“…and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation…” – Acts 17:26 (NASB)
So, here we are again.
Less than a year removed from the riots, shootings and looting that followed the killing of 18-year old Michael Brown by now-former Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson, and similar protests are now happening in and around Baltimore, Maryland in response to the death of 25-year old Freddie Gray, a black man (as was Brown), allegedly at the hands of six Baltimore police officers.
I hesitate to add to the increasing number of voices chiming in about this latest round of racial unrest in our nation, nevertheless I am compelled to do so given the personal frustration I feel that many of these voices are, in my opinion, completely missing what I believe to be a much larger issue than that which is being promoted by the protesters, and sensationalized by the mainstream media, as organized police brutality against black men in America.
As far as I’m concerned, neither the killing of Michael Brown nor Freddie Gray nor Eric Garner, for that matter, point to any “systematic effort” on the part of police to murder black men. That such a thing could be carried out with impunity seems too ridiculous to fathom, yet many people remain convinced this is exactly what is happening.
The aforementioned incidents, and any others that may have even the slightest appearance of “police brutality”, should be judged and subsequently adjudicated, if warranted, on the merits of each individual situation, not generalized or broad-brushed as something it is not simply because a police officer and a black man happen to be involved.
Our desire that those who are in positions of authority would exercise that authority with fairness and equity, should be rooted in the divine righteousness and justice of God who sovereignly places people who wield such power in those authoritative positions (Romans 13:1b).
This is not to imply or infer that blacks, or any other race of people, should blindly submit to or endure unjust treatment by the government, or those who represent it, including police officers. In such instances obedience to God trumps all. So, before someone gets it twisted, no, I am neither proffering nor advocating a “By-and-By” theology where blacks are supposed to just be doormats to the authorities until Jesus returns.
The point I’m trying to make is our quest for justice must itself be a just quest.
The pursuit of justice cannot be tainted by a sense in which the supposed righteous anger of blacks is ignited only by the reality that the victim of the injustice is black.
I say “supposed” only because the kind of selective indignation I’m seeing now in Baltimore with Freddie Gray, is no different from what I’ve previously observed in Ferguson with Michael Brown and in New York City with Eric Garner, in that our “anger”, such as it is, seems situational, occasional, and selective.
Let me get real with you, okay?
Though some may deny it, it is primarily because Brown, Garner and Gray were black that thousands of black people (along with countless opportunistic bandwagoners) in Ferguson, New York, Baltimore, and other cities across the country, rioted and looted in “protest” over what happened to them while in the custody of police.
Speaking only for myself, I cannot help believing if either of these men were white or Hispanic or Asian, that the vociferous reverberations proceeding from the mouths of those who constitute the so-called “black community” in these cities would have been much less resounding.
Injustice is injustice. Period.
To view justice through a paradigm of partiality of any kind, whether it is race or some other physical qualifier, is to reject any claim to having the moral authority to demand such rectification, since that authority has its origins in the God who Himself shows no partiality,
“You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD. You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall incur no sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.” – Leviticus 19:15-18
Since God judges without prejudice, it behooves us as Christians to view matters of injustice, whether perceived or real, without bias since it is from this same God that each of us derives the physical characteristics – our race, our ethnicity, and even our nationality – that contribute to making us the unique persons we are.
That I am a black man living in America is all by God’s sovereign doing. I had absolutely nothing to do with it. Nothing at all.
As the text in Acts 17 declares, it is God alone who sovereignly ordained my existence on this earth. Before I was ever conceived God knew who I was, and He created me with all the physical attributes I possess. As such, I have absolutely no right whatsoever to leverage my “blackness”, if you will, as if it were some kind of self-created or self-caused attribute of which I can and should boast. To be so pretentious is the height of arrogance and pride, especially when we consider that what matters most to God is whether my heart is dark not my skin.
But, hey, leave it to us with our sinful nature to take a God-ordained characteristic and use it to pit ourselves against one another. Then, again, we shouldn’t really be all that surprised, I guess, because being the depraved sinners we are, it’s just how we roll.
As Christians, as followers of the one true God, our passion for justice must not be motivated by a common racial affinity, but by the premise that God’s divine standard of righteousness has been transgressed.
That we continue to fall short of God’s standard of righteousness is unrighteousness defined, and it is our innate state of unrighteousness that gives rise to injustice. With this truth in mind, we cannot demand that the State act more righteously towards us apart from purposing in our own heart to become more righteous (not more religious) as well since, ultimately, it is we who, for better or worse, comprise the State.
Our problem, and it is no small one, is that we cannot arrive at this standard of righteousness in and of ourselves, though in our futility we continue to try, believing naively that changing laws somehow changes hearts.
Try as we might, there is no getting around the fact that justice, regardless how heinous or nefarious the offense by which it is sought, is inexorably and eternally tied to the righteousness of God. As such, our thirst for justice must be derived from and filtered through a Spirit-filled desire to see God’s standard of righteousness applied to all people not just certain ones.
If our suffering is to be at all redemptive, which is the objective for the Christian, a righteous cause must be undertaken righteously.
It is hypocritical, to say the least, that we are so impassioned at the unqualified notion that black men in America are being methodically eliminated by police, when it is unarguable that millions of black children are murdered each year in abortion clinics that have been strategically and deliberately placed in the very communities from which these protestations emanate.
Where are the protests?
Where are the hashtags?
In our pursuit of justice we must endeavor to assess the state of our own heart to determine if our motives are in fact pure. If not, then, we must be willing to confess and repent because such an attitude is sin. There is no other way to put it. Not even the most egregious of injustices exempts us from our obligation to Christ and His gospel.
To be righteously indignant is one thing. To be racially indignant is another matter altogether.
One attitude is Christlike. The other is not.
It’s that simple.
The only question is, which of these two attitudes describes you?
“…and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” – 1 Peter 2:23
Think about it.
Our Demand Is Simple: Stop Killing Us – New York Times Magazine