Impossible


“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:28-29).

Jarena LeeThere once was an African-American woman, named Jarena Lee (b. 1783), who felt the call by God to preach the Gospel. The only problem with that was the fact that women were not permitted to preach anything during that time period; only men were permitted to preach. What’s more, she was not just a woman, but an African-American woman.

“Go and preach the Gospel,” she heard God tell her. “But no one will believe me,” she replied. And one can understand why she was afraid to approach anyone about her call to preach. But God persisted in calling her through her dreams until she finally decided to approach the Rev. Richard Allen about it. Initially he put her off, telling her that there was no room in the Discipline for a woman preacher. At first, she was thankful, as she thought Allen’s answer would put the calling to rest. But it did not.

Eight years later, during a sermon in which a minister lost the spirit to preach in a sermon on Jonah, Jarena jumped up and began to preach in his place. She proclaimed that she was like Jonah, running away from the call that God placed on her, and preached on the importance of answering the call of God.

Following her exhortation, Rev. Richard Allen, who as the Bishop of the African Episcopal Church at this time, confirmed that she indeed did come to him eight years earlier and that he had put her off. He confessed that he was mistaken and that she was as called to preach as anyone he had ever ordained as a minister. Later writing of this event, Jarena Lee wrote: “For as unseemly as it may appear nowadays for a woman to preach, it should be remembered that nothing is impossible with God.” Indeed, God had done the impossible in the life of Jarena Lee!

Often times, we stand in the way of God with our rules and regulations and man-made doctrines and traditions. We determine who is worthy of being called by God, who is worthy of God’s presence, and who is worthy of God’s grace. On top of judging others, we often deem ourselves as unworthy too. Yet, who are we to decide such things? Jesus broke the man-made barriers and engaged in religious dialogue with a Samaritan woman at a well in Samaria in a day and age where women were property and Samaritans were considered less than worthy of God. And Peter saw the Holy Spirit filling Gentiles, breaking his prejudice against their worthiness.

Time and time again, Scripture shows us that nothing is impossible with God, and no one is unworthy enough to be called by God. Abraham was a polytheist and a fraud, Joseph was a prisoner and slave, Moses was a murderer and stutterer, Rahab was a prostitute, and David was an adulterer and a murderer. All of these people and many more were called to serve God in vital and important ways. Which one of us can be the judge against God working in another’s life? Which one of us can be the judge against God working in our own lives? Which one of us can be a judge against God?

Remember, God loves us all and calls us all to serve him. Each calling is unique; however, each calling is equally important and special. No rules or regulations can stop God from calling you or others. No rules or regulations should stop you or others from answering that call. Do not judge yourself or others; just answer God’s call and let God do the rest!


“Oh how careful ought we to be, lest through our bylaws of church government and discipline, we bring into disrepute even the world of life.” — Jarena Lee


Lord God, help me discern your call and refrain from judging, whether I be judging myself or others. We are all worthy. Amen.


Read Deuteronomy 10:14-22

“The LORD protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows, but he frustrates the plans of the wicked” (Psalm 146:9, NLT).

There’s a series on Prime Video that was recently released, entitled, “Them”. It was conceived of and produced by Little Marvin who, up until this series, was a little known actor and producer. From the get go, I could tell that this series was going to be edgy to say the least and that it was likely to keep anyone watching it at the edge of their seat, if not scared out it. Yet, the edgy horror that I was expecting watch was not what I discovered in this film; in fact, this film’s horror was far more dark and REAL.

The film follows the Emorys, who are a black family living in Jim Crow North Carolina. The show opens up with a scene that immediately sets you on edge and it soon becomes clear that being black in North Carolina was not ideal. The very first scene shows the horror of Jim Crow and the way blacks were treated less than human, even though Federal law technically said they were free citizens of the United States.

Without giving away what happens at the beginning of the show, suffice it to say that the experience is the last straw that causes the Emorys to uproot and leave North Carolina behind in search for a place to live where they will be treated like the free citizens they are. This show, of course, takes place in 1953 in the midst of what has since become known as the Great Migration, where countless black families uprooted and left the Jim Crow South for the American Promised Land, places that actively promoted themselves as places of opportunity and the American Dream.

Sadly, black families soon realized that the land of opportunity was not TRULY for them. Places like the Bronx, the South Side of Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, and West Compton were lily white suburbs that were as hostile as the Jim Crow South, but in more pernicious and hidden ways. Areas that blacks moved into were zoned off to be “red zones”, meaning that they were beyond help and that the local and state governments would not send funding in for infrastructure or anything else. Property sales dropped in neighborhoods where black families moved in, furthering the already racially charged resentment against these new, and most unwelcome neighbors.

