At a press conference Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake explained why she held the police back from early and aggressive response to protestors. She wanted police to “…make sure that the protesters were able to exercise their right to free speech.”
She went on to say “…we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well, and we work very hard to keep that balance and to put ourselves in the best position to de-escalate." (NBC News)
The mediaverse lit up about Baltimore Mayor’s “Space to Destroy.” The mayor was accused of incompetence, indifference, complicity with the violence, even racism and conspiracy to see poor Baltimore burn. The mayor and her defenders said her words were mischaracterized, taken out of context, etc. etc.
I don’t know.
But I do know that what Mayor Rawlings-Blake said sounded an awful lot like something Jesus said.
In Revelations chapter 2, the Apostle John quotes Jesus from His letter to the church of Thyatira:
Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. (Revelations 2: 20, 21)
The King James Version renders the quote like this: I gave her SPACE TO REPENT.
Jezebel was the evil wife of King Ahab, queen of northern Israel-Samaria, and nemesis of the prophet Elijah. She was responsible for the slaughter of hundreds of Jewish prophets, the corruption local and national leaders; and she nearly succeeded in making pagan worship the official and exclusive religion for 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel.
Jezebel was not a good person.
Jesus said that John the Baptist was the Elijah of his day. In similar manner, this woman in Thyatira was/ would be the new Jezebel.
Not a good person.
But the Lord didn’t/ wouldn’t intervene early to stop Jezebel’s murderous activities. In 1 Kings 18 & 19, God authorized Elijah to call down fire from Heaven and order the execution of Jezebel’s favorite prophets, but God didn’t let Elijah take out Jezebel. The Lord let her live for years more, sending unheeded warning after unheeded warning to her, her husband, and their subjects.
When the Lord finally fulfilled His prophetic promise to destroy Jezebel and all of her house, Elijah had gone on to glory in a flaming chariot, and his protégé Elisha had to certify the execution (2 Kings 9).
But why wait? She was not a good person. She’s a Jezebel. Her name is synonymous with being a bad person. Why stand back and let her do all that damage?
Well, why stand back and let you do all the damage you’ve done?
How many hearts have you broken?
How many lies have you told?
How much pain and suffering has been caused by you, or the friend you love, or the child you adore, or the sibling you still believe in?
And why didn’t God take YOU or THEM out early?
We are all given more “space” than we deserve.
The theological terms for this are: grace, mercy, longsuffering, love.
Gracious, merciful, loving God gave, and will give, Jezebel space to repent. She used, and will use, it as space to destroy. Gracious, merciful, and loving God responds to that choice with destruction.
Anderson T. Graves II, circa 1992, was not a good person. I wasn’t a murderer, but in other areas of my personal life I had some decidedly Jezebelish ways. God gave me space to repent. In February 1994, I used that space to repent. God saved my soul and changed my left for better than I had imagined.
Samaria, Thyatira, Baltimore, Montgomery, or wherever you are---- in those places, we are all given more space than we deserve.
It can be space to repent or it can be space to destroy. The choice is in your control.
The consequences of that choice are not.
---Anderson T. Graves II is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.
Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama; executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO); and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).
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