“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, “Raca” is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in dangers of the fire of hell.”
~ Matthew 5: 21,22
“Non- violence is the strongest approach. … It is not limited to any locality and should apply to every situation.”
~ Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
It seems that persons have taken the recent death of the unarmed teenager Mr. Michael Brown at the hands of a Ferguson police officer as license to support sin and all manner of cruel speech. The recent riots, looting and vandalism of residents in response to the death of Mr. Brown have not been met with much criticism from Christian leaders (as far as I can hear). There are words that have been missing or noticeably absent from the dialogue. Instead, in social media circles, I have noticed a wellspring of support and understanding for the rioters. But, speculation is not information; consequently, their actions are misinformed in my opinion.
I think that Jesus would say to the looters, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone” (John 8.7). We need to put down the rocks and talk.
Without official reports from investigators, the release of the autopsy report or charges filed against the police officer or Mr. Brown, we have drawn conclusions of the officer’s guilt and presumed Mr. Brown’s innocence. If we are fully persuaded of what happened, then wait for the report. If you “know how the story goes,” then let the facts speak.
So recent is the unfortunate incident that the Ferguson police department just released a statement acknowledging his death and extending condolences to his family. Mr. Brown has not even been buried or his death fully mourned. Perhaps, the crowd is moving a bit too fast, rushing to judgment and getting ahead of the grieving as well as the legal process. I would add that if you don’t believe in the justice system, then become a lawyer or a judge– not a criminal. Stop looting.
I am also perplexed as it seems as if race somehow gives us occasions and excuses for not practicing our faith, for failing to speak up when challenged to repeat and live out the tough words of Jesus. Race makes us think that we can excuse our Christian convictions and ask our faith to leave the room so that we can have a real conversation. We behave as if Christ is naive when it comes to race, oppression and suffering. We forget about his cross and despite its present work in us, it is treated as a historical artifact. But, a faith that can be asked to leave was never invited in– into our hearts or our lives (cf. Luke 6.46).
We speak of Christianity as if the religion is childish and immature, as if it does not understand when it does not agree with our crowd- pleasing conclusions. Or, we try to find Scriptures that would provide a means to our preconceived end and shy away from those that conflict with it. But, if we are fully persuaded of what happened, then wait for the report. If you “know how the story goes,” then let the witnesses tell it.
I am surprised not by the crowd but by Christian leaders who have taken to social media in support of the riots, looting and violence. Of all the words that are being said, there are some that are not. Here are ten that I took note of:
1. “Weep with those who weep” (Romans 12.15).
2. “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your wrath” (Ephesians 4.26).
3. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23.34).
4. “Be reconciled to one another” (Ephesians 2.14-16).
5. “Watch and pray” (Matthew 26.41).
6. “Your will be done” (Matthew 6.10).
7. “Love never fails” (First Corinthians 13.8).
8. “Put your hope in God” (Psalm 42.5).
9. “Bless those that curse you” (Luke 6.28).
10. “Pray for your enemies” (Matthew 5.44).
Clearly, persons have taken to the streets to obey the commandments of race but what have we gained? So, what could you lose in trying to follow the commandments of Christ? I guess you’ll have to say these things in order to find out.