I am hesitant to write about things like what is happening in Baltimore because I know I am culturally. socio-economically, and geographically distant from what is happening. I’m writing today because I feel compelled to as a pastor. I see so much coming from people like me that looks and sounds nothing like Jesus. For those of us who claim the name of Jesus, he is our King and example. Our common call is to be conformed to him and his ways–not to bow to any particular cultural ideology. We’re not doing that.
The idolatry of order.
Destruction of property is wrong. Violence is wrong. But what about systemic injustice? What about huge numbers of people peacefully protesting out of their anguish and frustration? Is violence only wrong when it is directed at those in power? Listening to the reaction of many who claim to follow Jesus generates the feeling that some feel relieved by the pockets of violence that arose among the protests. It serves as an opportunity to decry everything that’s happening and move 100% of the focus off of the misuse of power and seemingly rampant injustice. Order has been removed! How could you ever support people who mess with order!? Civility and order are good. Violence is not. But for the love of God (and yes, I mean love of God), can we please stop acting like order is the only virtue that matters to God? Let’s look to the Bible we claim has authority and see the beautiful picture of God’s intentions for the world. Does it include violence and chaos? No. (Except when God’s Spirit shakes things up!) Does it include systemic injustice, lack of compassion, hatred, and racism? No! We are making one virtue an idol and bowing before it.
Engaged concern for the poor and oppressed.
Jesus said he came to proclaim good news to the poor and to set the oppressed free. We are proclaiming bad news to the poor and telling the oppressed to deal with it. There are Christians I have seen say that people don’t deserve to be heard because some have perpetrated disorder and violence. What?! We ignore the plight of the poor and oppressed because some people acted wrongly? It just doesn’t make any sense from a Christian perspective. We are the people called to see the image of God in all people. We have the strongest reason of all people to pursue true equality and dignity for everyone. Why are some of us its greatest opponents? We are the ones who should be praying for and pursuing, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The kingdom of heaven is one of holistic peace–not just peace for a few people who are like me. Can we PLEASE listen to Jesus instead of FoxNews or MSNBC?
Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Love should drive us. I would just ask each of us to take a few quiet moments and ask ourselves, “Am I honestly being motivated by love in my current approach?” Not by a shallow love that has no tolerance for pain, but by the sacrificial and enduring love most starkly displayed in God on a cross?
Let’s take these words about love and let them form our responses and thoughts…
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.