I’m beyond writing for sympathy or empathy. This is not a post calling the Body to weep with those who weep…that was done when Tamir Rice was killed for playing with a toy. This is not an attempt to convince believers that we’re one interconnected Body; thus, when one hurts, we all hurt…that approach was taken when Eric Garner was suffocated to death by an officer. Nor is this an attempt to convince the Church that we are called to be people who look not to our own interests, but to the interests of others…we tried to remind the Body of this after Rekia Boyd’s life was taken; to no avail. The reality is that, as Christians, we know all of this. We know what Scripture says; in fact, many of us can recite these verses from memory. Nevertheless, it is one thing to know these passages and quite another to live them out; and let’s be honest, that is the litmus test isn’t it, how we live these scriptural truths out?
As Western Christians, we place such a high emphasis on right belief that we end up devaluing right practice and living. Scripture says that “we know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” So instead of making another bland appeal for understanding and mercy, I’m upping the ante. I’m calling on the Church to press into what it looks like to embody Scripture–to discern and then act upon what it practically means for us to connect our theology to our ethics in light of what’s presently unfolding in our nation. I’m urging us all to contemplate what it means for us to step outside of our silos and to begin bearing witness to the Kingdom of God in ways that are costly, countercultural, and cruciform in nature. I’m not interested in us toeing any political party line; I’m concerned with us faithfully bearing witness to the Gospel and our Creator.
Therefore, I’m making an appeal to the Body to be moved with compassion, as Christ was, because whenever Jesus was moved with compassion He sacrificially acted, pouring Himself out as a love offering–a living sacrifice–for the sake of others. I’m pleading with the Church. We must begin using Christ as our archetype of our love. We are called to love others, our neighbors and enemies in ways that cost us, take us outside of our comfort zones, and move us into vulnerability. We see this crystalized in Christ who died for us while we were still sinners, enemies of God.
Therefore, I’m beseeching followers of Christ to not only put the needs of others first, but to also stop surveying the legality of each and every tragedy from the sidelines because, as ambassadors of reconciliation, we have a responsibility to be involved in the struggle for justice and peace, but our tactical approach must be distinctive. We must stop surveying these killings from a legislative perspective and grapple with them theologically because at the crux of this epidemic is a question about the inherent value of human life. There is a war being waged against the image of God inherent within black and brown communities. While many try to frame this assault as a political issue, as Christians, we must recognize that this is a spiritual issue…a discipleship issue. These tragedies are an injustice and an affront to God! They grieve the heart of God, destroy communities and families.
In Proverbs 31: 8-9 we see that we’re called to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. 9 Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” Thus, Scripture is clear about us having a participatory role in the process of righting wrongs as co-laborers with Christ. In light of this, how prophetically powerful it would be if more believers–a mosaic, multiethnic collective–decided to publically pray for the peace that we all desire to see by hitting the streets and nonviolently showing our collective outrage at the killings of unarmed civilians throughout our nation! Through mobilizing and offering up our lives as an outpouring of love that bears witness to the countercultural Kingdom which our Lord and Savior inaugurated, we can stand for justice and bear witness to the truth of the Gospel simultaneously. We can minister and evangelize through our collective presence and response to evil, bearing witness to God’s love, concern, and compassion for those bearing the brunt of injustice.
Moreover, we can also illustrate that there’s always the possibility of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration in Christ. If only more of us were moved with Christ-like compassion, compelled into Spirit-led action, and maladjusted to injustice. As Justo González says, “Injustice is a form of violence. The best way to conquer it is to unmask it, to show it for what it really is.” As we expose injustice, let’s remember who we are, whose we are, and the power that we’re stepping out in. Everything outside of our identity in Christ says that our lives are our own and that we are only required to care or respond to injustice and oppression when our community, or a loved one is being victimized. This logic of individualism and tribalism perverts the Gospel. Scripture thankfully tells us another story and calls us into an alternative reality. It reminds us that we are not fighting against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers in high places. As a result, I am not–nor can we be as Christians–antipolice. We must always remember that there are a multitude of great police officers throughout our nation, but there are also others who are not. We cannot be blind to either reality, nor can we ignore the fact that institutionally something is broken, something is really wrong with the training that is occurring in our nation when this many unarmed black and brown people are being killed. We must not be hesitant to profess this, but we also cannot allow this proclamation to lead us into the sin of dehumanizing. We cannot be people who stigmatize all officers. We must support and affirm officers who are doing good and who maintain healthy, life giving community relationships while also holding the institution accountable when it fails to be what it is intended to be.
As we move forward together, let’s pray publically, fast corporately, and love unrelentlessly. May our love be patterned after Christ’s love, may we fully entrust our lives to God, and may the Spirit guide our steps, direct our resistance, and transform our hearts and minds.
(photo credit: Pastor Corey Brooks)