From the first syllable of Austin’s prayer, her words caught my attention. The urgent tone implied warfare, and she invoked Ephesians 6 fighting words in her pleas for protection as our team prepared to lead a group of one hundred youth on an outreach project. Austin knew we were embarking on an adventure, a holy war. We had trained the teens, prepared our equipment for face painting, crafts, and games, but our battle plan depended more on the power of our message than the preparation of our messengers.
With this same warrior heart added to her military background, Natasha Sistrunk Robinson summons readers to prepare for this kind of fight. A Sojourner’s Truth is her call to choose freedom and courage in our divided world, even if the choice involves uncomfortable moments of taking our stand in a wilderness place.
War? What War?
Here in Mid-Coast Maine, in my predominantly white church family, the small scattering of brown faces belong to my friends, and they have sat at my table and enriched my life, so the war Robinson describes in vivid detail is invisible to me. I needed to read the poignant narratives from her childhood and stories from the inside, which shine the light of truth and lend much needed perspective. For example, the white poverty of my own childhood is different from the economic disparity experienced by black Americans.
It takes courage and commitment for those of us who are safe and comfortable to accept an invitation into the wilderness. However, as the mother of four sons, I am coming to realize their bodies would be at great risk if they happened to be encased in dark brown skin. Natasha writes about this injustice but exhorts readers about the dangers of unfettered anger and makes the heartbreaking connection between sin and death.
The Rules of Engagement
Moses was the leader God had chosen to prepare Israel for conquest, and his instructions had all the marks of a battle plan:
- Do not be afraid of your enemy because God is with you. (Deuteronomy 20:1)
- The leaders must step up. (Deuteronomy 20:9)
- The commanders’ strategy was to go in peace at first. (Deuteronomy 20:9-18) (143)
New Testament instructions for wearing truth, taking action, and guarding our hearts reinforce holy war strategy that “is not against flesh and blood.” There are unseen battles on many fronts, and the church will only engage effectively if we recognize our role as sojourners and citizens of God’s unseen kingdom. Every loss will not be restored and every injustice will not be set to rights in my sight and in my time, but even so, the God who causes “righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations” is at work in his people.
“He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
How will you and I respond to his call to speak truth and to choose freedom for all?
May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you,
Many thanks to Intervarsity Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.
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