Baltimore, Maryland is burning. Protesters and looters have flooded the streets in response to the questionable death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. Stores have been vandalized, buildings and police cars set on fire. A state of emergency has been declared and the National Guard have been called in.
Tanks, rubber bullets, tear gas, curfews are all in effect. External force is the order of our days. But, what of the spiritual force that lies within us? Dr. King called it “soul force.” What of the power of the human soul to change? And how are we prepared to meet these hurting souls so that we might effect sound change?
This is an all too familiar story in America. In fact, it is the American story, the tragedy of race. We know the lines and yet, we have not figured out how to stop repeating them. We know violence only produces more violence. We recite the words of Dr. King, “Hate cannot drive out hate.” But, this recipe is not only for riots but for the relationships that we have with each other today and every day after the smoke settles.
We know both sides, the pros and cons. We know the charges of our history and what has been our defense. We have been the judge but I think that today is as good a day as any to get up. We need to be overruled by Love.
We need the Power greater than ourselves Who can do what we cannot because He knows what we find so hard to believe: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (First Corinthians 13.7-8).
I know that we cannot see it now but Love will win.
Judgment. We just can’t seem to get it right. We forget who we are in the courtroom: all sinners, guilty as charged. We forget that Jesus defends us all, that Jesus is a friend of sinners, a friend to Officer Darren Wilson and the late Mr. Michael Brown, Jr. before and after they met each other (Matthew 11.19). We don’t like to hear that, which is how we find ourselves in the Judge’s seat. We really don’t like God’s justice, which is God’s unconditional love– because it is for all.
The truth is that we want God to reserve judgment when it comes to our failings but scream “let it roll like a river” when it comes to those we hate or disagree with (Amos 5.24). The truth is we only respect God’s judgment when we approve of it, when we feel that God has reached the decision that we have.
We also want to keep persons on the hook. We don’t want to forgive them. But, Christians, what kind of fisher of people does that? Are those we perceive to have done wrong in the case of Officer Darren Wilson and the late Mr. Michael Brown, Jr. now not eligible for the ministry of Christ? Have we judged them unworthy of God’s grace and mercy because of the decision they have made? And if so, by what criteria? Where did it begin and when does it end?
We want justice now. We put demands on when justice happens and how justice looks to us. And if our demands are not met, then we judge not just the jury or the law enforcement officials or even the media but we judge God as incompetent.
The tragic events that led up to the death of an unarmed teenager, the late Mr. Michael Brown, Jr. have brought us to the same place. We are using excessive force, punishing business owners that had nothing to do with the event, destroying property that was not a part of the crime scene, hurting hundreds of other people… though it started with just two.
This is what happens when we judge. I’m scooting over as I am in no position to.