Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice.
Three black men who lost their lives at the hands of white policemen.
I have been so heavy-hearted lately over these stories. The night that the decision in the Mike Brown case was announced, I was up for hours watching live coverage of Ferguson- -heartbroken for the people this decision was directly affecting. Hurting for Mike Brown’s family as the still very tender wound of losing a son was ripped open again in the public eye. Wondering what it must be like for black Americans. Wondering what the grand jury members were feeling and thinking that night. Wondering what the spouses and children of officers must be feeling as they send them out to a city of people who see them as the enemy. Wondering what one is supposed to do in the face of such fear and anger and hurt. Wondering and praying.
Now, do I have opinions about all of this? Absolutely. Are they well informed opinions? Probably not well-enough informed. Right, wrong, lawful, unlawful, an issue of race or of criminal behavior? These things need to be addressed, but in the proper setting, which this particular blog (and many other blogs, that have attempted anyways) is not.
These are the borderlands of “Bedrocks and Borderlands”. There are foundational truths(bedrocks) that we set ground ourselves in as we navigate the challenging terrain before us (borderlands). I want to take a look at the bedrock and borderland issues before us.
-All people were created in the image of God and are intrinsically valuable as a result.
-God, as the supreme creative One, made people to be different. Different gifts, passions, personalities, skin color.
-People were created to live in perfect unity with one another and with God.
-Sin destroyed that unity.
-Later, human arrogance prompted God to confuse language and the physical divide became greater (the spiritual divide is a far as it will ever be).
-Christ made a way for us to be reconciled to God and one another.
-If we know Christ, we are His ambassadors and are tasked with the ministry of reconciliation.
-Because we live in the space between already being justified, but not yet being fully sanctified, carrying out that ministry is difficult.
–All authority rests on His shoulders.
-All truth belongs to God.
-There is a racial divide in our country.
-There is an imperfect governing system.
-There are countless news sources feeding us different angles and sometimes different stories all together.
-There is the internet and social media, which means anyone, anywhere can share their opinion with the entire world in seconds.
-There are people that are hurting and terrified on both sides of the wall.
Now, the question becomes, how do the bedrocks help us navigate the borderlands?
If all people are intrinsically valuable because they are made in the image of God, then how we treat and view people needs to change. It is one thing for someone who doesn’t know Christ to live in the world of division but as Christ-followers, we have no excuse. Christ came to reconcile. He gave us the ministry of reconciliation. If our words and actions are speaking into the division rather than speaking into unity, then we are ignoring the blood of Christ. Arrogance caused the division. And arrogance will continue to divide.
If all authority rests on God’s shoulders, then even in a country where the government is self-seeking, or making choices that we don’t agree with, we can trust God. People are broken (sin, remember?). No President, no Mayor, no officer of the law will ever be able to bring peace. They will never be able to even hold up the law they put in place, much less the laws of God. I can’t. You can’t. None of us can. So, when governments make poor choices, even evil choices, when grand juries make decisions we feel are wrong, when we feel oppressed or afraid because of government, when we do our best to govern rightly and people hate us, we trust God.
When we hear reports on the news, flip the channel and hear a different report, surf the internet and find yet another contradicting story, we don’t believe everything we hear. We don’t trust one news source. If we really want to know the facts, we search for them rather than letting them be spoon fed to us. And when we can’t get to the bottom of things, we thank God that what we can’t figure out, He already knows.
And when we can’t get to the bottom of things, we don’t parade around as though we have. Yes, it is easy to voice our opinions and the world of social media has opened the door for everyone to be a lawyer, journalist, jury, etc. But, just because we CAN share our opinions doesn’t mean we should.
When people are hurting and afraid, what is the proper response? Empathy and compassion. More listening than talking.
I’m not suggesting we compromise truth, but I am suggesting that maybe we don’t have a full enough grasp on the situation at large to fully understand truth. And, I am suggesting that even if we do have a good grasp on truth, it doesn’t excuse us from treating people with dignity. We should be moving toward each other but instead, we are drawing lines in the sand and demanding that people pick sides.
As adults, we have a responsibility to teach the next generation. I can tell you from my own experience and from observing the experiences of many others, that if the only time parents and adults talk about people who are not like them is in a political context, then what our kids will hear is hate and fear. If we are not intentional about stepping into community with people who look, think, and live differently than us, than our kids will not learn to love. And if we think we don’t have a problem with race, or other differences, then I would suggest that, possibly, it is because we have moved into an area of town where we don’t have to be confronted with it. If that is the case, then it may be that we have a huge problem but have set our lives up in a way where we can ignore our sin rather than deal with it.
Perhaps, rather than weigh in on if the officers were right or wrong, if black communities need to deal with the way they treat each other instead, if people are responding correctly in circumstances, we should listen to understand. Perhaps we should cry with each other. Perhaps we should step into hurting communities ready to help restore. Perhaps we should consider if our faith or our fear is informing our lives.