Man (in) a Tee
In the wake of the horrific incident with Alton Sterling, we get more tragedy: 5 police officers are sniped and 7 more are wounded.
Taking a step back is the rational thing to do. The history of human violence is predicated upon knee-jerk reactions that when blown out of proportions can result in wars. No person does anything unreasonable in their mind. What each person is doing is reasonable in their world view.
Take for example Alton Sterling. He was black, yes, but I don’t think this was merely a race war; he came with a rap sheet. A registered sex offender along with multiple cases of aggravated assault and carrying illegal weapons. Now I am not condoning what the officers did to him, but let’s take a walk in their shoes for a moment. Looking up criminal records for an Alton Sterling would give one the impression that he is capable of violent crime. I would be scared out of my mind to learn that he may indeed have a conceal illegal firearm and I would use the force I felt was necessary to detain him. With that knowledge in my mind any movement on the part of Alton would have me reaching for my own weapon. These officers made an informed decision (however skewed the information is) and what resulted was a death.
Now we get to the other tragedy of police officers being attacked by two snipers; 5 dead and 7 wounded. Again, if we took a walk in those snipers shoes, it would not seem so unreasonable. Upon hearing another seemingly fatal atrocity committed by the hands of police officers could be the straw that breaks the camels’ back. Me and my buddy take up our own firearms (which is our right according to the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution) and reap our own form of justice as we have had enough of innocent lives being taken advantage of by the boys in blue.
Both of these incidences are reasonable in the perspective of the death dealers, that I cannot deny. What breaks my heart though is how quickly we as humans are to reach for violence as the definitive answer to outrage and justice. And this is where my faith intersects with the real world.
I co-lead a bible study on Thursday nights and we are working our way through the book of Luke. We just finished going through Luke 6 (Luke 6:27-36) a few weeks ago and this is one of the hardest things for us as American Christians to understand. It is essentially talking about tough love, and how we must reciprocate the type of love we wish to see in the world. This isn’t harsh love, oh no, it is tough in that we would be going against what society is telling us we ought to do. Jesus takes it a step further and is even so bold as to say that his followers are to do good to those who have done evil to you. WHAT?! Yes, as a professing Christian I must follow what Jesus says at the heart of his message and to pursue a type of love that does good to those who have done evil against me; just like how Jesus does good to us even though we continually do evil against Him. The passage ends with “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Which can be translated into Be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.
This is why discipleship is so important at my church. We believe in the transformative power of Jesus Christ. Through discipleship we learn how to love unconditionally. And through that unconditional love, we learn how to honor God in our actions. We learn how to take a step back to assess how biased our opinions and forms of justice actually are. We learn how to process our raw feelings and emotions in small groups. We lean on the wisdom that was given and shown to those around us by God.
Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t stop there. In fact, it shouldn’t. If we are to love others (even enemies) as God loves us, then it should spur us into action beyond simply falling to our knees in prayer. We must go and continually make disciples, to slowly but surely impart and extend the love that God the Father has for us unto others.
I am calling out all the professing Christians out there. It is time to wake up. Do you see the brokenness? It is far too gone to continually respond to the knee-jerk reactions of violence. We must be proactive. Jesus says in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (emphasis added). Can you imagine what the world would look like if we are to obey just even this one teaching on unconditional love? Oh man, even better: what if we’re to believe that it is actually possible that someone can change their character for the better? To not have to worry about what has been done in the past and have others judge you for it. Or even not having to worry that because someone in your field of work overdid it that you would need to fear for your own safety and well-being? What if we started looking at individuals instead of lumping groups of people together and then profiling them? Whether that be black, blue, yellow, brown or white, can we agree that people are people who need love and hope?
Christians, we deal in hope and love. Let’s take to the corner streets and start dealing.