Not only has 2020 been the year of the COVID pandemic, quarantines, mask mandates, elections, and civil unrest; it has also become the year when our country lost one of the greats who walked with Martin Luther King Jr. in his fight for civil rights.
United States Representative John Lewis passed away in July of this year, a very short time after the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbury, and Breonna Taylor. I’m ashamed to say I had no idea who John Lewis even was until I saw his funeral televised live on the news and began to hear about this man whose mission in life was to “get into good trouble”.
Lewis was a compatriot of Martin Luther King Jr., a fellow civil rights leader and Christian who believed that the gospel compels us to seek racial reconciliation. When Lewis spoke often about getting into “good” trouble, what he meant was that he knew the work he was doing in the civil rights movement would get him into trouble. His stance. However, was that if he was going to get into trouble, it at least needed to be “good trouble,” meaning that it needed to be for a good cause and conducted in a good way: he believed, for example, in nonviolent protesting as his colleague MLK did, as well.
Getting into “Good Trouble”
Lewis saw his own fair share of trouble during the years of the civil rights movement, at one point being imprisoned for 40 days at the age of 21 following his involvement with the “Freedom Riders”, a group of seven blacks and six whites who banned together to ride on buses from D.C. down to New Orleans in a peaceful protest against segregated bussing laws.
In the face of multiple beatings down in the south during this tour, Lewis later said about that time: “We were determined not to let any act of violence keep us from our goal. We knew our lives could be threatened, but we had made up our minds not to turn back.”
In 1965, Lewis faced what was arguably the worst and most inhumane treatment of his life during the historic Selma to Montgomery marches. On March 7th, a day later deemed “Bloody Sunday”, Lewis and others led more than 600 marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. When ordered to disperse by the Alabama State Troopers, the marchers stopped to pray. As they gathered on the bridge praying, the troopers used tear gas and began beating the marchers with nightsticks. John Lewis had his skull fractured that day and was knocked unconscious during a beating, the scars of which he would carry with him visibly the rest of his life.
Ezers and “Good Trouble”
I’ve written before on my own blog and shared on my podcast before what is meant by the Hebrew word, ezer, translated “helper” in Genesis 2:18. This is a word used in the Old Testament to refer to women, to God when He comes to the rescue of His people, and to the mighty men of valor who fought in Israel’s army. It is a word depicting great strength, fortitude, a willingness to stand up and fight for what is right, and a dedication to protecting and saving those in your care.
So, what can we as women, as ezers, learn from John Lewis?
The first thing that stands out to me is that John Lewis lived and operated as the direct opposite of the very first God-created ezer, Eve. While Eve was tasked with caring for the garden, taking dominion of it for the glory of God, and protecting it as an ezer would, she dropped the ball. She gave in to the enemy’s temptation instead, encouraged her husband to follow suit, and death, the fall, and the curse were ushered in to the garden and everywhere.
Contrast that with John Lewis —
Representative Lewis knew what it meant to live as an ambassador of Christ, the One Who came and died and made it possible for Paul to write that “In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.” (Colossians 3:11). In the 1950s and 1960s this looked like doing the hard thing and standing up for what was right in the face of persecution, imprisonment, and beatings. No matter what harm might (and did!) com to him, Representative Lewis was willing to stand up for and seek to protect the wellbeing of his fellow image bearers. John Lewis lived as an ezer.
Friends, as hard as it is to think of facing beatings and imprisonment, this is still the reality today for believers all over the world who stand up for the gospel and its implications. Standing up for what is right and living out the implications of the gospel is our marching order from Christ, our daily mission and call.
May we gain inspiration from John Lewis’ example and strength from Christ as we purpose to get into “good trouble” as God’s hands and feet in this world. Let him remind you what racial reconciliation looks like and why we should fight for it.
Check out another one of our culture pieces, an interview with Hillsong Worship here.