Beware of the Riptide

Beware of the Riptide

Despite growing up in a pretty landlocked area of Texas, many meaningful moments of my life have been spent on the water. I would visit my grandparents every summer who lived on Long Island, NY.  We would spend our days on the shores of Fire Island getting thrashed by the frigid North Atlantic surf. Some of the greatest memories I have are learning how to sail with my grandfather. He taught me how to pay attention to the wind and the waves and survey the water to look for any danger. Through the years, I learned and developed a great respect for water.

When I was in my early twenties I lived in Hawaii for a short period of time—too short if you ask me. While I was living in Hawaii and learning how to surf, I already knew the power of the water and the force with which it could present itself. But nothing could have prepared me for that Saturday when I was swimming on the North Shore of Oahu with a group of friends on the famous Pipeline Beach when we got caught in the riptide. One minute we were bodysurfing in the waves and then the next minute we were being pulled under the surface, fighting for every breath. We fought the current but it kept taking us out to sea. After 20-30 minutes (or so it seemed) of fighting, gasping for air, and slowly getting farther and farther away from shore we finally made it back. We did it not by swimming directly against the current but by swimming out of the current then towards the shore.

Recently our country witnessed a tragic, brutal killing that sparked strong voices to cry out for change around issues of race. I am in complete agreement and have walked in one of the marches demanding reform. As a nation we need to change because our black brothers and sisters deserve better and equal treatment. I realize this change not only needs to happen in our broader culture but also in our churches. In his book, The Color of Compromise, Jemar Tisby, says “it seems like most Christians in America don’t know how bad racism really is, so they don’t respond with the necessary urgency. Even when Christians realize the need for change, they often shrink back from the sacrifices that transformation entails.” This needs to change and it needs to change now.

The reason why I share my Hawaii story with you is because even though we are desperately in need of reform to major American institutions, there is a danger of getting swept away in the riptide of ideas and agendas unseen on the surface. In this sensitive moment there are many groups grasping for power. The riptide can easily drown any victim who decides to get too deep in the water and we are currently a nation awash in heavy emotions and heated rhetoric that is counterproductive to our calling to affirm the dignity and equal value of every person.

This is where prayer, discernment, and knowing scripture needs to be the life vest to keep our heads above water, giving us a voice to cry out for change while wading through these turbulent societal waters. Don’t get me wrong, we must speak out against injustice and we need to show our involvement by action but we also need to be very careful not to get pulled under the water by the riptide. In 1 Thessalonians Paul reminds the church, “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contemptbut test them all; hold on to what is good,reject every kind of evil.” (1 Thes. 5:19-22)

Know scripture, hold on to what is good, and look to God to guide you as you pursue justice. The more time we spend in scripture and prayer, the more likely we are to develop a heart more like our Savior’s, ready to act with justice and love.