As dusk fell on Ferguson, the grand jury’s decision in the Michael Brown case blanketed our nation in the chaotic darkness of conflicting emotions and responses. Anger, resentment and betrayal consumed many while others heralded the verdict as just and right. Some protested peacefully while others chose violence. Some applauded the judgment while others wept.
Yet regardless of your, or my, personal thoughts on this case – of which none of us outside of the courthouse have all of the information – the issue itself has re-opened a wound festering too long and too deep in our land. It is a systemic wound affecting each of us, whether we realize it or not. As Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” We are in this together.
You may not live in Ferguson and the outcome of this case may only exist as a discussion around the water coolers of your life, but each of us in our nation is impacted in some way through the disunity and inequity that continues to smolder underneath the collective conscience of our land. We are still, in many ways, a nation divided. Unfortunately, we are still, in many ways, divided in the church as well.
That is why it is especially critical during these days of tension and uncertainty that we in the body of Christ intentionally seek to bridge that gap. God calls us to unity, choosing to fully express Himself in an environment of unity. Thus, we need to pursue unity in an atmosphere of peace and not in violent retaliation.
What is unity? Unity is oneness of purpose underneath God, where God sets the guidelines by which we live. His most important guideline being, of course, that of love. Scripture tells us that we are to “weep with those who weep,” and that we are to “put on, as God’s chosen ones … compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.” In addition, we are to have “unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”
In these things we can discover the art and skill of listening to each other across racial lines, hearing what lies beneath so many of the emotions that are so tender right now and thus grow in our understanding of one another, hopefully reducing the cyclical violence we have come to know too well.
At all times, but particularly at this time, we each need to pray diligently for our nation’s unity, and for unity in the body of Christ. We are to pray that the differences endowed upon us by our Creator will not divide us, but rather in embracing them, they will highlight Almighty God’s ability to use diversity for His glory and our good.
During this season when sensitivities are high and wounds are fresh, may the church of Jesus Christ lead the way in promoting prayerful peace, comfort and unity, starting in God’s house and then overflowing into the culture. May we truly learn to operate on the biblical principle of oneness, filled with compassion toward the hurting and openness toward those whose opinions and life experiences may differ from our own.
As Ed Stetzer wrote the evening of the Michael Brown verdict, may we all begin to see more clearly the “context to this tragedy … the pain behind the problem … that we might acknowledge that injustice really does exist.” And through this mutual acknowledgment, may we seek God’s hand from heaven to bind our hearts on earth in order to experience the greater manifestation of His kingdom in our churches, and also in our land.
The kingdom solution to racial division and the key to reconciliation in general is to be committed to the truth. In the book of Galatians, Paul called out Peter and Barnabas for their racism against the Gentiles. They had left the truth then, and that’s still our problem now. We don’t have enough people today willing to speak and stand for the truth. Peter was the leader of the disciples. If the leader is not willing to live out the truth, how can we expect the followers to follow it either?
This hits us who teach the truth of God from the pulpit hard because a mist in the pulpit becomes a fog in the pew. The reason racial division and inequity has continued in this country for so long is that the pulpits have been quiet too long.
God has not called the church to make the culture feel good. God has called the church to stand on the truth of His Word. It is a matter of truth. Whenever we abandon the truth, we will never see solutions to the problems in our culture.
It is important that the leaders in the body of Christ today be held accountable to speak to this matter because its’ continuance is affecting all of us as we bear the burdens of the systemic effects of racial division throughout our land. We must come together as leaders to repent and forgive one another and strategize together how we can best impact our communities and our nation for Christ and His kingdom.