A Broken World

If you haven’t seen signs of the brokenness in the world recently, then you obviously haven’t been watching the news or listening to people online.

There are three types of brokenness in the world today:
  • Events – natural disasters, terrorist attacks, deadly viruses, political malfeasance, criminal activity to name a few…….
  • Our reactions to those events are often broken as well.   More on that later.
  • Systemic brokenness – there are issues and challenges at the systemic system wide level that cause and have a huge impact on the brokenness we see in the world.
Let me elaborate – the broken events – this needs very little explanation – besides for the fact that the broken events can happen in one individual family or can happen in a city, state, nation or world wide.   A parent getting cancer – a broken event.   A child being the victim of a violent attack.   A nation at war.   Police brutality.   An incident of racial discrimination.  Gang warfare.  We could list the events for hours and hours.
Our reactions to those events – I’m going to pick two recent events and point out two different ways to look at those events:
  • The Riots in Baltimore because of the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody.   Two ways to react:
    • “Those people are stupid evil thugs.  They are burning down their own city, what a bunch of ………”   No grace, no love, no looking at the lives impacts.
    • “Wow, to get to that point, these people in Baltimore must really be hurting.   What a show of rage, disappointment, anger and hopelessness.   Are they feeling that way because of choices they made?   Or are they feeling that way because years of structural and systemic challenges have simply gotten to be too much?
  • The terrorist attacks by ISIS in the Middle East.   Once again, two ways to react:
    • “We’re over here, they are over there.   It’s their problem.   I don’t want my nice pretty life poked at because of the brutality of terrorists on the other side of the world.”    “Oh waiter…..!”
    • There are thousands if not millions of people who have been affected by this terrorist movement.   We can not be quiet.   We can not stand still.   God’s children, whether they are Christians or not, are being horribly tortured and worse.   We must be involved and do something.
Systemic brokenness – two points that come to mind that are best illustrated by two different men:
  • Martin Luther King Jr. – he spent his life and he literally spent his life fighting the systemic effects of racism in this country.   Is our country less racist than it was then?   I believe so, but I also believe that the racism that is in effect today is more quiet, more subversive, harder to see.   Racism today doesn’t post a “whites only” sign over the bathroom door – but the statistics show that racism today still impacts countless people ever day.    The systemic effects of racism, the constant difficulties that are in effect for people who don’t share the white privilege that I have, the struggles they face are ongoing.  In some ways because of their own choices but more often because of government rules and regulations that were put in effect many many years ago, dismantled during Martin Luther King Jr.’s time but still have impact today.   An example of that, there were rules that the FHA (Federal Housing Administration) had in the early 20th century that effectively created black ghettos.   Those rules no longer apply – but the effect of them did and it is still extremely hard for those in the “ghetto” to get out and move up.
  • Gary Haugen – International Justice Mission – Gary wrote a book that changed my life.   “The Locust Effect” is, in my mind, a game changer.   The premise of the book is that over 90% of the poverty in the world could be alleviated by implementing an improved justice system.
    • People are in poverty because the justice system they live under prevents them from getting out of it.
    • People are in poverty because the lack of justice in their neighborhood allows gangs to control their community and prevent economic growth.
    • People are in poverty because they have lost hope of ever getting a fair “shot” at life.
    • People are in poverty because the government won’t or can’t enforce fair labor laws.
    • People are in poverty because inequities in the system haven’t been adequately addressed and therefore they have lost the hope for improvement.
Ask yourself, would the riots in Baltimore have occurred if the people who see themselves as associated with Freddie Gray felt that they had a voice and hope?    Would they have occurred if the government truly treated everyone equal?   If there were opportunities where the people who “blew up” felt like they had a chance and had opportunity?
No, they wouldn’t.  If they felt like they had a chance for a fair opportunity in the world,  I believe Baltimore would look significantly different today.   If those who caused the problems this past week had felt they had a hope and a future, I believe the protests would have remained peaceful like they started.
This is truly a broken world.    It will remain broken for the rest of our lives.   We can’t fix that entire brokenness.
But we can make a difference.   We can make a difference by how we react to the brokenness we see.   We can make a difference by looking past the “what” and looking at the “why” and then trying to impact the “why” of the brokenness.
Yes, those who do the evil and the bad things need to face the consequences of their actions.   But at the same time, we, as Christians and as those who aren’t part of ISIS and aren’t part of the rioters who lost hope, we need to work towards peace.   We need to work towards understanding.   We need to work towards healing.
A friend of mine who is also a transracial parent said the other day,  “Aren’t transracial families the model of the way the world should be?  We are blending races, blending cultures and blending colors inside our families every day.”    While I believe there are some “holes” in that idea, I think he raises a valid point.
I’m going to end this with a direct quote from a friend of mine, Carissa Woodwyk.   She’s a transracial adoptee and does amazing work with adopted kids and their families.   She wrote a wonderful response to the “Why God?” question relating to all of the brokenness.    Thank you Carissa.

why does my spouse keep doing that? act like that? say that?

why did my friend betray me?

why when i do the right thing does it not bring the results i want?

why does the place i work for never change?

why the miscarraige? divorce? addiction?

and the answer i usually hear to the WHY is usually this: because God is testing me.

oh, my friends…i wish we never learned that answer. it breaks my heart to hear people say this. WHY? because it’s so unhelpful. it takes us away from the heart of Jesus. it implies things about him that aren’t true.

bad things happen because we live in a broken world. i have to (GET TO) tell people this EVERY week. bad things don’t come from God. he’s not “up there” figuring out how to “test” us to see if we’ll choose what he wants us to choose and then if we do, we’re better “Christians” who have a better “testimony.”

testing is about performance and one thing i know is that God is not into performance. or striving. or achieving. or obligation. or duty. or making us be somewhere or someone we’re not.

he grieves that we’re hurting.
he grieves the fractured places.
he grieves that people aren’t living the way he designed.

no testing. only joining…in the suffering, in the silence.

and then, as we open ourselves up and experience his presence, his heart for us, he invites us…

to new life. to new places and spaces…

holding the reality that on one hand, this hard thing or hard person or hard system, feels awful. pains us. we feel resentful and slighted and disgusted. maybe even despaired.

and then on the other hand, at the same time, we can believe deep in our bones that this really hard thing or hard person or hard system has the ability to be used for good, to change us, to change them. that we are ALSO dust and blood and bones who are capable, restorative, kind and calm and grace-filled.

i think it’s then when we awaken to how the WHY (is this happening) can turn into a YES (this is happening)…and we’re gonna make it. we’re gonna get through this. it’s gonna be OK.

keep “holding” my friends…the reality that more than one thing can be true at once.

it’s not a test. it’s called life. it can be broken and beautiful at the very same time, in the very same breath, in the very same home.



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