More Perfect – Justice and Injustice in America
Once again I find myself confused, angry, and broken hearted over the racial injustice in our country. Three days ago countless Americans gathered together to celebrate the liberty and justice for all that America has enjoyed for 240 years, only to be reminded in these past two days that that liberty and justice is only for some. There is no “for all” in America. I find myself in the privileged class: the educated, the majority, and the wealthy. I grew up in the 1980s with a golden view of my country. We were the people that saved the world from the evils of fascism and communism. We were the people who believed everyone had a chance. Everyone could wish upon a star, it made no difference who you were. We were the people that had pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps and had done what is truly great. That is a powerful narrative, and to some degree there is a lot of truth in it. But in my safe suburban neighborhood no one was telling me the other side of the American story. This other story I have had to discover on my own through conversations, news outlets, and, yes, even through social media. It is a confusing time in our country; the narratives are not so neat anymore but I am hopeful that in this season of pain and confusion that the Lord will move. I am reminded that my only hope in ever finding true justice and liberty for all has already been secured for me in the Kingdom of Christ. But I am also reminded that for now God has placed me here as an ambassador to that Kingdom, to show this lost and dying world the hope and peace that is only found in Christ. More than being an ambassador to a future land, in Christ we are called to bring that Kingdom to earth now. And in his providence God has placed me in this land at this time to bring wholeness, obedience, love, patience, joy, and peace to this nation, the United States.
I understand the need to express and lament over these two seemingly senseless shootings, much of that is what I have just done. But let me offer some ways forward, a few pathways we can pursue together to actually bring about change and a more perfect union.
- Have more private conversations than public conversations – Remember that I speak as a white guy who grew up in suburbia, and even though it is not as high as it once was my perception of the police, the justice system, and the political system is still pretty high. And whenever I see something that looks like injustice or brutality there is still something in me that wants to say, “Well, I am sure there is some plausible explanation for this.” Friends of mine who did not grow up in the same privilege have a totally different perspective. My friend and fellow pastor Steven Lee recently said, “I don’t know one Black American (or Ethnic minority) who won’t candidly share their own story of race, racism, and injustice, if they are asked. Yes, people onyour Facebook timeline. In humility, make the ask, converse over a meal, listen, ask questions, empathize, repent, pray, resolve, and repeat this again and again. Color-blindness, silence, apathy and the ‘this will pass’ slogan is not the answer. We can learn and grow together!” He is right, make the ask.
- Be kind to police officers – I think we can all hope that the most frustrated group of people in light of these tragedies are police officers. There are so many well-intentioned police officers that truly want to do a good job. They go out every day and work hard and this seemingly never-ending feed of police violence damages the good name those officers should have. The truth is that police officers, both white and minority, can struggle with real racism and anger because they see so many horrible things all the time, every day. This is no excuse for any kind of hatred or racism they may display and we must ask more from people that we entrust with keeping the peace but it is the reality of the world that we live in. So if you want to make a practical and tangible difference, be kind to a police officer. When you see an officer doing something good reward them, remind them that the world is not only full of crime and injustice, but that there still remains a lot of good in the land they are protecting.
- Get involved in the political process – It is a confusing time in America and maybe most especially in terms of her politics. Christians, including myself, can be tempted to run from the political process and wash our hands of the mess in which we find ourselves. We must not do that. Now is the time when we demand justice. Now is the time to write letters to the mayor, to legislators, and to the governor. Now is the time to run for office or support candidates that you believe in. If you desire a more perfect union, get involved in making this union better. The system is only rigged because people are silent and as Christians we are reminded by a fellow fighter for justice, Deitrich Bonhoeffer, that “Silence in the face of evil, is evil.”
- Pray – Prayer is not as abstract as it may seem. Our greatest hope in all of life is that the almighty God would intervene. Get on your knees every night and pray against injustice; have a prayer meeting with other members of your church and pray for your city; and when you see a post that makes you angry or sad look to God in prayer before you do anything else.
On the great day of justice there will be no account left unsettled, no stone unturned, and no evil in the world left to haunt us. And this day is coming as sure as the sun rose this morning. The day is coming when Jesus, the great king of justice will finally bring perfect peace. Until that day, don’t just sit around – engage, make new, make right, make a difference. Jesus is coming but don’t forget he has already come and he is here now through the power of his church, his bride, his people. May his justice reign through us in this place, and for his glory.