In the neighborhoods themselves, white people did everythign they could to rid themselves of black neighbors. Some white folks uprooted and left right away. Others took measures to ensure that their neighborhood would not be overrun by blacks. Sitting outside their homes, staring in their windows, placing signs and whatnot on their lawns, all in an attempt to intimidate the black families and scare them out of the neighborhood. When those attempts failed, and eventually they did, white folks left those neighborhoods en masse and the money followed them. Businesses and jobs dried up as a result of white people fleeing away from their black neighbors. This flight of white people became known as white flight and, when we look at patterns of moving today, it still exists.

All of this racism not only had a negative effect on beautiful, loving, and hopeful black families looking to leave Jim Crow behind, but it also destroyed what were once beautiful neighborhoods that offered hope and promise to all who lived within them. Let’s be clear, it was not the black families who destroyed those neighborhoods, it was white families and systemic racism that brought about their demise. Sadly, as has been all too often the case, racism destroyed perfectly good neighborhoods and left black people to fend for themselves in a system that saw them less than human.

The challenge for us is to recognize that the “us” vs. “them mentality is, at its core, sinful. It results in the evils of racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and plenty of other evils. Christ has not called us to view people as “other” than us. There is no “them” in God, there is just US. Regardless of what one’s views, we are never called by God to dehumanize others or see them as less than us. We are always called to LOVE and treat people equally as created in imago Dei (aka the image of God. Let us shed our biases and fears off of us and live as Christ calls us to live.

“Racism comes in many different forms. Sometimes it’s subtle, and sometimes it’s overt. Sometimes it’s violent, and sometimes it’s harmless, but it’s definitely here. It’s something that I think we’re all guilty of, and we just have to make sure that we deal with our own personal racism in the right way.” – Jordan Peele

Lord, forgive me for my biases and help me to overcome viewing other people as “other” or less than I am. Help me to view all people as equally made in your image. Amen.

God’s People, part 31: Deborah

Read Judges 4-5

“Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Matthew 12:32 NRSV)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

DeborahPart 31: Deborah. Deborah is both a familiar Biblical name to many people, as well as an obscure character. I would wager that most people, while recognizing her name, don’t really remember who she was or what she did. It is also what drives me crazy about those in Christianity who would like to keep women in their pretty little boxes, put nicely in their place within the church, as is if they are nothing more than second-rate members of the church that are meant to “compliment” men by being subservient to their every whim and wish.

To support such a view on women, such Christians skip over (almost literally) 98% of the Bible in order to hone in on a few (and I mean only a few) passages that the Apostle Paul most likely didn’t write (1 Timothy 2:11-15, Ephesians 5:22-24, and 1 Corinthians 14:33b-36, which is really suspect given the context surrounding it). By honing in on those verses they, of course, skip over all of the other passages where Paul celebrates women leaders in the church (one even named an apostle), call for their equality in Christ, and lists himself as a benefactor of women contributors and supporters of his ministry (e.g., Romans 16:1-7; 1 Corinthians 1:10-11; 12:12-13; Philippians 4:2-3; Galatians 3:27-28).

While there are many verses that are not kind to women in the Bible and, honestly, there are many verses that are not kind to men, children, and animals too, there is no doubt that certain women were leaders. Deborah is among them and she wasn’t just a leader but a prophet as well. In fact, though I previously said, these judges were not “penal judges”, like we have in our court systems, it seems that this Deborah did act in such away, making judgments on disputes between people.

Most importantly, though, is that she was a prophet and that her prophecy led to Barak (I am sure this name sounds familiar) having victory over the Canaanites. What’s more, while the Canaanites were defeated, the victory did not go to the Israelite general Barak, but to A WOMAN who drove a tent peg through the head of the Canaanite general. Brutal, I know; however, it is important to name it and claim it that it was a woman, as prophesied by Deborah, who brought victory to Barak and the Israelites.

Following this, Deborah broke into one of the most epic war songs found in the Bible, making her among the Psalmists as well. Deborah led Barak in a song that gave the victory and the glory back to God. She was quite a woman, for sure. While her tale does not inform us of her “shortcomings”, no doubt Deborah had them as we all do. With that said, we Christians can certainly ascertain our own shortcomings while reading of Deborah.

How have we, as Christians, been Spirit blasphemers? How have we as Christians denied the work of the Holy Spirit as a result of our cultural and personal biases? How have we passed the Holy Spirit by because we could not see past gender, race, age, ability, sexual identity, or anything that we label people by? The challenge for us is to remove the LOG from our eyes so that we can clearly see the speck in our sisters’ and brothers’ eyes. If we do, we just might find out that, at least in some cases, what we initially saw as a “speck” might actually be the work of the Holy Spirit.

Did you know that American President Barack Obama was named after the Israelite general Barak, who sought guidance from Deborah? Think about the resistance our former president initially received over his name/ethnicity/religious affiliation/place of birth and what that says about our sinful (if not evil) biases, as well as our own Biblical ignorance.

Lord, forgive me for I have sinned against you and against heaven. I am not worthy of being called your child. Yet, you have redeemed me and set a feast before me to celebrate my return. Help me so that, in all that I do, I bring honor and glory to your name, just as your daughter Deborah did!