Who am I to speak up about such weighty topics as violence, racism, gun control, and systemic injustices that disproportionately affect certain minority groups?
No one. I am just some twenty-something youth minister and would-be blogger. My circle of influence does not extend nearly as far as others. I don’t know how many people this post will reach or how many will take the time to read and ponder my own simple thoughts.
I am no one. And that’s kind of the point. Maybe we need more nobodies speaking up. If we leave all the speaking to those with built in audiences, then very few opinions are going to be genuine and heartfelt. We need more nobodies who are willing to speak their own minds, to voice their own thought-out opinions, and to slowly make a positive impact on the world.
I don’t know much. I don’t know how to fix the problems, but I know there are problems. I don’t know anything about guns, but I know that we can do better at training and equipping and screening. I don’t know how we can ensure that racism never enters into a police officer’s decision to fire his weapon or not. I don’t know how we as a society can band together to end the crippling cycle of poverty that leads to increased drug abuse and crime and high school dropouts. I don’t know how we can prevent mass shootings or hate crimes.
There is a lot that I don’t know.
But there are some things that I do know. And what I do know is pretty valuable toward finding solutions and raising our society out of this dangerous cycle of violence.
I KNOW THAT ALL MEN AND WOMEN ARE CREATED IN THE IMAGE OF GOD.
The story of scripture is clear from the beginning that all humans bear the mark of their Maker. Within each one of us resides the spark of the divine. Our skin, ethnicity, eye color, hair color, socioeconomic status, and pizza preference may be completely different. But there is nothing inherent within anyone that allows me to feel inferior or superior to anyone else. At our core, we are all God’s children.
I KNOW THAT DIVERSITY IS PART OF GOD’S PLAN.
We get a glimpse of heaven in the book of Revelation. And guess who’s there? Men and women from EVERY tribe, tongue, people, and nation are all gathered together praising God. Never once did Jesus turn his back on someone because of their race, ethnicity, background, or occupation. Jesus welcomed all. In fact, the apostle Paul made one of the most amazing statements I’ve ever read – “There is neither slave nor free, male nor female, Jew nor Gentile, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) God wants ALL men EVERYWHERE to know him and to be reconciled to each other.
I KNOW THAT THE SHEDDING OF INNOCENT BLOOD IS PURE EVIL IN THE SIGHT OF GOD.
Some of the harshest words of condemnation are reserved for those who take the life of the innocent. God is in the business of preserving life no matter what.
I KNOW THAT THE FATHERLESS ARE OF PARTICULAR CONCERN TO GOD.
One of the hardest realities young black boys face is growing up without a father. Whether they are in prison or dead or off with some other woman, young minority boys are having to grow up without any fatherly presence in their lives. So they turn to older boys who get them caught up into gangs and drug abuse and violence. As a society we have downplayed the importance of fathers in developing healthy, functioning family systems. Remember, in biblical times an orphan was defined as those who had no living father, even if their mother was still living. All throughout the Old Testament God commands his people to take care of the widows and orphans. James, the brother of Jesus, says that true religion can be found where widows and orphans are cared for.
I KNOW THAT GOD HEARS THE CRIES OF THE OPPRESSED.
I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to be a black man in the US right now. From my point of view everything seemed fine, but events over the last few years have revealed that things are far from fine. There continues to be some systemic racism infecting nearly every aspect of life for minorities. We have come a long way in the last 60 years, but we still have a long way to go. And if you ever wonder whose side God is on, you can bet that he’s on the side of the underdog, of the oppressed, of the disenfranchised.
I KNOW THAT GOD LOVES THE OPPRESSED AND THE OPPRESSOR.
One of the great paradoxes of grace is that God loves the victim AND the perpetrator equally. God loves the people who are oppressed and the people who are oppressing others. No where is this demonstrated more resolutely than on the cross as Jesus cried out, “Father forgive them!” Or when Stephen, the first martyr, petitioned forgiveness for those lobbing stones at his head. Or when God pursued Saul, the persecutor, and poured out his love and mercy on the very man responsible for the deaths of many Christ followers.
I KNOW THAT GOD ENVISIONS A DAY WHEN ALL VIOLENCE WILL END.
One of my favorite images from the prophets is when Isaiah shares a scene from the future God has in store for us: “They will beat their swords into plowshares.” Tools of death are melted down and refashioned into tools of life and produce. Jesus never promotes violence. In fact, he promotes an amazingly nonviolent response to violence by command us to “turn the other cheek.” Only in refusing to participate can we ever hope to end the cycle of violence that began so long ago.
I KNOW THAT THE CHURCH IS SUPPOSED TO BE A BASTION OF JUSTICE AND RECONCILIATION.
Emphasis on the “supposed to be.” We have failed hard at this over the centuries. But we have also had our own victories. When the church is fulfilling her purpose, it is a beautiful sight. The New Testament is clear that we the church have been specifically given a ministry of reconciliation. Bridge building is at the top of our To-Do list. When we get this right, when we welcome everyone with open arms, the world cannot help but take notice and act in kind.
OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN,
HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME.
YOUR KINGDOM COME,
YOUR WILL BE DONE
ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.
GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD.
FORGIVE US OUR SINS
AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO SIN AGAINST US.
AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION,
BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL.
FOR YOURS IS THE KINGDOM
AND THE POWER
AND THE GLORY
FOREVER AND EVER.
COME, LORD JESUS.