If you’ve been woke at any point this week you likely have been shocked, angered, frightened, outraged, saddened, disillusioned or simply confused by the heart wrenching loss of life of civilians and police officers. These occurrences are all too familiar and all too frequent. Increasingly more people are agreeing with what has long been suspected – race plays a significant role in the likelihood of a police stop resulting in death in America. For example, Missouri governor Dayton made the following remarks after the utter tragic last breaths of Philando Castile went viral: “Would this have happened if those passengers, the driver and the passengers, were white…I don’t think it would have. … I think all of us in Minnesota are forced to confront that this kind of racism exists.”
Now, what do we do? We’ve heard that the church must not remain silent at this time, but what does it say? How do we act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8) at this time? What do you and I offer to others weighed down by grief, rage, hopelessness and/or disbelief? What do we offer to those who after watching and re-watching the deaths of two men in two days and five officers in a few hours? What do we make of our blessed technology, which allows these events to be documented while this same technology democratizes the experience of trauma? Where do we turn before and after watching what is far more troubling than any reality TV programming ever imagined? Where do we find comfort and a hope that sustains?
For those who are people of the book, we know that before we check Instagram or Facebook, God invites us to come and reason with him. Before we react to an insensitive remark with even greater insensitivity we may be comforted by this one hope – God loves the world and us. His word is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit and everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:12-13).
Before we throw America away with the bath water, we are consoled by this triumph – God is not surprised by these events and desires that His word and His call continue to advance even at such a time as this.
With that assurance, I offer here not a remedy for how to heal a wound that has been festering for centuries. But instead, I offer a few passages from which we glean our Father’s justice-loving heart (Isaiah 61:8) and directives for who we are and how we might respond Biblically during these troubling times.
Understanding God’s Heart
God hates injustice: There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community. - Proverbs 6:16-19 (NIV)
Who You are and Called to be Even at this Time
The salt and light of the world: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:13-14 (NIV)
Ministers of reconciliation: All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. - 2 Corinthians 5:18 - 19 (NIV)
Children of God: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed…in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. – Romans 8:18-21 (NIV)
Biblical examples of Responding to Bleak Periods in History
Esther: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” – Esther 4:13-14 (NIV)
Habakkuk (this short book is so relevant to our current context. Here are few snippets): How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. - Habakkuk 1:1-4 (NIV)
Then the Lord replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.
For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. - Habakkuk 2: 1 -3 (NIV)
Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy…Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines… yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. - Habakkuk: 1-3; 17-18 (NIV)
Jehosophat: Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him…Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” - 2 Chronicles 3b – 12 (NIV)
So what? What can you do? Something. Like the disciples in Mark 6:30 - 44, when tempted to point to look to someone else to address the hunger of the crowd surrounding them, Jesus challenged them to take a stand and get personally involved. You do it.
What you may choose may feel totally inadequate – praying with friends, writing poems/songs/raps, starting a Bible Study on justice, reconciliation or forgiveness, organizing a voter registration drive, drawing, sharing honest yet hopeful messages related to these events on social media, starting a book club, asking your local church to get involved and/or host discussion groups related to these events, writing to your local elected official about the importance of these issues, talking to younger youth to help them reason through what is fully unreasonable. However, you have no idea what a small mustard-seed step may grow into.
How you choose to respond will almost certainly resonate and excite others in your circle and beyond. Take a step of faith and simply send out a text or post a status that invites others to meet you on Saturday afternoon at a neighborhood spot to talk about what you can do together. You’ll be amazed how community is forged and change is initiated through the most unlikely circumstances. The Civil Rights Era demonstrates that lasting change is won on the shores of deep-rooted community willing to take small yet heroic steps forward.
Are you taking that step? Do you know anyone who has taken that step to respond to injustice in your hometown or community? We’d love to hear from you and share your own experiences of what you’re doing and what others you know are doing to respond! Even attending an event or meet up that someone else has organized is a response!
No matter what tomorrow’s headlines will be, we encourage you to look to God’s word before and after Instagram trusting in the timeless assurance – “Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him” (2 Samuel 14:14 NIV).
We encourage you to do something in love and led by the Holy Spirit – by beginning or finding someone who has. We know how the story will end – He who was and is to come will return and what we shall be has not been made known but we know that we shall be like Him.
Until that day we’re praying for you, your efforts and our nation! So, dear friends, continue to do good (1 Peter 4:19).
Amelia E. Thompson loves to see God create possibility out of what appears to be impossible. She became a Christian during her sophomore year in college. She and friends developed We Write Life into a platform for building community around issues of justice, reconciliation and forgiveness. Thanks to God’s guidance and kindness, she completed studies at Vassar College and St. John’s University and is completing a certificate in Youth and Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary.