Renewal Series: “More Jesus” in a Time of Hate and Unbelonging
Belonging is something I've been thinking a lot about lately. The idea that every human being has inherent value as God's creation, and that through belonging, we form a collective community.1
The world does not feel like a place of belonging right now.
And if I'm being honest, the church doesn't feel like a place of belonging either.
Hashtags of Black bodies and mind-numbing messages of "thoughts and prayers" are shared on social media as people march the streets crying out that #BlackLivesMatter — a cry for justice and belonging.
Friends and family members, dear brothers and sisters from the Asian communities where I belong, say #StopAsianHate and plead with their parents and grandparents to stay home or risk getting verbally or physically abused in public. And sadly, they're not overreacting.
How is this belonging? If Scripture affirms that we have inherent value, why are some people considered more valuable than others? Who decides who belongs, and why hasn't the collective church been a model for equity and inclusion?
Easter came early this year, which was an opportunity to meditate on the Cross, to pause, to breathe, and to remember Jesus' sacrifice that brings hope and renewal.
We attended in-person Easter service as a family of three — the first time since our recent move to Los Angeles. Our two-year-old, Kaleia2, who is now a talking machine, sensed our excitement.
"We're going to church!" my wife said to her. "We're going to meet Jesus at church!"
"Jesus?" Kaleia responded.
Exchanging a smile, we affirmed, "Yes, Jesus."
Then, Kaleia put her hands together to sign the word "more" to us. Before Kaleia could speak, we taught her sign language to help her communicate her needs to us. Bringing her thumbs and fingers together and then tapping her hands together repeatedly, Kaleia would tell us if she wanted "more food," "more water," or "more" of an action or activity that she enjoyed doing with us.
"MORE JESUS!" Kaleia squealed with delight, proud that she had pieced together this new phrase.
Taken aback by her sudden burst of enthusiasm, we followed suit, mimicking her tapping action and chiming back, "Yes, more Jesus!"
She continued to "More Jesus" the rest of the day, and it was, quite honestly, a blessing to have her words minister our hearts with a renewed sense of Truth in a time of such pain and deep discouragement.
You see, Jesus gets it.
Jesus has the closest proximity to the afflicted because he was afflicted.
He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds, we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).
In seasons of pain and anguish, we can turn to Jesus as the Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6). He counsels as One who was hated and discriminated against; as One who was misunderstood and not trusted; as One who was beaten and crucified because His life didn't matter. Because He didn't belong.
In Jesus, you belong because He empathizes with your pain and lived experience.
In Jesus, you belong because He sees you, holds you, and affirms your inherent value.
In Jesus, you belong because He died for you; for people from every tribe, tongue, and nation (Revelation 7:9), so that you might be made new in His family.
Dear sister, brother, and friend, I pray that you have "more Jesus" today. May you take refuge and comfort in the safe space that He offers. May you find peace and renewal as you rest in His embrace. To Jesus, #YouMatter.
2Kaleia is pronounced Ka-LAY-ah, a Hawaiian name that means beloved.
|Kevin Wong, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Education at the Graduate School of Education and Psychology. He hails from Hong Kong and currently lives with his wife and daughter in Los Angeles where he attends Renew Church LA.|