By Efrem Smith, Pacific Southwest Conference superintendent
CONCORD, CA (JULY 25, 2013) – “And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” 2 Corinthians 5:19-20
This morning as I prepared to go for a run, I thought of getting my hooded sweatshirt from the closet because there was somewhat of a chill in the air. As I thought about this further my heart once again became heavy. I wondered if by some, I’m still seen as a mysterious Black Stranger in my own community.
As I went on my run without the sweatshirt, I wondered how I was being perceived. Could they see the Christian, highly educated, professional, married, and father that I am? You see, I have had many experiences of being racially profiled during my lifetime.
To my non-African American Brothers and Sisters, please don’t see me as bitter, angry, or overly emotional (though these feelings should bring me more grace and love instead of isolation). You see these thoughts are not all of who I am. I am still passionate and committed to the advancement of the Kingdom of God. I still sense a tremendous call to reconciliation as well as Kingdom compassion, mercy, and justice.
The tensions, mostly across racial lines over the George Zimmerman verdict are a reminder of the sin-filled and upside down world that we live in. It is an opportunity to forge what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called, The Beloved Community. This is the experience of the Kingdom of God on earth, right now.
We must still believe that as Jesus proclaimed, “The Kingdom of God is near.” This is where my hope and action is still rooted.
The Christian Church like never before must be a vehicle of God’s love, grace, truth, compassion, transformation, and justice. The Church must become the glorious bride of Christ by bringing the reconciling revolution of the Kingdom of God to the lost, the broken, and those in denial about this broken world.
My heart is heavy over both the lost life of Trayvon Martin and the current life of George Zimmerman. Why? Because, this is the call on my life.
I have been in ministry for over 21 years. My ministry began in Minneapolis, Minnesota serving mostly African-American, at-risk boys through Hospitality House Youth Directions. This continued with my work with Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Park Avenue United Methodist Church, and The Sanctuary Covenant Church. The Trayvon Martins have been on my heart for years.
This passion has always been there because I am Trayvon Martin.
I join President Obama by saying, over 25 years ago, “I was Trayvon Martin.” Security officers followed me in stores. I was stopped by police just for walking in my neighborhood. But, these experiences led me to another part of my calling.
My experiences in a race-based society also led me to a ministry of racial reconciliation and righteousness. This calling is why I can’t ignore George Zimmerman in all of this. Or, I can’t simply be angry with him for getting out of the car and following Trayvon when he was told not to. I have to love him too.
I am called to pray for him. Because he is still living, there is an opportunity for his life to be committed to reconciliation in new and powerful ways. As hard as it is, I’m called to minister to those who support Trayvon and those who support George. This is the heavy cost of reconciliation ministry.
This is exactly where the Church needs to be right now. The Church must be a force of reconciliation ministering to both the Trayvon’s and the George’s of this broken and sinful world. We can make a difference so that other rainy night, cross-cultural, and violent experiences are thwarted in Jesus’ name.
There is much ministry opportunity for us in the Pacific Southwest Conference. We are in a very diverse, yet divided region of the nation. Please pray about ways God desires to use you for Kingdom advancement and Christ-centered reconciliation.
I was very grateful (Sunday) for the loving and healthy conversation I had over these issues with leaders of Valley Hi Covenant Church in Sacramento, California after the morning worship service. Let’s continue to pray, be a part of conversations, and lift up our focus area of Loving Mercy, Doing Justice.
Editor’s Note: This reprint was originally posted July 22, 2013, on efremsmith.com.