I have no doubt the Easter messages delivered in churches across the country this year were unique. Many likely focused on the irony of Easter Sunday falling on April Fool’s Day. Perhaps your sermon rightly proclaimed that Jesus’ death was no joke and His resurrection is no trick. No Christian with the most basic knowledge of Biblical truth would ever challenge those assertions.
Nor would we challenge other Biblical truths.
The Bible is crystal clear that God wants all people to know He sent His Son, Jesus to die for their sins. He wants to save us all! Through the angels, He announced that his Son’s coming was good news of great joy for all people.
We are all sinners, but Jesus came for each of us. He was born for you, He lived for you, He died for you, and He rose for you. That’s no April Fool’s joke – it’s Biblical truth. It’s God’s promise to the world He created.
Would you challenge those claims?
You might if you grew up as a Native American.
For more than 500 years, those entrusted to proclaim the Gospel to Native and Indigenous peoples taught that there was a catch to the whole salvation story. Jesus’ death and resurrection weren’t for the Native man… unless he stopped being Native.
But, how do you stop being who God created you to be?
Countless Native people were told they had to make an impossible choice – give up being Native or suffer at the hands of God on Judgement Day, and often times also at the hands of the “men of God,” the missionaries and priests sent to save them.
It wasn’t enough for a Native person to believe and confess their sins. They were also forced to renounce their culture and heritage, and some did only to be scorned by their Native brothers and sisters. For my ancestors, Christianity was a trick, and that belief still lives today.
Several weeks ago, I was debating an issue with a Native sister named Laurie who used my faith to personally attack me. This woman knew who I was and what I did for a living. She knew I was in ministry and viewed my beliefs as a vulnerability.
“Shame on you for drinking the Christian Kool-Aid and perpetuating white lies,” she admonished. “You think with a schuyapu (white) mind!”
She believed what she had been taught –Christianity was a white man’s religion. Jesus death and resurrection are irrelevant to a Native person.
The mission of Lutheran Indian Ministries is to correct this lie.
Here is my response to Laurie, and to every Native person struggling to find peace:
“I am a follower of Jesus. Being Christian and being Indian are inseparable parts of who I am. Jesus, the Savior, is God’s Son who is the creator of all things. He made me Indian.
The real lie is that you can’t be Indian and Christian. Those men, professing to be Christian, who taught that we must choose between the two were not teaching Biblical truth, but rather man-made lies based on false and sinful beliefs.
Laurie, when you tell me my faith perpetuates white lies, it is, in fact, you who are perpetuating them. You have believed the lies they told you.
God, the creator, made all things, including Indians, and God does not make mistakes. Jesus, the Savior, came for all. His death and resurrection are for you, Laurie. He died for you because He loves you just the way He created you!”
Sadly, Laurie turned her back and walked away.
But, this is not the end of the fight! There are many “Lauries” out there, believing Jesus is not for them and choosing to disassociate themselves from the church who once told them this lie.
Lutheran Indian Ministries is called to dispel the lies and, through the Holy Spirit, open the hearts of Native people, like Laurie, to the healing message of the Gospel that can bring hope to Native people who desperately need it. We teach the Biblical truth.
Because of your gift to Lutheran Indian Ministries, the seeds of good news and hope in Christ are being planted, and Native people are rejoicing and praising the God who created them!
Unfortunately, the lies of the past lead many to other “earthly gods,” like alcohol, drugs, and abuse, but Lutheran Indian Ministries brings hope and healing to Native peoples through the resources God provides through programs and counselors and the power of the Holy Spirit. Only He can rebuild, restore, and renew their lives.
Your partnership with your prayers and gifts support the LIM mission to PROCLAIM, DISCIPLE, AND HEAL and provides us with joy and encouragement.
HE IS RISEN!
I can’t wait for the day when all people, including all our Native brothers and sisters, respond with one voice: HE IS RISEN INDEED!
May God bless and keep you always.
Tim Young Eagle (Pawnee)
Lutheran Indian Ministries
P.S. Because of you Lutheran Indian Ministries is reaching out to Native peoples. My encounter with Laurie was made possible because of you. We are making a difference. The seed has been planted in Laurie. I am confident that even now the Holy Spirit is working in her heart and someday, she too will respond “He is Risen Indeed!”
Help us reach more “Lauries,” burdened by these lies, with your generous gift today!
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