How did the overwhelming tragedy in Minneapolis happen?
(Feel free to substitute Baltimore or Ferguson or Louisville or, or, or . . .)
The sinfulness of mankind
Born out over hundreds of years
As one group of people oppresses another
For the color of their skin or their country of origin
And it is not limited to our southern states
Nor to the distant past
Remember, the Civil Rights movement didn’t end in victory
It ended with assassinations, lynchings with guns.
So rage and fear and despair build in that people
For what is their crime but being what God made them?
Until one day an officer harms, no, kills a black man
For the uncountedth time
And the fuse is lit
On the pressurized explosive incendiary device
Of an oppressed and unheard people
So they explode in protests and riots
The language of the unheard
But then, as is so often the case, sin finds a way
The riots become the story,
Those “thugs” and law-breakers become the headlines
And the fuse is forgotten
And centuries are forgotten
And oppression and injustice are ignored
Again and again and again
As George Floyd (or Breonna Taylor, or Michael Brown, or Freddie Gray, or, or, or . . .)
Fades into the background
And political posturing
And cultural white washing opportunism moves to the front
The riots that began with pure rage aged in despair
Become anger infused with greed
By some who simply want to destroy and wreak havoc
And very likely smear a bad name and spray a rotten stench
On all who are protesting peaceably with cause
There’s a time for war and a time for peace
A time to speak and a time to be silent
But for our black brothers and sisters
It seems it is always the time for peace and silence
Never the time to demonstrate or speak
Or protest or fight
But what choice have we left them?
We ask for peace but do not protect it
We demand it but do not honor it or provide it.
The burden of peace in America
Lies on the oppressed and the downtrodden
They must uphold the ease of the oppressors
Now a word to my fellow white Christians:
To call this a “sin issue” or a “gospel issue” is true
Profoundly true, and more than we are ready to recognize
Unless you intend to hide behind those phrases
And use them as a get-out-conflict-free ticket
Or foist the blame for unrest on the oppressed
This tragedy, this unrest, is a sin issue
The gospel is the ultimate resolution to it
The good news of Jesus is the peace the world needs
And the promise of His return is our hope
When our cities are burning
And our leaders are absent
But those are not life boats to escape the Titanic
Of racial and societal upheaval
They are a summons, a call, a command
On our lives to follow Christ and be He was
To lay down our lives for others
To love our enemies
To see that in Christ there is no Jew or gentile
But that we are one
It is your brother who was killed when his neck was kneeled on
And your brother who killed him
And your sisters and mothers who mourn him
And your sons who rage with bricks in hand
And your sons adorned in riot gear and wielding weapons
Christ loves sinners.
Christ loves justice.
Christ loves the oppressed.
Christ loves black.
Christ loves white.
So we do not get to choose a side
We do not get to choose whether to love
Or care or be involved
If we are in Christ
Then we must be as Christ.
We cannot overcome 400 years of sordid history
with blog posts and tweets
or even with a sermon or a vote
but neither can we overcome it without those.
We cannot right the wrongs in our society
in a day or year or a decade
but if we take the next day and year and decade
we can see change happen
Listen to the voices of our black neighbors
Seek them out and sit at their feet
to hear their stories and see the world through their eyes
and recognize that what they see and say will look and sound
very little like the world you inhabit
and the life you’ve lived
even though you share your neighborhood or job or church.
When we can learn to walk a mile in their shoes
we might learn to feel their tiredness
and the rutted road we have sent them on.