Monday is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday. Dr. King’s influence on our country was so important for a myriad of reasons. But at the forefront is the reality that he rooted his pursuit of justice in his Christian faith and the values that are taught in Scripture and seen in the life of Jesus. For so many of us in anglo culture, we just see this as a day off. My encouragement is that we should always use this weekend as a reminder to grow in our compassion and empathy toward people who are culturally different. In fact, the word “empathy” has been drilled deep in my psyche this past year as it relates to issues of justice. I am so quick to form an opinion and then justify that opinion by listening primarily to people like me. But the Gospel should push us toward people who are different, and see the world through different lenses, and to listen to them, especially when there might be issue related to justice and compassion in their story.
I was recently pushed in this direction by my Acts 29 family at the annual Pastor’s Retreat. During one session of the retreat this past summer, A29 President Matt Chandler challenged all of us to grow in our listening and empathy toward people of color. He then brought five African American pastors from A29 on stage for an hour-long panel discussion that, for myself and Heidi, was so incredibly impacting. Panel members included Eric Mason, Thabiti Anyabwile, Dwayne Bond, Leonce Crump, and Brandon Washington. These are godly, Jesus-loving men, all of them pastors of healthy churches who made themselves very vulnerable to the rest of the Acts 29 pastors. This panel discussion took place shortly after the incidents that took place this past summer, including the murder of Dallas police officers. I want to encourage you to take some time this weekend to sit down and watch this discussion, let it raise your empathy and compassion as we seek to honor Christ by doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).