10 Things I’m praying for Graham and Alamance County residents right now:
1. That the cross would be the central symbol and heritage around which we rally and unite (1 Corinthians 2:2; John 12:32)
2. That the Holy Spirit would fan flames of righteous indignation in us for the things that outrage God (things like: sowing discord, Proverbs 6:19; turning aside from the needy, Isaiah 10:1-4; giving glory to things or people other than God, Romans 1:22-23, Jeremiah 9:23-24; injustice and oppression, Zechariah 7:8-12).
3. That those of us who are called to “take up the cross” would be willing to die first to our persecution complex, which diminishes and devalues the old and contemporary saints that have and continue to suffer real persecution (Matthew 16:24)
4. That more of us could learn to take a breath and “fret not – it leads only to evil.” (Psalm 37:8)
5. That we can learn to speak the WHOLE truth to one another. “These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another, render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace, 17 do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath; for all these are things that I hate, says the Lord.” (Zechariah 8:16-17).
That means, at the very least, that part of our heritage includes both hate and love; both slavery and fried chicken. If the part we are celebrating is love, then I am not sure why we choose rallies over real conversations. I, for one, believe the rebel battle flag over a Georgia statehouse is a completely different issue than a statue in front of the Graham Courthouse – but some conversation is needed here. A lot less heat and a lot more patience and honest listening. Such a conversation might reveal that many who wave the flag are doing it more because of their teenage nostalgia for the rebel spirit nurtured in them through pop culture phenomena like the TV show, the Dukes of Hazzard and the southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd (I grew up watching one and listening to the other, and I am now starting to think so did many others).
It may also mean that Graham residents need to consider honoring all of our history – which means finding a way to also commemorate, honor, and celebrate people like Wyatt Outlaw, an Alamance County veteran of 2nd Regiment U.S. Colored Calvary of the Union Army and one of the first Black Constables in Graham. (I may also need to find a copy of Shuttle and Plow, by a former history professor at Elon to learn more about such history)
6. That each of us, regardless of our race, religion, or creed would be “quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for our anger does not produce God’s righteousness. 21 Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save our souls.” (James 1:19)
7. That while we are debating and fretting over fabric and concrete, we might remember to collectively get down on our knees and pray for the families of Sandra Bland, the fallen Marines and a shot police officer in Chattanooga, the many children and families in our community that suffer abuse and neglect, and the city and county leaders, firemen, police, and emergency workers who regularly work hard to serve our community on a daily basis. (1 Timothy 2:1: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone …“)
8. That we might guard our tongues – avoiding speech, labels, stereotypes, and virtually any words that seek to hurt rather than heal (James 1:26-27).
9. That we might collectively seek peace despite our differences, always seeking the good of the other – especially the ones with the “other” opinions. (1 Thessalonians 5:14: “Be at peace among yourselves.14 And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. 15 See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all.”
10. That we might unite across lines of race, ethnicity, gender, and orientation to seek, yearn for, pray for, and work for “the welfare of the city … and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.“ (Jeremiah 29:7)