Many of you know that my father is a Crime Scene Investigator for the Greensboro Police Department. He no longer goes to the scenes of burglaries, assaults, drug raids, property crimes, or even armed robberies. He – and five others – almost exclusively investigate the scenes of homicides. He was “on call” from June 8 to June 22, during which he was called to four scenes. Of the four dead, three were black people. In his line of work, over half of the scenes have black persons as both the victim(s) and suspected perpetrator(s). Time and time again he tells me what he can about the current case, and time and time again I can muster little beyond “it’s so sad.”
I am not 100% sure why the Lord laid on my heart to write that, but it may be to further emphasize my next illustration. If a cluster of houses were in a particular locale, and one of them were ablaze, does anyone really believe that fire fighters would argue among themselves whether or not “all houses matter”? Certainly not! They would all agree that the house on fire matters very much...and they would rush – willing to sacrifice their own life and limb – to improve the condition of that house. Perhaps the image of fire is a bit “on the nose,” but anyone that has watched the news in June would acknowledge that these United States are in turmoil. It would be difficult for anyone to claim that any neighborhood is in turmoil more so than those in which black people live.
I don't believe that any disciple of the Lord Jesus would argue against the sentiment: black lives matter. In fact, I believe that all of you would join me in rebuking anyone that would argue the contrary! Before we distract ourselves, dismiss the sentiment, and assume black lives matter just as much to the next person as they matter to us Christians, let's also acknowledge that people exist [however few] who genuinely believe that black lives matter less than other lives. Furthermore, let’s acknowledge that we have black neighbors – including brothers and sisters in Christ – who genuinely believe that their lives have mattered less than others’ to some people. This should grieve us, because it grieves God. It is not only reasonable, but good, for us to full-throatedly agree with the sentiments of this phrase. We can do so comfortably while not endorsing the Black Lives Matter organization. Some of the proposals within this socio-political movement undermine the fabric of our country and stand in direct opposition to the principles of the Word of God (to learn more, a great resource is the Thursday, June 18 episode of The Briefing podcast, hosted by Dr. Albert Mohler of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary).
It should be obvious that we soundly condemn riots, the destruction of public or private property, and other criminal behavior. Unfortunately lost in the noise of the mob, I heard an excellent point on the news last week. It was made by a fellow pastor and nearly made me weep. He said ‘much of this country values material things more than the black life.’ The fact that he, or anyone else, feel that way breaks my heart. The more I thought about it, the more I found it a difficult statement with which to argue. I know that you agree with me: I hope he’s wrong; I really do. The more I think about it though, the more I agree with him. I think we live in a world where “stuff” matters just as much or more than people – people made in the image of our God! May God have mercy upon us – individuals, as a country, the Church – for not rightly valuing human life: disabled, black, elderly, unborn!
Two months ago, I had a great conversation with a non-Christian about the Church’s role in public discourse. In it, I said “as citizens of the Kingdom of God, we should be the best citizens this republic has.” Many of you have probably heard me say something similar in the past. This biblical truth does not necessarily equate with us being the most compliant citizens. I believe strongly that we can speak clearly and passionately on issues where religious liberty and biblical morality are infringed or jeopardized. I also believe that when it comes to improving the condition of our neighbor, we can affect change. In rare circumstances, I believe that civil disobedience is a reasonable recourse.
What, then, shall we do? Is this one of those circumstances? Honestly, I do not know, but it very well may be. As a public policy analyst [class of 2009; go Tar Heels!], I am not sure that the most effective and efficient tactics are currently being used to affect systemic changes in our society. I’m not even sure what changes need to be made. Five things I do know for sure. First, substance is more important to me than symbolism. If I am ever in the street locking arms [after this corona virus goes away] with a black brother, it would only come after hours of prayer on our knees and private dialogue over coffee. I am committed to doing just this in the months ahead, because I believe personal relationships to be more important than the attention of others. Second, James 1:19 is a guide. May the Lord forgive me for the many times I fail to first listen, empathize, love a neighbor, and think before opening my fat mouth.
Third, the Christian should reject injustice, rebuke the unjust, and cry out for justice. As I said in my five-minute video on June 5, we would all do well to clarify a scriptural definition of justice, and re-align ourselves with God as the source of justice. As we join Him in His hatred of sin and disobedience, it will also make us first cry out for mercy. Fourth, woe to the believer that does harm to the Kingdom. In public discourse, what we say can endanger our Christian witness. How we say it can endanger our witness even more. Let us take much care to appreciate nuance and specificity, apply biblical principles faithfully, police our own “team”, season our speech with respect, and saturate others with love when we engage in political debate and type things on social media. Convenient or not, we are the Christ’s ambassadors, and this pagan world will not be so gracious as to distinguish our biblically rooted convictions from our political opinions or our musings on cultural matters. Fifth, I know who can fix this. Jesus of Nazareth shed sinless blood to redeem our sorry souls from the pit of hell to which we condemned ourselves. This precious Messiah alone can restore our broken world and all its subsequent parts. By the grace of God we heard this good message of salvation. He gave us the gift of faith, invited us into His Kingdom, and sent us out as messengers of this same truth. As heralds of this message, if we cry out “no justice, no peace”, we know what it really means, and we should be clear about that. We must all cry out “repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” May we be faithful stewards of this good news of salvation. May we never dillute it, may we never keep it to ourselves, and may we rest in the assurance that God alone can fix, fix all of it.
red and yellow, black and white,
they are precious in His sight;
Jesus loves the little children of the world!
Rev. Andrew J. Reynolds