We Must Step Into the River

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

My inspiration to name my blog “Into the River” came from a specific story I read in the Bible which led to a realization in my heart and mind, ending up with me spending three years of my life living in Nicaragua. The story is found in Chapter 3 of Joshua, a book in the Old Testament of the Bible. Joshua is leading the Israelites into the Promised Land, which means they will have to cross the Jordan River at flood stage. God’s instructions for crossing the Jordan River? “Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.'” (Joshua 3:8, NIV) Gulp.

Just for clarity sake, this means God is asking Joshua to instruct the priests to walk into a raging river while it is still raging, all while carrying something on their shoulders. Imagine coming up with that “locker room” speech. What did Joshua do? He told them exactly what God said, trusting that God’s plans were bigger than his perspective. What did the priests do? “Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing.” (Joshua 3:15-16a, NIV)

Joshua and the priests followed God’s call into the river, even when it appeared crazy and dangerous. Their willingness to trust God by stepping into the river led to a new and abundant life, and a greater appreciation of God’s love for them. They discovered that real life is found when we step into the river.

This was the realization that entered my heart and mind. If I desire real life, the life God desires for me, I have to be willing to step into the river. It is in stepping into the seemingly raging river that I open myself up to be used by God. It is in stepping into the river I find an abundance and love that is not always easy, but it life-producing. When we live on the banks, unwilling to take the first step, we cut ourselves short. Life is found in the river.

This new found perspective was challenged in 2011 when I felt God calling me to move to Nicaragua. I said I believed life is found when we step into the raging river, but did I believe it? It was time to “put my money where my mouth is”. Moving to Nicaragua came with a lot of challenges, but the abundance and blessings have far outweighed the cost. I stepped “into the river” and found God faithful. I stepped into the river and found new life.

I believe we are in a collective “into the river” moment as Christ Followers. Addressing racial injustice and its byproducts looks like a raging river to many people. It is complicated, complex, and not without a cost. From the “banks of the river”, stepping into it seems irrational and maybe even dangerous to some. However, there is no choice- crossing the river requires a step of faith into the river, believing God will do something beyond our understanding.

If our desire is healing, and a new, abundant life in which we can all live as one, we have to be willing to take a risk. Many people will not understand our step “into the river”, but the cost is worth it. As Christ Followers, we must put aside the fears and rationalizations that keep us from coming to terms with the realities of racial injustice. Instead, we must step into the discomfort, not forgetting our foundation in Christ but rather bringing the hope that comes from that foundation to an issue that breaks God’s heart. It will be messy, but it will lead to abundance.

Will we as Followers of Jesus choose to step into the river of racial injustice or will we stay on the banks, reinforcing the world’s belief that we care more about being right than loving people? What would Jesus do? Real life is found in the river.

James Belt

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