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At some point in your life you have likely heard the idiomatic phrase “strike while the iron is hot”. Most likely when you heard it, the reference was not to the craft of a blacksmith. In the blacksmith situation the phrase means to pound on a piece of metal — especially iron — that has been heated so that when you hit it with a mallet while hot it can be changed into a different shape. If you wait until it cools, then you cannot reshape it.
Your typical hearing of this phase probably refers to the need to act on some hinge point of transition and change while the conditions are right for action because if you wait the opportunity to truly transform may pass you by.
It can be something as simple as what happened to me today as I was thinking about writing this post. While driving, I moved over to the left from one lane of traffic to another to avoid stopped traffic ahead. I had to do it safely and quickly while no cars were approaching me from behind in the left lane.
Slightly more significant might be when an opportunity presents itself to connect with someone as a friend, to buy tickets to a concert or sporting event before they sell out, to go to the rally of a politician you want to see and hear, to respond to a notice about a job you would really like to have, to see a person you want to ask for a financial contribution to your cause, or to greet a new person attending your congregation and invite them to your small group.
Some opportunities to “strike while the iron is hot” are exceedingly more significant. Among them is the opportunity we currently have to take positive, proactive steps to make permanent progress in the arena of racial redemption and reconciliation. Here it is right in front of us. As Christians what will we do with this opportunity?
I believe your response is extremely important. Too often we have allowed opportunities to make transformational — rather than transactional — progress to become cold and no longer moldable. When viewed in the long-term we have made progress in racial redemption and reconciliation since the end of World War II. However, it does seem that at times we have taken two steps forward pushing transactional change, and over the next five to seven years we have regressed and lost half to three-fourths of the progress we celebrated.
In the blacksmith and iron metaphor we allowed our transition and change actions to grow cold before we had activated a plan to sustain the change or to keep the new shape of things. The current opportunity is too good of an opportunity to engage in unsustainable transition and change that does not result in transformation.
A few days ago, I co-moderated an online, recorded dialogue among some Black and White ministers. It was a good start for some of the ministers in the Baptist association of 95 churches which I serve. As we concluded, we were just getting to the subject of how to sustain this dialogue, create new relationships, and empower transformational change. Now we are circling back around to these Baptist ministers to ask them what their next steps will be.
We know it is about interracial relationships that move beyond fear to a place of complete trust. We know it takes time. We know it needs to involve a critical mass of at least 20 to 25 of our congregations to create a movement that is sustainable. We know in an association where we also have congregations of who are considered ethnic congregations of non-English, non-Anglo, non-American heritage that it must be more than a Black and White situation.
We additionally know it needs to involve both redemption and reconciliation. Redemption is about our confession of our sin of racism privately and publicly. This is something we must do with God the Father plus in and through our Christian communities. Reconciliation is what we must do with specific sisters and brothers of a different race or ethnicity as individual persons of worth created in the image of God to love and to love. We must all do this so that we will truly be known by our unconditional love for everyone God has created.
And we must not wait to do this. We must strike while the iron is hot and keep striking until we have sustainable transformation. May this be a totally new covenant like that between us and God made possible only by the sacrifice, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, and not an Old Testament covenant that too many times seemed to be here today and gone tomorrow.
What will you do to strike while the iron is hot?
George Bullard, www.BullardJournal.org, June 15, 2020