In the wake of the election, a Scripture passage has been coming to my consciousness over and over. It is from the prophet Isaiah. Just a fragment: You shall be called repairer of the breach. The entire verse reads, “Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the street to live in.” Ironically, the verse has a sense of making things great again. The broader context of the chapter is important, however. The chapter details false versus true worship. God asks, “Is this the fast I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house?”
The prophet continues, “If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.”
Greatness, from God’s perspective, comes not from exacerbating divisions, but in repairing breaches – and breaches are repaired not through speaking evil and pointing the finger, but through the loosening the bonds of injustice and care for the poor and vulnerable.
I have not been so bold as to ask some of my friends and family how they managed to square chants of “build the wall” with “you shall be called repairer of the breach.” I heard them say things like, “lesser or two evils” and “it is just words” and “I don’t like a lot of what he says, but… .” As one in the words business and as one who follows the Word made flesh, I can’t dismiss any hateful rhetoric so easily. Words shape our worlds. Words are often performative.
The question I have for my Christian brothers and sisters is this: Will we walk the talk of the Word we profess to follow? Which words will be performative for us during this time of deep divisions and fear?
Take a quick tour through the Sermon on the Mount. Flip open an old KJV, red letter edition, and see what pops off the page. Notice, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Discover gems like, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Or, how about this, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” Let’s not forget, “Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep.” Are we performing those words? Walking the Jesus talk we love to cross-stitch and adorn with calligraphy? Greatest hits like 1 Corinthians 13 and the Lord’s Prayer, are they platitudes or prescriptive?
My child, through tears, said on Wednesday morning, “Meanness won.” Is she right? My challenge to myself and to the church is to reach for greatness, not as the world defines it, but as the Bible does, by loosing the bonds of injustice and satisfying the needs of the afflicted. My challenge for us in the days and years ahead is to be called repairers of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in. We must walk the talk, live the Word, refuse to let meanness in any form win. Stand in the breach, work to repair it, never imagine that words don’t matter and strive tirelessly to restore the streets where many feel unsafe to live. May God grant us the wisdom, courage and strength to not just talk about it, but do it.