Though more details are sure to come, it seems apparent that a man made in God’s image has died unjustly at the hands of a Minneapolis Police Officer. This has attracted national attention and stirred up the ethnic conflict and pain we already live with. I confess that when I see someone in my position (a young, white pastor in a different State with no personal knowledge of the persons involved) try to “weigh in”, I get a little irritated. “Weighing in” online can quickly become the “new righteousness” and I want none of that false gospel. Christ alone saves, not internet righteousness.
But, I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t think it was important to share something I sincerely believed to be true and helpful. Also, as a pastor, I have a responsibility to my church. So, I’d be lazy and neglectful if I didn’t provide some counsel to the church I love. Some pastors might avoid thinking about these things because thinking through this thing looks, suspiciously, like work. May I not be one of those. Lord help me.
Let’s do it this way. Let’s just ask ourselves:
What do we need to tell ourselves because of this tragedy (and the tragedies surrounding it). Here’s a start:
1. We should groan and long for a new heaven and earth where righteousness dwells
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:18-21 ESV)
Some of our trouble and impatience with issues like this is that we are uncomfortable with grief. We want it gone faster than Marvin K. Mooney and we don’t care how rude we must be in order for it to “go away”. But, the Bible tells us (frequently) to pause and grieve. Weep with those who weep. And weep with a resolve to turn those teary eyes to the new creation purchased by the cross and resurrection of Jesus.
30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31 ESV)
2. Let us not deny that ethnic strife is still a problem
This is worth acknowledging because we can’t blame the media and politicians for everything. We may differ about whether they play a role, or how much of a role that they play. But we don’t want to create an answer to this problem that absolves us of sin automatically. We want to be a little suspicious of answers that absolve us as a matter of course. Ethnic prejudice may not be a problem in your personal life. I think grace demands that we at least consider that a possibility. But, we want to remain soft to the reality that we have blindspots when it comes to other ethnicities or cultures.
12 Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:12-14 ESV)
3. Prejudices work in both directions
Another problem to look out for is prejudice in both directions. For example, let us say that we are soundly convinced that Derek Chauvin is guilty as sin. We are convinced that, not only did he do intentional harm, but also that his actions were motivated by racism. But, let’s also say that we’re very thorough and want to make sure Mr. Chauvin is indicted for absolutely everything he did, down to the very bottom. In getting to the very bottom we have to ask, “Did he know for sure that he was applying too much pressure? Is this suppression tactic standard operating procedure? What was George arrested for in the first place? Is there anything else that would indict Mr. Chauvin of being racist?”
Remember. We’re convinced he was guilty, guilty, guilty. But we have to ask. Now, what happens when you ask? Immediately, it’s “Hatfield cats and McCoy dogs” all over the place. The indignation flies like candy at a parade. “How can you even ask that, you bigot?”
Well, if we can’t even ask, then prejudice is going both ways and that’s also unjust.
The one who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him. (Proverbs 18:17)
4. Doing better is not the answer
I’ve been hearing this a lot. I recently heard a sports radio personality sincerely monologue for many precious airtime minutes about his desire to “do better” when it comes to issues like this. You’ve probably seen similar sentiments online or heard them in conversation.
I want to be careful here but this is profoundly wrong-headed. Do we honestly think that no one has thought of that before? Golly, the answer’s been on the tip of my nose all along. Do better. Thank you Tony Robbins. God bless America.
Before I get less careful, here’s what I mean. The hope of mankind is not that we can do better. The hope of mankind is that a better man has already done better.
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 ButGod chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)
So, what I don’t mean is that we can’t “do more good”. But, what I do mean is that all our good is a gift of Christ. We must receive the gift of Christ. We must be recipients of grace. We must boast in the Lord Jesus. He did better so that we could be set free and set apart for good works. Not because we are or can be better but because Christ was better for us. That is the only way to be freed up for meaningful and lasting good works.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)
5. The kingdom of heaven is at hand
Jesus’ first sermon in Matthew’s gospel is simply, “Repent. For the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In other words, Jesus rules. He authoritatively reveals God’s will, word and nature. He exercises dominion over every spiritual power. He heals at will. Calms storms with a word. Feeds the multitudes. Forgives sin. Sees the heart. He rules, even over sin and death. That is happening now. The King is on his throne. The resurrection that Jesus accomplished is our only hope for those who die from injustice. The resurrected Judge is the reason why sinners ought to repent. The crucified Savior is the one great reason why every sinner can be saved. So, get over yourself and come to Jesus.