I’m on somewhat of a sabbatical so I wasn’t going to put up any new posts until after the new year. But I want to weigh in on the current tensions over Ferguson with what I believe is a Christian response to such heartbreaking turmoil. And not just because I’m a heavily opinionated Bible thumper with a strong conviction that the Bible should have the final say on everything. This is more so for my friends and family who are believers but aren’t so sure what to make of all this.
Should the Christian respond to political tensions or upheavals like what is going on in Ferguson? If so, how? If not then what is the most Christian way to stay silent? What would be the most proper response for a Christian to such troubling and sensitive issues?
The answers to these questions are honestly quite simple. The hard part is applying the answers to our lives. Everything for the Christian begins and ends at the cross. And at the cross all we see is grace and love. As I’m observing the response of fellow christians and pastors to the situation I’m left wondering, “Where is the love of Christ and the grace of God in how we are responding?”
Silence is not an option. Especially not for the pastor. The pastor is a shepherd to the sheep and right now the sheep are expressing very unloving attitudes toward one side or the other. It is the shepherd’s job to call the pepole back to the way of the cross. I’m very disappointed in some of my fellow pastors who are encouraging hate, lawlessness, misunderstanding and calling their people to take a stand on one side or the other.
Dear christians, you must remember that you are not citizens of this world. We are aliens and strangers in this world. This world is not out home. Our side is not to be the side of one cause or the other. Our place is to take up the cause on Christ’s side and bring that cause to bear on all things.
To my fellow pastors who are encouraging their people to respond with love, grace, empathy, understanding and prayer I applaud you and am thankful to God for you. The rest of you should just be ashamed of yourself. Sorry I don’t know how to season my words to make you feel good about failing to use this opportunity to point your people to Christ.
The “Al Sharpton” response is simply not suitable for a man of significant spiritual influence whom others look to for guidance. I watched his press conference and while he may be able to help curtail the violence he speaks in such a way that encourages hate and darkness will not drive out darkness. If we respond like this dear pastors we will only lead our people to ruin.
As for the Christian, your duty isn’t all that different. Use this opportunity to emulate Christ and let the love of God season your perspective on everything. I saw one brother post, “I don’t live in Ferguson but if I did I’d help them burn the bitch to the ground.” Where is Christ in these attitudes? Where is Christ in our hearts? Here are just a few practical thoughts.
Pray For Ferguson
Actually pray for the people of Ferguson. Don’t just let it be some hash tag you use on social media. Posting about prayer is not the same as praying. In the Roman Catholic Church they light candles as a form of prayer. They’ve got a candle for eveything. Whatever you need you just find the candle for that need, light it up and up goes your prayer.
Now, in the evangelical culture we’ve got hashtags and we use them much like the Catholics use their candles. I think we honestly believe if we hash tag something, or post about prayer, or put a picture up about prayer that we have somehow prayed without having to actually pray.
Stop today and actually take some time to pray for Ferguson. And not just the side that you think is right. Pray for everyone in Ferguson. Especially the ones you feel are wrong. If you are not praying for them then you have no business talking about them. That goes for pretty much everything in the Christian life.
Prayer produces empathy. When we talk about people or situations which we have not prayed about we will do so from the bias of our own hearts. But something changes when we pray for others. Our judgmental attitudes will get wasted away the more we pray for them.
Whether it’s the rioters whom we pass off as ignorant, the cops whom we distrust, the justice system we think is corrupt, or just the guy at work who gets on your nerves. It is a very touchy situation in Ferguson and the issues are very real. But we cannot see any of it or the people involved as God would want us to without empathy for all of them.
Remember The People
This is more than just an issue of racial tension or justice. This is people. Pause for a second to think about the people involved as people. The prosecutor you disagree with… a person. The grand jury you think was rigged or bias… people. The cops you’re feeling ill will towards… people. The rioters you have condemned for their actions… people.
They are all people created in the image of God just like you and I. They are normal people with jobs and families. They are people to whom Christ would say, “Come unto me all of you who are weary and heavy laden.” People whom God loves just as much as anyone else. People for whom Christ died just as much as you and me. When we dehumanize the situation by refusing to think of the people involved all we accomplish is the further perpetuating of the tensions involved.
Don’t Take Sides
This will be the hardest for all of us. Myself included. There is so much more that could be said as far as building a Christian response to Ferguson but I’ll close with these thoughts. If you are a Christ follower your side in any and every situation in life is the side of Christ.
Therfore, as a Christian, unless you can say beyond a shadow of doubt that you know which side Christ would take you have no business taking one side or the other. Fight for a furtherment of the gospel through the tensions of our society if you’re going to fight for anything. Fight to bring the love of God and the hope of the gospel to bear down on this situation if you must fight.
If Ferguson is anything it is a reminder that we live in a world overcome by sin and in desperate need of a Savior. Any wrong that was committed in Ferguson, whether by Mike Brown, the office who shot him, the prosecuter, the grand jury, the police or the rioters is simply a symptom of the real problem. Sin.
I pray my brothers and sisters that you will have hearts overcome with love for everyone in Ferguson. I pray dear pastors that you will guide your flocks in the way of love. I pray church that we will see the problem for what it is and stand up to bring the gospel of hope to bear down on this world that is hopeless without it.
We cannot talk with hate in our hearts about those whom we believe acted out of hate. Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Be not overcome with evil but overcome evil with good.
– Joseph Sterling
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