Ferguson, Missouri has commanded the attention of many persons across the nation for months now. Police brutality, even suspected excessive force in cases involving European American police officers and African American suspects, is a sensitive issue in America for many reasons, some of which are founded; others of which are not. Many persons see this latest case of suspected police brutality as more of the same and they are responding with more of the same: “They” give us no justice so we give them no peace.”
But, I believe that there are those whose appetite has change, who are craving something different in America and desiring to be better than the conditions that we have inherited. I, along with these brave few, will not pass to the next generation more of the same old hatreds, aggressions and stereotypes. We’re simply tired of race and racism as usual.
I don’t know much but these past few months, I’ve learned a few things and after hearing the jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, I heard the Teacher even clearer.
Lesson #1: Anger is easy. Acceptance is harder. We have talked for hundreds of years in America about what we have done to each other and blamed race for it. We have yet to accept who we are because of the ways that we have chosen to love and live with each other. We have yet to accept that we are all oppressors.
Lesson #2: God’s love is unconditional and so is God’s forgiveness. We are called and challenged to forgive before all of the facts come in. It’s only fair since “God loved us while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5.8). And we forgive before the person even figures out that she or he has wronged us, praying the prayer of Jesus, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23.34).
Lesson #3: I have heard again the familiar dismissal of a belief in justice in the quip, “There is no justice. Just us.” But, it is only just us if we do not involve God in the judicial process. I’m sorry to inform you but race does not determine justice for God. It is in cases like the one in Ferguson that we forget our place and find ourselves in the Judge’s seat. Get up.
Lesson #4: It is easier to judge than to understand. It’s easier to say, “You’re wrong” than to ask, “What’s wrong?” We really don’t care why they did it. Yet, without this discussion, we expect them not to do it again. Ferguson will repeat itself if we continue to say the same things.
Lesson #5: Blame- shifting just moves the burden of responsibility around. We’re all guilty and no one person or cultural group is guiltier than another.
Lesson #6: You can’t be a crowd pleaser and a Christ follower at the same time. Christians are called to “walk circumspectly,” prudently (Ephesians 5.15). This means that sometimes we have to walk away from the group– even when it is unpopular to do so. We also have to go against the majority, the normative response and repeat after Christ instead of the culture.
Lesson #7: Keep the faith– not in people but in God. There is no incident so sweeping as to eclipse our commitment to Christ. We must not break the commandments of Christ in order to be faithful to our culture or to uphold the traditions of race. That would be the most detrimental of brutalities.