This article originated as an open letter from pastor Eric E. Peterson to his parishioners at Colbert Presbyterian Church in Washington state. Pastor Eric is a wise thinker and speaker who often writes to his church. His two new books, Letters to a Young Congregation and Letters to a Young Pastor (which contains letters from his father, Eugene Peterson), are now available.
A world infected
Some infectious diseases are especially virulent, resistant to the best treatments we have available. Being a new strain, we are still learning about the behavior, mutations, and transmission of the novel Coronavirus. Fortunately, we have highly-skilled epidemiologists working hard to develop a vaccine which will inoculate the population against this disease.
Meantime, we do our small but essential parts by doing our best not to spread the virus:
We wash our hands.
We cover our mouths.
We keep our distance.
Between the work of the scientists, and the habits we adopt, we hope that eventually Covid-19 will go the way of Polio.
The issue of greater concern is the sin of racism.
It is an infectious disease of the heart that, left untreated, can spread with startling speed, and do massive amounts of harm. It is a particularly violent condition which sows seeds of discord, and transmits hate.
Our world is sick. Our country is sick. The church is sick.
Eradicating the plague of racism, I wish to emphasize, is not a responsibility relegated to “experts” or politicians. No laboratories are set up to fix this. It is our responsibility.Tweet
Until this disease is overcome, the Great Physician will hand down this grim diagnosis: gravely ill.
Eradicating the plague of racism, I wish to emphasize, is not a responsibility relegated to “experts” or politicians. No laboratories are set up to fix this.
It is our responsibility.
Because it’s a matter not of biology but of morality, the strategy is opposite the way we approach a virus:
We do not wash our hands of the matter; that would be to make us as complicit in the spread of racism as Pontius Pilate was in the crucifixion of Jesus.
We do not cover our mouths because our prophetic voices must be heard loud and clear as we speak the truth in love.
We do not distance ourselves from the people who are either spreading or suffering the ravages of this disease. We get in the way. We come alongside. We protest. We get skin-to-skin.
The church at its best is doing what it’s always done. We are keeping ourselves centered in worship where the Word of God is heard and heeded, and where Christ is lifted up as the sole source of salvation, liberation, reconciliation, and healing. We are joining the creative, re-ordering energies of God’s Spirit, instead of contributing to the chaos.
And as we cooperate with the redemptive forces of God’s coming kingdom, we find that we each have an essential part to play: inoculating the world with love.