God Knows What Is B.E.S.T. Part 3: Will We Allow the Fire to Shape, Refine, and Unite Us?
Updated: Jan 4, 2021
Growing up in church, I learned about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the three Jewish boys that were thrown into the fiery furnace because they refused to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar's graven image. When I think about this story, I am reminded that although God may allow us to be thrown into the fiery furnace, if God is with us, we will not be consumed by the flames. Instead, the fire can shape and refine us, like gold.
The Purpose of the Fire
I was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and one of my favorite childhood memories was going to Silver Dollar City, which is famous for its beautiful blown glass art. The artwork is created through a process which requires that the artist use a long pipe to place the glass in a hot furnace. The glass is placed in the fiery furnace so that it becomes malleable. In other words, the heat softens the glass so that the artist can shape it into a beautiful masterpiece. Right now, it looks like our nation is in a fiery furnace, and things are literally and figuratively on fire. Nevertheless, I believe God could be using the fire to shape and refine us into a beautiful masterpiece.
As we see the fires burning throughout our nation, what, if anything, does this mean for the body of Christ? Is the purpose of a fire only to destroy or can it also be used to shape, refine, and purify? I Peter 1:7 says that fire, not only tests our faith, but can also refine it.
“These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” – I Peter 1:7 (NIV)
As Christians, we are not immune from the fires erupting throughout the nation. Even though I am a believer, my faith has been tested by the fires that seem to keep blazing. As a mom of two Black sons, I have felt scared and angry, as I watch the news and hear reports about George Floyd and other unarmed Black men being killed. When I am operating in my flesh, I feel hopeless and distraught, as I try to explain these situations to my children and help them process their various emotions – fear, anger, frustration, and bewilderment. Nevertheless, throughout the Bible, God instructs us to always have hope.
God Calls us to Be Holy
Since we live in a sinful world, it can be easy to allow our flesh to be overcome with fear and for us to act on our emotions. Nevertheless, as Christians we are supposed to be set apart from the world. In I Peter 1:13-17, God calls us to have hope. He calls on us to be alert, and He calls us to be holy.
“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy.' Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.” – I Peter 1:13-17
In verse 14, God tells believers not to confirm to “the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.” Will our country choose to live in ignorance and continue to allow our system to perpetuate injustice or will we learn from and grow from the mistakes of our prejudiced past?
When we look at our nation, I see the evils of our ugly history. I see the evils of a country that used to consider me three-fifths of a person. I see the evils of a country that denied my grandmother the right to vote. I see the evils of a country where my grandmother worked as a domestic for white families and had to call the children Mister and Miss, while they called her by her first name. I have seen the evils of segregated and unequal educational systems. I see the evils of an unjust criminal justice system. I have seen the evils of people questioning my intelligence and competence because of the color of my skin. I see the evils of hate and disunity in the body of Christ. I see the evils of ignorance, indifference, and selfishness. I see the evils of minimizing people’s pain. I see the evils of systemic racism. I see the evils of valuing property and the economy more than people’s health and humanity. God also sees it, and He wants the body of Christ to respond and unite.
As a Christ-follower, I believe that the body of Christ can rise above the evils of a sinful world, and my prayer is that we will refuse to conform to the evils of the world. I pray that we will refuse to repeat the mistakes of the past. I pray that we will repent from our sins. I pray that we will rebuke the divisive and derogatory language of co-workers, family, and friends. I pray that we put our faith into action and stop being silent and complacent when we hear and see racism. I pray that we all remember that we are foreigners in this land, and that we have been called to be holy.
God is calling us to move beyond putting scriptures on our Facebook profiles. He is calling us to seek healing and restoration. He is calling us to remember that we are foreigners here on earth. America is not our home. Heaven is our home. We should not put the pledge of allegiance to this country or a flag above our pledge of allegiance to God, who calls us to live in reverent fear. We are to live in fear of God’s judgment, not the judgment of our friends, family, neighbors, or political leaders.
Hope in God Produces Hope for the Future
When I keep seeing injustices toward people who look like me, I remind myself that I need to put my hope in God and not in man. How am I able to do this? Although my hope falters, I am able to regain my hope because just like the Silver Dollar City artists blow air into the pipe and put the glass back in the fire, so too God blows hope and strength back into me. When we feel that our lives are on fire, we need to let God blow life and hope back into us. We need to let the fire make us more malleable so that God can shape us into His masterpiece. When I put my trust in God, I can endure the fire because I know this is not my home. I know that I get my marching orders from God and not from any organization or political party. To those who are still afraid to say Black Lives Matter because you think it is a political issue, I challenge you to reexamine that position. In my mind, saying Black Lives Matter is not a political issue but rather a justice issue because the God I serve stood for justice, and He would want believers to call out injustice wherever we see it.
When we get home to heaven, God will not ask us what political party we supported. He will not examine our voting record. He will examine our hearts. He will look at our words, thoughts, and deeds to see if we lived lives that honored Him. Were we willing to refuse the king’s graven image and be willing to go into the fire like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? Were we willing to go into the fire and speak out against injustice, speak out against racism, and speak up for equality? Were we willing to have conversations that uplift and unite? Were we willing to call out people who used language that was derogatory or meant to dehumanize others? Were we willing to spread a message of hope in God and not hope in man?
I know it is not always easy, but despite what I see on the news and in my social media feed, I still have hope because I Peter 3:15-17 says,
“ But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.” – I Peter 3:15-17 (NIV)
My hope for the future is not dictated by what I see, but it is dictated by my faith and hope in God. So, I will continue to be hopeful that God's people will rise up and be holy.
God is Shaping Us Into a Masterpiece
I am thankful for my white friends, white faith leaders, artists, and people from all racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds who have courageously chosen to come into the fire with people who look like me and who are choosing to speak out against injustice. Willingly stepping into the fire is not easy. There is heat in the fire. There is pain in the fire. Sometimes you get burned in the fire. You do not always know how long the fire will burn. The fire that we are in might last for a few weeks, months, or years. I do not know, but I do know that just like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, there is someone in the fire with us. I do know that fire kills impurities. It can kill the impurities of hate, racism, and division. Fire refines so let us not be afraid of the fire. Instead, let us allow God to shape us, mold us, and refine us so that we can do what God asks us to do in Micah 6:8, which is “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Finally, brothers and sisters in the body of Christ, as we look around and see the fires burning, I pray that we look beyond the smoke and distractions of this world, which try to divide and divert. I pray that we allow God to blow hope, faith, unity, and life into us and shape us into a beautiful masterpiece that glows with love, respect, justice, and dignity for all God’s people.