As we know, we are in the midst of a social crisis that has converged during a global pandemic. The collision of crises has created a heightened focus and greater awareness of the injustices and inequalities that have been playing out in our society for far too long. A few weeks ago, the United States of America lost a great statesman and noble civil rights leader, the Honorable John Lewis. As many gave reflection and witness of his heroic life, a statement continued to emerge, one he made back in March 2020, which became a clarion call in the ongoing fight for equity and racial justice. He stated, “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.”
I do not believe this call for good trouble is beckoning law and order. I do not believe this call for good trouble is giving energy to the futile debate regarding the mask mandates. I also do not believe the call for good trouble is merited in bearing arms or acting out of ignorance for the sake of preserving a tradition or perceived rights. No, when I begin to think about “good trouble, necessary trouble,” it leads me to re-read James 2:14-18 (Message), which says: “Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, ‘Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!’ and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense? I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, ‘Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.’ Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.”
I believe James utilized the opportunity through this passage to provide the readers with our marching orders as faithful followers of Jesus Christ. The author of James does not imagine that works is at odds with faith. I believe the author of James suggests faith that does not lead to works is dead. As it is suggested, James expects that Christians will work for the benefit of others as a result of placing our faith in Jesus Christ. I would argue it comes back to the age-old question…what would Jesus do? In our current social climate, would Jesus oppose one marginalized group for the promotion of another? Would Jesus be on the front lines to declare that all lives matter, if there has not been any recognition and repentance for the mistreatment of Black and Brown Lives? Would Jesus be content with knowing that there are food deserts and underserved communities?
So, the question remains, are we willing to put our faith into action and be part of the good and necessary trouble that is needed for the making of disciples and the transformation of the world? I know that as faithful followers of Jesus Christ, we tend to believe that if we lend our thoughts and prayers, everything will be alright. Please hear me, I do believe prayer changes situations and circumstances, as prayer grounds us and aligns our actions to that of God’s Spirit. However, we conveniently use God as a default, rather than putting our faith to work; even when it is uncomfortable and we are filled with fears. I believe there are necessary times when we must put feet to our prayers. As our feet will move us beyond our comforts, in forward motion, in order to be part of the desired change for the sake of others.
This is why, as your Conference Superintendent, I am inviting us on a learning journey over seventeen weeks, beginning September 13, where we will engage the book “How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi. This will be a time, via ZOOM, of listening, learning, and leading. This will be a time of connection and healthy conversation. This will be a time to stretch beyond our comforts to understand from different lenses and make commitments for sustainable change. Now, more than ever, we need those who are willing to get in good trouble, necessary trouble; will you join us? You will find the schedule and ZOOM information on our Facebook page or contact our District Office.
Let us pray: Redeeming God, I give you thanks for this opportunity for us to be awakened and ready to do the work for which you have called. Lord, we ask your forgiveness for the ways we have been complicit to the systemic and oppressive behaviors. We acknowledge our sins of comfort in our privilege. This day we ask that we no longer waste time, but we lean into this Kairos moment, to learn, listen, and lead. This day Gracious God, as your people, who profess Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we commit to being the people of faith that will do the Kin-dom work of reconciliation and transformation for the Beloved Community. We know that you are with us, and we are not afraid…here we are Lord, use us!
In Humble Service,
Dr. Aleze M. Fulbright
Conference Superintendent serving Central and West Districts