by Doug Bing, Washington Conference president
Have you ever been called out? That term has a number of different meanings, I suppose.
For some it may mean being called out of a meeting to hear either good or bad news. For others it may mean being called out by the school bully who calls you out to give you a beating.
Yet what I am referred to is the idea that someone calls you out for something you said or something you did. They call you out to correct you or to give you a different perspective on something. Frankly, I have been called out for all of the above, and learned and grew in some way in the process.
Let’s talk about a time when God called some people out.
The story is in Numbers 12. In verse 1-4 we see how the story begins:
Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman. 2 So they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it. 3 (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.)
4 Suddenly the Lord said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tabernacle of meeting!” So the three came out
Pretty intense when God calls someone out. Yet this is what happened, and it happened because of the racist actions of Miriam and Aaron. It happened because they felt a wide range of emotions such as jealousy, frustration, and maybe being left out. Yet all those emotions came out against someone that was different than they were.
Moses’s wife was from Ethiopia and they used racism to tear down the worth of his wife and the worth of Moses as a leader.
Yet God called them out. God can’t stand racism and he wants to put a stop to it.
He doesn’t wait till someone physically dies with a knee to the neck. He knows that racism through words is also like a knee to the neck of someone in the way they feel and can kill in that way as well.
Let’s learn a few major points from this story.
Discrimination can be found anywhere.
Miriam had known discrimination her entire life. She was part of the children of Israel that had faced all sorts of hardships as a result of discrimination. Yet she also discriminated against her own sister-in-law. Discrimination is a disease that can infect anyone anywhere.
There are consequences for racism and discrimination.
- There were consequences for Miriam in that she came down with leprosy (verse 10). This was major in that she was driven from fellowship with the rest of the camp. She was an outcast for seven days.
- More importantly there were consequences for the Israelites. Verse 9 states that God departed. Verse 10 says the cloud that had led the Israelites left the temple. God just leaves them standing there and as a result of this racist behavior, the congregation has a very visible symbol of God’s feelings about racism in that a symbol of His presence just left them.
- Society then had to stop. This was a major thing that just happened in God’s eyes and God wanted them all to know that it was major so without the cloud to follow they had to pause and were unable to move forward with what ever goals and aspirations they may have had
Reflection took place. A time of self-examination.
- Miriam had seven days to be an outcast and reflect on her own human sinful tendencies and to compare them with God’s very clearly revealed feelings about racist behavior.
- The congregation, while pausing, now also had that week to really reflect on their own attitudes towards what had happened and God’s attitude towards racist behavior. It was, in my mind, a great time for the entire encampment to talk together, pray together and reflect together on ways to move forward and to seek for purity of heart towards others who may be different than themselves.
- Congregation also paused until they could bring Miriam back into fellowship again. Verse 15 says they didn’t move until Miriam was brought back into the camp again. It is a powerful lesson for us today in that there may be times for us to pause, pray, reflect and seek power from God to follow His will. It is even more powerful that we pause to wait until we can bring those who have strayed from God’s will and said or done racist things back into the congregation.
The congregation moved forward.
The chapter ends with the Children of Israel on the march once again. They had faced the consequences both individually and collectively. They had paused for reflection both personal and collectively. And they had restored the fallen back into the congregation.
There is much for us to learn for our own lives today.
First of all, God is against racism and God didn’t wait until someone physically died to clearly reveal His displeasure with the ugliness of racism and discrimination.
Second, we as a church, both individually and collectively, need to pause at times to listen, learn, reflect and ponder our own attitudes and how they relate to God’s attitude and seek God’s help to align ourselves with Him.
Third, we need to move forward together as we stand together against racism. As we move forward in that manner, we will certainly be a powerful force against evil both in the church and society. This need not be a liberal versus conservative political matter. It is a spiritual matter.
There are many ways to be involved in addressing racism and injustice, and I would urge you to take action in your own life.
Examine your heart. Be present. Listen. Be a friend and an ally. Read literature. Google what you don’t know. Write letters. Have an open mind and an open heart to follow how God leads you. I have written many letters, for example, to legislators urging common sense legal solutions to some of the issues that are in our world today.
We can all be activists in some way as we seek to speak up and be counted as people who are not only against racism, but also as a people that will do something about it. God called His church out back then and His call is still the same today. He stands against racism and wants us to stand with Him.