Jeremiah 9:23-24 This is what the Lord says: “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I the Lord, have spoken!
Words! So many words! I’ve felt hesitant to add to all the words flying around.
What are you saying, Lord?
I was drawn to Jeremiah, the “weeping prophet” this morning because I woke up with Hillsong’s “Hosanna” in my mind. Break my heart for what breaks yours . . . Perhaps no other prophet shows us so clearly what breaks God’s heart: hatred instead of love; injustice and unrighteousness in the way we treat him and each other.
For the last few months I’ve been slowly reading and trying to absorb The Beautiful Soul of John Woolman, Apostle of Abolition by Thomas B. Slaughter. John Woolman (1720-72) identified closely with Jeremiah and committed himself to live out these words: Unfailing love. Justice. Righteousness. He was a Quaker minister, shopkeeper turned farmer and tailor who grew up in New Jersey at a time when Quakers owned slaves. Brokenhearted, John did all he could to show his people how wrong this was. Though it didn’t happen until after his death, the Quakers were the first group in America who stood up collectively for abolition. His influence stretches all the way to us: his Journal, published in 1774, two years after his death, has never been out of print.
What has impacted me most about John Woolman is the compassion with which he engaged every person and animal he knew. His journal describes his long, sacrificial and often painful process of growing toward what he called “universal love” and what it cost him. John watched Quaker contemporaries who felt as strongly about abolition as he did get chewed up and spit out of their positions of influence because of their rancor. He believed God guided him into a different way, the way of truth combined with love.
In John’s view, slave-owning Quakers were as enslaved as those in bondage to them, for despite their outward “piety,” they could not possibly please God or truly know him while they persisted in the sin of slavery. John’s radical lifestyle choices and unwavering stance in both print and speech buttressed his persistent, gentle persuasion that eventually won over many Quakers who had built their fortunes on the backs of slaves–fortunes which, in John’s view, led to pride and excess in all ways.
There’s much more to learn from John Woolman, but I leave myself and you with his challenge, to combine unflinching, sacrificial commitment to justice and righteousness with the pursuit and practice of love. How does this apply in each one of our lives and circumstances? I would be interested in your thoughts! May we open our hearts and minds to BOTH love and truth.
Let’s do what we can do, even as small as a sign on a yard. Let’s support real, solid, enduring justice and righteousness for all people of color. Let’s learn compassion. Let’s bring delight to God’s heart.