I imagine the murdered black men waking up to the news of other black men being shot by police officers and thinking, “That could have been me,” not realizing that in a few hours they would be live-streamed on Facebook bleeding to death after a routine traffic stop, and the very next morning his name would be the next hash-tag on social media, the next story on national news.
I imagine the assassinated police officers waking up, putting on their badges and blue uniforms in a nation filled with tension and pain and danger, not realizing that some of the very citizens they had sworn to serve and protect were plotting their assassination and a home-grown terrorist attack.
The following days and weeks have been filled with heated reactions to these events from politicians, protesters, and pundits. But beyond the shouting matches and platitudes that fill airwaves and timelines, what, we may ask, is the Christian response? How does the gospel of Jesus Christ give us perspective and direction in the midst of these horrific happenings?
We must always begin with compassion. We weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:15). No matter our race or background, we lament that lives made in the image and likeness of our Divine Creator have been suddenly and needlessly ended. We grieve for the mothers who lost sons and the children who lost fathers. We acknowledge that blood has been spilt and cries out from the earth for justice (Gen. 4:10).
We refuse to give credence to those who demand to quote a victim’s criminal rap sheet, as if that somehow justifies public execution. And we reject voices that would call for anarchy and war, knowing that violence and chaos only makes oppression worse and never better. We do not entertain simplistic solutions to complex issues deeply woven into our communities and their histories. We determine not be led by our worst fears. Instead, we commit to stand together.
We acknowledge that we are not only wrestling with flesh and blood enemies (Eph. 6:12), and that the weapons of a war like this are not of this world (2 Cor. 10:4). So we pray. We pray for the victims. We pray for the villains. We pray for grace. We pray for justice. We pray for wisdom and direction in moving forward.
We remember that we worship a God who knows firsthand what it means to be publically and unjustly murdered (Lk. 23:41). We behold our suffering Savior who has personally felt the sting of oppression and mindless hatred (Isa. 53:7). For the sake of his name and those he loves, we work for justice and peace in our society for all people (Mt. 25:40); not just those who look like us, talk like us, or vote like us.
We examine our own hearts before the Holy Spirit. We ask how we have been co-conspirators in forming a culture of hatred, division, and systematic injustice. We recognize and repent of our own temptation toward bitterness and bias. We plead for mercy on ourselves and our broken world (Ps. 51:1).
We recognize that racism isn’t just an individual sin, but a social evil as well. We understand that racial division is an utter affront to the gospel of Jesus Christ and the kingdom he represents (Gal. 3:28).
We strive to be quick to hear, slow to speak, even slower to anger; for we know the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20).
We seek to live in harmony with one another. We put down haughtiness but instead associate with the lowly.
We refuse to be wise in our own sight (Rom. 12:15-16).
We commit to forgive those who don’t deserve to be forgiven.
We forsake our pride and ask for forgiveness when we don’t deserve it either.
We proactively pursue friendship and break bread when it isn’t easy or convenient.
We look for opportunities to contribute.
We seek to serve and to understand one another.
We love even those who should be our enemies, because God first loved us even when we were his enemies (1 Jn. 4:19; Rom. 5:6-8).
We zealously contend for building a better society, one that promotes the flourishing of all people. We write our representatives.
We organize proactive initiatives.
We make tangible, visible changes that need to be made.
But in the end we remember with hope that the world we long for is one we cannot bring about by our own strength or policies.
We long for the King who is coming and the kingdom only he brings.
We awaken our hearts to envision the brightness of the heavenly city coming down to earth, with a loud proclamation,
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.
He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:3-4).
And while we work diligently to give the world a preview of this ultimate hope in our neighborhoods, churches, communities, and nation, we yearn for the day when we see justice and peace not in part but in whole.
In union with the Spirit, we must desperately whisper, that Advent anthem, “Maranatha.” Come, Lord Jesus, Come. (Rev. 22:17, 20).
The writer is the pastor at St. Michael Parish, Fort Loramie and Ss. Peter & Paul Parish, Newport.