A Time to Mourn — As the country is still reeling from a pandemic, streets are aflame and our state and others are in a state of emergency due to the brutal killing of a helpless American at the hands of police officers. This killing of a black man has been roundly condemned by everyone and finally action to arrest the perpetrator was taken, but after too much delay. Now, even in Arizona, we are under an emergency order and curfew: https://azgovernor.gov/governor/news/2020/05/emergency-declaration-curfew-beginning-tonight
The anger and pain, the feelings of helplessness and rage, the fear swelling up in the hearts of Americans can be clearly felt by many. But we often also completely fail to make any sense of the demonstrations that have amounted to little more than looting and riots. What is happening to cause such a reaction, that in many ways dishonors George Floyd and his family?
It is nearly impossible to discern the motives of such a large crowd of people who have become involved in violence in Minneapolis and elsewhere in our country. I hesitate to speak to this at risk of being misunderstood and being viewed as taking one side over another. But there are a number of issues to be considered from a Biblical perspective:
- Our Words Matter — This year’s theme verse has a direct bearing on ways that emotions have been inflamed rather than put to rest: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Eph. 4:29 NIV) It is true that one’s words can be distorted, but it is imperative at all times, and especially when tensions are high, to guard one’s tongue and only say what is productive.
- Don’t Believe the TV/Computer Images — Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that all this is not happening, nor are the images of burning, looting, rioting and demonstrations fabricated. I’m not saying that at all. But the feelings stirred up by the images are misleading. We see these things and think that everyone in these neighborhoods are involved in this same rage. We also see the image of Derek Chauvin and we think all police officers are like that. Neither feeling is truth: https://www.forbes.com/sites/lisettevoytko/2020/05/31/in-some-cities-police-officers-joined-protesters-marching-against-brutality/?fbclid=IwAR1tXFIBpnuKewLPQr1j430_ALEhxjFEW6SXb5vLVnPPnY-zeUKVjM5-FxQ#6b5342425edb A big crowd on the streets can be only 500 people. But let’s suppose that there were 2,000 people wreaking violence in the Twin Cities. The population is 3.28 million. Even at the high number of 2,000, that is only .0006 of the population! Almost all of the good people of all colors are in their homes and praying desperately for the welfare of their city and for order to be restored. The images themselves inflame fear and resentment. Let’s resist running to those thoughts. And a corollary — don’t believe the headlines of stories. If you read an outrageous quote in a headline, please read the whole article. Several times this week I was infuriated by a quote or an accusation, clicked on the entire article and there was no substantiation of the outrageous statement. At.All.
- Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse (Romans 12:14) We live in a time of deep divisions. People are seen as one’s enemies. Vicious things are said on all sides. In order to see healing begin and peace to return, it is essential that someone starts to bless one’s perceived enemies. Jesus said to love our enemies. It is time to stop saying the often heard playground cry, “Well, HE started it!!” God does not care who started it, He expects the mature to stop it; to knock it off.
- A Time for Anger — Only one time does the Bible tell us that Jesus was angry — Mark 3:1-5. When the legalists were waiting for a chance to accuse Jesus of working on the Sabbath, he called up a man with a withered hand to the front of the crowd. “And Jesus said to them, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?’ But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart…” When human beings have thoughtless regard for other humans, God is angry; and so should we be. There are racist conditions in our country. We aren’t all a bunch of racists, but there are things that demean people and those things should make us angry. Perhaps if we were angry at those things and working to change those things, then others might not feel so isolated who are on the receiving end of these injustices. The Bible says, “Be angry but do not sin…” Ephesians 4:26 This is a very challenging tightrope to walk on, but we are often too complacent. The video of Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd George’s neck should sicken us all and make us angry. No one made in the image of God, no one who was knit together by God in his mother’s womb, should ever be treated like that.
- It’s Time to Stop Envy and Covetousness — Our culture has fanned the flames of envying those who are more successful and creating a sense of entitlement; I should have what ____ has. Members of our culture have taught some young people that those better off, the wealthy, are only wealthy because they stole from others and have oppressed others to get the things they have. Why else would some people feel justified stealing when the opportunity presents itself? Why else is there no sense of shame or guilt that one is harming another person when one steals that person’s possessions? Or smashes someone’s store?
- God’s Radical Response — No Revenge, But Love! Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” God calls His people to live radically different from others.