Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed”—2 Corinthians 4:8-9
I recently told a friend that I was wrestling with how to remain steady and hopeful amid consistently bad news about the justice issues I care about. With recent Supreme Court decisions overturning Roe v. Wade and weakening the separation between church and state, persistent state and community violence cutting short young Black and brown lives, and democratic institutions and elected officials unable to protect the right to vote or respond to urgent human needs, it’s hard to be hopeful about the future. We seem to be moving further away from realizing a multi-racial democracy, generous social safety, environmental sustainability, and reproductive justice even as our society gets more unequal, less safe, and more polarized. A panelist of commentators on a podcast I listen to recently concluded that the electoral prospects of candidates who can overturn these setbacks remain dismal. How do you not fall into resignation? What do you rely upon to keep on keeping on?
But I take comfort in knowing that change happens. And as the writer Rebecca Solnit reminds us, “We can play a role in that change if we act.” The scary things we are witnessing, the losses we are experiencing, and the setbacks we are confronting require our action. We can’t lose heart. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul declares twice with confidence, “We do not lose heart.” He would have had every reason to lose heart, considering the criticism he was getting from church folks and the persecution he had undergone. He had been arrested and jailed too many times to count. He wasn’t performing spectacular miracles that could draw in the people and the money. He was afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down, but he could testify confidently that he is never crushed, driven to despair, forsaken, or destroyed. In Paul’s ministry, we get a window into the internal contradiction inherent in embracing our faith, church, and discipleship in pursuit of justice: what we do is filled with both glory and suffering. But we do not lose heart.
The biblical witness portrays Jesus, Paul, and other exemplary figures of the faith as meeting the moment, confronting destructive and oppressive empires and principalities with faithfulness and determination. In our history, vulnerable people met their respective moments with courage and persistence, whether it was the segregation and discrimination of Jim Crow, the sexism of a patriarchal nation, or the neglect and homophobia of a government content to sacrifice sexual minorities to the ravages of AIDS. They did not succumb to self-defeating despair. And they made change happen. So, we do not lose heart. Love, justice, and reason are calling out for us to keep on keeping on. May God bless us to be agents of change. Amen.