Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, Uptown Dallas.
3 days, 3 horrific events, one nation full of outrage and disbelief. During times like these, it can be so easy to feel frozen by the enormity of the situation, and as a result, end up doing nothing when we all know that somebody has to do something.
While I recognize that my perspective is limited (and I in no way would assume to understand what people with a very different perspective could be feeling), I do believe that all of us are facing the same paralyzing question: What now?
I’d like to offer 3 things that all of us can do in light of the growing tinderbox of unrest in our country:
I can hear the sighs and imagine the eye rolls on this one. In fact, I’ve seen more than a fair share of social media posts implying that prayer is a waste of time and that we should get off our knees and do something. I get it.
#PrayFor(fill in the city/country/name of next attack)
Prayer can seem ineffective when prayer is reduced to a hashtag, but it’s so much more than that.
It’s an exchange. An opportunity to exhale the hate of earth and inhale the peace of heaven. It’s time with Someone who knows more than you or I do and who loves fiercer than you or I can. It’s a time to gain perspective, because the one that we currently have isn’t working. It’s a time to understand how deeply we are loved, how securely we are kept, and how strongly we are valued.
Prayer is the place where we can throw our hands up without fear of being struck down. It is a place to process events instead of panicking over them. Prayer is never a substitute for action, because prayer is action, and the ACTION of prayer allows us to ACT IN response to what we’ve prayed about.
I don’t want this to sound super naive, because I know that we can do everything right and still have wrong things done to us, but I truly believe in the power of Romans 13:3:
For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.
Now, I’m a white man with white kids. I don’t know what it’s like to be profiled. I’ve never wondered if a broken tail light might lead to my death. Some might be tempted to allow my lack of experience in these areas to negate the truth of that verse. But one of the men who attends the church where I pastor knows the power of that verse from the other side of the spectrum, and his Facebook post speaks volumes about how living righteously can go a long way toward diffusing this time bomb of violence in our culture. Take a minute to go read it. I’ll wait.
I understand that racism is alive and well in our nation, and I believe that racism is a factor in what we’re seeing played out in front of us. But I don’t believe that racism is the root cause. I don’t believe that these shootings are about black and white as much as they are about fear and trust, and living righteously delivers a powerful blow to both.
Police are afraid of black men (“Is he reaching for his wallet or a gun?”). Black men can’t trust the police (“Wait. Why did he really pull me over?”) The water for that firestorm is righteous living, and a boatload of courage. Jesus offers us both.
The Bible says that the perfect love of God leaves no room for the panicked fear of man (my paraphrase of 1 John 4:18). As a follower of Jesus, this means that the more I’m led by the love of God, the less I’m going to be driven by the fear of men. It means that I’ll find myself fully equipped to do the courageous things that could go a long way toward healing our nation. Things like thanking a law enforcement officer. Doing something kind for someone who is different that you. Putting the guns and hands down and picking up the cause of another. Taking the time to understand the story from another person’s perspective.
When I first watched the movie, “The Help,” I cried at the end as Aibileen Clark walked down the street because I felt the pain that white people had put her through and the embarrassment of being, well, white. I had 2 simultaneous realizations: one, I couldn’t fix the past, and two, I wanted to. So badly wanted to.
That’s the power of understanding someone else’s story. It equates their rights with yours, their pain with yours, and their hope with yours. It allows people who are different to understand that the black race, the white race, the Hispanic race or any other race will never be more important than the human race.
That’s the race that Jesus came to win, and I want to love it as courageously as he did.
My prayer is that I’m not the only one.