As a prisoner of the Lord, I urge you: Live a life that is worthy of the calling He has graciously extended to you. Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient. Tolerate one another in an atmosphere thick with love. Make every effort to preserve the unity the Spirit has already created, with peace binding you together. - Ephesians 4:1-3 The VOICE
Last week our country walked through a series of events that were both horrifying up close and overwhelming as you stepped back and viewed it from a thousand feet. I watched a video where a man named Alton Sterling was manhandled to the ground by two police officers and then shot by one officer at close range in the head as he faced the ground. A day later another video went viral. A man named Philando Castile was pulled over for a broken tail light. The video showed the aftermath of a brief interaction between him and a police officer. Philando was leaning against a car door as he bled out, a police officers gun in view of the video still pulled and aimed at Castile.
Both of the men were black. And both videos left me thinking, "dear God, this can't be real."
Not 48 hours passed before another scene unfolded. At a protest in Dallas -an effort to bring light to the two tragedies- a man named Micah Johnson shot 12 police officers monitoring the protest - killing 5 of them.
As a human I felt confused, overwhelmed by the lack of sensibility in culture for other human beings. As a white person I felt confused, both horrified by what I viewed as racial profiling of black people and then reversely profiling of police officers. As a leader, I felt paralyzed. What to do now? Where to go from here?
My thoughts and prayers are still forming, but there is one thing I am certain of: I stand in defiance of division.
I loathe arguments loaded with underlying "us vs. them" language and afternotes. The bitter language that comes out of mouths of commentators, angry and saddened spectators (both white and black) and people trying to make a buck on a book. The hurtful words used to describe a group of people - black or white, blue or citizen. I disagree with fear being the driver of a forming an opinion of a human being. I defy language that whittles an entire class of people (black, white, asian, police, hispanic, etc.) down to a few careless words.
During tragedy, I watched an entire nation carefully tiptoe into battle lines. Draw deep conclusions about other groups of people that they would carry in their core. Form prideful and thick walls of concrete thoughts. Yes, the shootings have been horrifying, tragic and have issued a warning flare to our generation about problems with systematic racism and flawed anger that are bubbling over the brim. To be sure, there are issues to be addressed.
But the aftermath. The pure, unadulterated judgement - on all sides. This behavior pleases the hallways of hell. And I will take no part in it.
I make no claims to know what Jesus would say to us in this moment. I truly am not sure how he would lead us out of these days, or what oration he would give at a black man's or a police officer's funeral. I DO know that he would say: "you're my KIDS. Stop talking to each other like that."
In Ephesians Paul reminds us that the unity of the bond of the Spirit has been set in place by God. But that it must be protected. Cherished. Cared for. Looked after.
That in the face of something meant to divide a world into teams, instead we close our eyes, breathe, and say "in Christ, there is no male or female, Jew or Gentile, black or white, police or pedestrian." In Christ we are unified. In Christ, there is no use for teams. There is only the broken, stained, sinful and yet fully redeemed people of God. There is no "this is MY PEOPLE. (referring to a black community), or "this is MY PEOPLE" (referring to a white community). There is only His people. That is all there is. And all there will ever be.
The prideful boasts of team language disgust him, I would venture to guess.
I won't pretend to know the perfected rightness here. But I would assume that there is a "rightness" to be found in each other. In a thick wall of love. It's in kindness. It's in thinking of another above yourself. In standing with a black friend. In standing with Alton and Philando and their families. In standing with Trayvon Martin. And then standing with a white friend. In standing with the fallen officers. In acceptance. In submission. In being calm in the face of an enemy. In the wisdom of letting an offense pass you by. In the deep pools of love that is found in Christ. In the deep acceptance that he has for you. And that acceptance then rushes over your mortal body and onto those around you. No, you and your team are not as perfect as you thought. Your language of division is not something to be proud of. But if you would be willing to see the world with the Father's eyes, and with acceptance DESPITE shortfalls - I honestly think this could be the beginning of healing.
Maybe today we defy division.
Today, may you just LOVE your neighbor. Even the annoying neighbor. Even the opinionated neighbor. The black neighbor. The white neighbor. Stand on kingdom ground, with a kingdom family, using kingdom language towards your fellow image-bearer. And here is where maybe revival and change begin.