Longing for Justice in a World Gone Mad
By now you’ve seen the news of the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery on February 23, 2020, outside Brunswick, Georgia. Travis McMichael, and his father, attempted to make an armed citizen’s arrest of Ahmaud, who they believed was involved in a string of residential burglaries, while he was jogging unarmed. However, an altercation ensued and Ahmaud was shot two times in the chest, resulting in his death. Since the victim was an unarmed African American and the assailants were armed white men this is understandably seen as another sad episode of racial violence in our nation’s history. Additionally, the fact it took three months for the McMichael’s to be charged has rightly raised significant questions about the just handling of this case by local authorities.
So, what are we to do with this news?
FIRST, WE MUST LAMENT
Regardless of the details, this is another deeply troubling manifestation of a world groaning under the weight of sin. This world is not as it should be—it hasn’t been since the fall (Gen. 3) and it won’t be until Jesus returns (Rev. 20-22). Relationships break down. Words are wielded to wound. Power is abused. Sexuality is distorted. Biases exploit. Emotions manipulate. Violence reigns. Justice is perverted. Unarmed joggers, made in the image of God, are shot in broad daylight. Unfortunately, this isn’t new; this is as old as humanity itself. It is right to long for justice amidst a world gone mad.
So, how are we to cope? The Bible’s answer is, in part, to lament. A lament is a passionate expression of grief and sorrow to God. The Psalms are filled with such laments (e.g. Psalm 12, 22, 44, 88). In fact, an entire book of the Bible is called Lamentations, which laments the fall of Jerusalem to foreign invaders. To lament is to express your pain, your struggles, your doubts, and your unresolved questions to God. Start with lament by directing your pain Godward.
SECOND, WE MUST MOURN
The historical relationship between whites and blacks in our country is filled with unconscionable violence and unspeakable injustice. That history serves as an important backdrop for how events, such as this, are perceived. From one angle, this situation could look like an over-zealous attempt-gone-wrong to protect your neighborhood. But, from another angle, it looks like yet another incident of a young unarmed black man who is killed without due process (e.g. Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, et. al.). Was race a factor? We don’t know. But, it certainly doesn’t appear that ‘black lives matter’ when it takes three months and a public video release for the wheels of justice to get set in motion.
Regardless of the details, we must mourn with those who mourn (Rom. 12:15). Not every minority or African American processes such incidents in the same way—just like anyone else. After all, suffering isn’t monolithic. But, we can still mourn that such situations continue to be a reality. We can mourn that some may wonder if they’ll be ok if they go out for a jog. We can mourn that some little boys and girls grow up wondering how they’ll be treated in a majority context. To every African American, we express profound pain and sorrow with you. We join you in this time of mourning and stand with you.
THIRD, WE MUST LEAN IN
These issues didn’t emerge overnight nor will they quickly go away. So, we must take the long view even as we seek to do as much good as we can today. If we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (which is the second greatest commandment, Mark 12:31) that means we must lean into areas we are unfamiliar with out of love for those who are different from us. As a church we continue to work to create a culture where we can lean into these issues honestly and openly, even amidst our many differences. To do so we continue to write articles, preach sermons, offer classes, and recommend reading. We must lean in together as we seek to bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). For example:
Article: Racism is a Radical Evil
Sermons: The Racism-Crushing Gospel, A Gospel Forged People in a Divided Age, God’s New Humanity.
Class: Undivided, Identity Politics and the Death of Christian Unity
Reading: We also recommend reading Divided by Faith and its counterpart, United by Faith.
FOURTH, WE MUST BE PATIENT
It is easy to get caught-up in the emotional and politicized roller coaster of the news cycle. We want to take control. We want to do something. We want justice to prevail. We want leaders to propagate our vision for the world. We want the indifferent to wake up. We want to signal our virtue. We want this fixed now. This must not happen again. Enough, we think, and rightly so. There is much that is good, true and noble about such sentiments.
Yet, if we’re not careful, in our desire for justice, do we become unjust?
In our yearning for peace, do we create division?
In our passion to love, do we become unloving?
In our hope of righting wrongs, do we inadvertently add to them?
In our hunger for justice, are we also hungering for righteousness?
After all, only the poor in spirit, will enter the kingdom (Mt. 5:3)
We must be patient, but patience doesn’t mean passive inactivity. It means prayerful, God-centered, restraint in the face of opposition. It means being quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19). Why? “Because the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James. 1:20). To be patient is to love (1 Cor. 13:4). Patience allows time for more answers to arise. Patience gives space for repentance to occur (Rom. 2:4). Patience is more likely to earn us a hearing with others (Pr. 25:15). We must be patient, even as we act.
JUSTICE IS COMING
Friends, let’s continue to humbly submit ourselves to God when we see events like this unfold before us. We know that politics, blogs, and social-shaming can’t ultimately change the human heart. We know that racial utopia is not possible in this life. We’re not naive. But, neither are we paralyzed. The world is in search of answers; we know who He is. While we long for justice in a world gone mad, we know justice is coming (Rom. 12:19).
We are in this city to know Jesus and to make Him known. Let’s build meaningful relationships with others who are different from us. Let’s engage in the discussion with wisdom, tenderness, and courage. Let’s passionately share the heart-changing, all-satisfying good news of Jesus. Together, let’s be a visible, albeit imperfect, local expression of Jesus’ redeemed and reconciled (!) people to a divided world in desperate need of healing hope.
My heart is with you, my prayers are for you,
Christ is all, always.