It’s been a tumultuous year in the US and around the world to say the least. The murder of George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer preceded shortly before by the murder of Ahmaud Arbery by two white Georgians brought the issues of racism and bigotry back to the surface. I want to remind my fellow Christians how we are commanded to respond to these stormy times.
1. Be a Good Listener. Be Slow to Speak. Be Slow to Anger.
“My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” (James 1:19)
There are a host of voices speaking in this moment. How do we sort through all the noise? First, I think we ought to listen to African-American brothers and sisters in Christ. We fought a civil war over their mistreatment and fought against segregation a century later. The evil of racism still confronts Americans six decades after the civil rights movement. I really love the wisdom here from writer, speaker, hip-hop artist Jackie Hill Perry.
Jackie is absolutely right to remind us to focus on the Imago Dei–remembering that every person is an image bearer of the God who loves them and created them. Reminding ourselves of this reality is important to helping us (all races) treat one another the way we would want to be treated (Luke 6:31) and love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31).
I am also thankful for Ryan Bomberger’s insight on these issues. Ryan is an African-American, co-founder of the pro-life group, The Radiance Foundation, and author of the book, Not Equal: Civil Rights Gone Wrong. He joined The World and Everything in It podcast on Friday and offered perspective on Black Lives Matter, the protests, and other related issues. Ryan’s interiew begins about 8 minutes into the podcast.
We need to listen to everyone–African Americans, Americans who serve courageously in law enforcement, and anyone who has suffered injustice–whatever their skin color. We also must consider and listen to viewpoints different than our own or in the minority. We need to be willing to venture out of our normal media echo chambers and pursue outsider voices. For instance, you aren’t going to see Candice Owen’s perspective accurately reported (or reported at all) on MSNBC, NBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, etc, yet she has become a prominent voice for African-American conservatives.
2. Be Kind, Compassionate, Gracious, and Forgiving.
“And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.” Ephesians 4:32
I was so moved when church members and family members of the murder victims of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church chose to forgive the murderous white supremicist who carried out the heinous and evil acts.
I was disappointed to watch the aftermath of Drew Brees’ statement about the national anthem, respect, and racism. I understand arguments on both sides of this issue, but several of the responses to Brees were very ungracious. We can’t have a fruitful conversation or dialogue about the issues confronting us if good people are instantly condemned when they offer sincere viewpoints. Probably no one has done more for the city of New Orleans and helping it rebuild after Katrina than Brees. Yet, one critic said of Brees, “He’s part of the problem.” No, unkind, uncompassionate, unforgiving people, who are quick to speak, quick to anger, and slow to listen are the problem. We all fit that mold sometimes, because we are humans. And all of us have a sin.
Though some people will offer perspectives we find wrong or offensive, we must be gracious in our response. “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.” Colossians 4:6
God wants us to be gracious, because He is gracious. When we are kind, compassionate, forgiving, and gracious, we speak well of our Father in heaven. We help people see there’s a better way, and that’s by knowing the one who is the Way (John 14:6).
3. Be Peacemakers.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9
There have been positive moments in the midst of the turmoil. For instance, peaceful protestors captured and handed over an antifa member who was trying to incite a riot to law enforcement officers. George Floyd’s brother, Terrance, has urged peaceful protests and civic action in the wake of the murder. “If I’m not over here blowing up stuff, messing up my community, what are y’all doing? Y’all doing nothing. Because that’s not going to bring my brother back at all,” Floyd said. Floyd concluded by saying, “I know my brother would not want violence,” imploring the crowd “let’s do this peacefully, please.”
As sons and daughters of God, we have a duty to pursue and promote peace. The best way to do this is to point people to the Prince of Peace.
4. Be Wise.
Before sharing a video about white privilege or posting a black square on your Facebook profile page, consider more meaningful ways to engage people on these issues. Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise— making the most of the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16
Life is a walk. We must be careful where we step and how we live our lives. Less can be more when it comes to weighing in on issues that divide us on social media. Pursuing friendships with believers and neighbors who come from different backgrounds and life experiences will likely yield more meaningful conversations and understanding.
5. Be the Light of the World that Points to the Light of the Universe.
“You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14
“Jesus spoke to them again: ‘I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.’ John 8:12
The world is full of darkness. Hatred, racism, envy, greed, covetousness, murder have all been on display in America. “This is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.” John 3:19
John 3:19 explains why darkness abounds. The reason is that sin abounds. Sin is rebellion against God. Rebellion always leads to darkness and destruction. But those of us in Christ have the light, because we have the Light of the world living in us. We have been summoned by the King to serve as ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) urging people to reconcile with God before it’s too late. May we faithfully fulfill our mission.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out … Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.