Thus says the Lord: “Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.” – Jeremiah 22:3
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18
Lives were prematurely taken away this past week. Needless to say, I’m saddened at the state of our current human existence and it seems as if there’s no end in sight to the violence.
Quite honestly, I’m scared.
I’m simply at a loss for words. I’m left feeling paralyzed contemplating how far we’ve reverted in our quest for freedom. I’m confused.
I’ve found myself wanting to shout, but with no specific person to direct my anger towards. I’ve found myself wanting to cry, but on the shoulders of no specific person. I’ve found myself wanting to do something, anything, but with no specific directive.
I’m simply lost.
The systemic racism toward the black community is horrific and needs to stop. At the same time, retaliation towards law enforcement doesn’t aid in solving the deeper issue either and is definitely not the answer. Violent actions only catalyze more violence and, even, perpetuates the cycle of perpetrating death.
Bottom line: black lives shouldn’t have been taken away and neither should have blue ones.
John, toward the end of his first epistle, hit the nail on the head. Fear is at the core of all the violence we’ve seen throughout history and what we’re seeing today. In this case, it’s fear of the unknown. We’re uneasy with that which we’re ignorant to. And we’re ignorant when we choose not to become familiar with those whom we don’t normally associate with. We’re uncomfortable with “those people”.
Many have argued that the solution to our racial problems is to simply view all of us as one. Many have argued that race shouldn’t matter. If we would all see ourselves as the human race, many have said, then many of life’s problems would cease to exist. Many argue that tolerance is necessary because, at the end of the day, we’re all the same.
The problem with this thinking is that we’re not all the same. We are different from one another. We come from different origins. We’re raised in different cultures and backgrounds. We all have differing experiences.
And that’s ok.
Black is beautiful. White is wonderful. Brown is brilliant. And whatever other color you want to couple a coinciding alliteration with, we are all fearfully and wonderfully made.
It’s perfectly fine that we are distinct from one another. So, rather than suppress everyone’s identity, we should acknowledge and celebrate our differences. Because in celebrating our uniqueness, we move closer toward understanding one another. And, in understanding one another deeper, our ignorance slowly becomes enlightened.
It is, then, in this new paradigm that love for one another becomes possible. And, when love for one another is our reality, then fear is cast out. When love is our driving force, then, as God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah, doing no wrong and no violence toward the stranger is possible.
So now what?
Our church’s vision is to “Create a culture of belonging, as we help people discover God’s love for them, their purpose and their value, on becoming more like Christ.” Our goal is to live missionally. What this means is simply to intentionally live with others in mind.
What if we all looked for ways to cross our streets? Or cross our fences? Or cross over our cubicles? What if we were all intentional about crossing over the borders that divide us and got to know one another? What would it look like if we would drop our preconceived notions about one another?
What would it look like if we simply talked to one another and not at each other?
We have a long way, if not, an even longer way to go. But it’s a start.
Will you join me?