To My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I pray this finds you well and trusting in our God more so than ever before.
The events of this past week have left many of us speechless, in tears and horrified that there could be such hatred and violence directed towards one another. Many have asked my thoughts on the current situation and wondered what the response of our church (Integrity Church) would be.
I’ve been in contact with many other pastors, many of them people of color … and I listened and learned as I sought to understand how to best respond in these challenging times. I humbly submit to you some of my thoughts on the subject, many of which I am still processing and seeking God about. I have much to learn even though I was blessed to grow up in a home where we respected all people, regardless of race or color. However that “blessing” has left me a bit “handicapped” in understanding what many people of color have had to endure their entire lives.
A couple of things to prayerfully consider and act upon in these times:
DON’T CATEGORIZE: The vicious act of murder that George Floyd fell victim to from someone who was hired and trained to protect him is inexcusable. The shared guilt of his fellow officers as they looked on and failed to intervene is equally inexcusable. However, they do not reflect all police officers. The vast majority of police officers were adamantly opposed to the way in which Mr. Floyd was publicly murdered in broad daylight. To condemn the entire police department and mischaracterize all of those who serve is wrong, unwarranted and only serves to continue to undermine those placed in authority to protect and serve.
DON’T ASSUME: Don’t assume your choice of news broadcasting is reporting everything accurately. Don’t assume you know how it feels to be discriminated against if you’re not a person of color. Don’t assume one side is completely right and one side is completely wrong. Don’t assume all the facts that you’re hearing or reading is the whole picture. Sadly, one thing we have all discovered is that everyone’s got an angle … and often there is a narrative that one side or the other is trying to promote. Don’t assume that all the violent protestors reflect the voices of all who protest. Don’t assume all police officers are like the ones we saw in Minneapolis and other places. To define an entire group of people based on the actions of some is just another form of racism … and that’s wrong!
CHANGE NEEDS TO HAPPEN: George Floyd was certainly not the first and if change doesn’t happen, it is likely, he won’t be the last. Sadly there is an unfair disadvantage that our black brothers and sisters find themselves up against in our white culture. Additionally, when it comes to being confronted by the police, the posture is different, the assumptions are different, the treatment is different and ultimately the verdicts are different. To be honest, I rejected that notion for years. I wanted to believe it wasn’t true … but the evidence seems to validate that claim. Don’t get me wrong, I am totally pro law enforcement! Some of my closest friends serve and protect our community. I love, pray for and am thankful for every man and woman in blue who puts their lives at risk for our safety. I would never suggest that recent events are a reflection of all our police, however there is enough evidence nationwide that change needs to happen and it needs to come from the highest levels of authority in law enforcement. Sadly, a few “bad apples” wrongly misrepresents an entire department and that is very unfortunate.
PROTESTING IS PERMISSIBLE: It’s what our country began with and it’s what we as protestants recognize as the launch of the Protestant Reformation. It is permissible to have your voice heard. It’s important to stand up for what you believe in. It’s permissible to question those in authority, however when protest moves into the arena of violence and destruction of property the “true cause” that needs to be heard gets lost in the midst of all the anger and violence and it becomes counterproductive to the original cause you’re fighting for. When protesting turns to violence and anger, it becomes a sinful reaction and the cause gets undermined.
WE NEED TO REALLY LISTEN: Sadly it seems everyone is screaming so loudly around us that we can’t hear what’s really being said. I’ve been listening more than ever to my black friends and fellow pastors. I’m learning. I’m humbled and I’m ashamed that it took something of this magnitude to bring to my awareness how horrible things have been for my black brothers and sisters. I have found that in all my talking and explaining why things were the way they were … I wasn’t listening to what was being said. In the words of James, we’re reminded to be slow to speak and quick to listen. (James 1:19-20). May we really listen to those who are hurting today.
TO TOLERATE RACISM IS TO BE GUILTY OF RACISM: I’ve always said that I don’t have a prejudice bone in my body and I truly don’t feel that I do, however, I’ve never really stood up against racism. I’ve never allowed myself to be a voice for justice and righteousness for ALL people. Interestingly, the first judgment that was directed toward the church of Thyatira in Revelation 2 was that they “tolerated” the sin in their city. Not that they “participated” in it, but that they “tolerated” it. Jesus puts the same condemnation on the one who “tolerates” sin as the one who “participates” in it! May that shake us to our core! As a “minister of reconciliation (2 For 5:11-21), I have a responsibility to stand up, to speak up, to defend and to protest when injustices are happening around me. I’ve been guilty of not doing that. I’ve repented to God. I’ve apologized to those I’ve not stood up for … and I won’t be guilty of that again!
KNOW THE REAL ENEMY: Paul writes we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers and rulers of this dark age (Eph. 6:12). The other race (white, black, hispanic, asian, etc) is not the enemy. The Police are not the enemy. The protesters are not the enemy. The real enemy is sin! The real enemy is Satan, who prowls about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1Peter 5:8). He is the author of confusion and disorder. He is the one behind all the hatred. Let’s direct our response to the real enemy.
KNOW WHERE THE REAL BATTLE IS: It is certainly appropriate to protest. It is highly encouraged that you get out and vote. While it is necessary to let your voice be heard… the location of the real battle is in the spirit, in our minds where we decide how we will respond. We are to take captive every thought to obey Christ… obedience or disobedience takes place in the mind before it takes place in the arena of life (2 Cor 10:4-5). It is in our mind that we will allow the Holy Spirit or demonic spirits to greatly influence our thinking and our response to what we see happening. Respond well.
I still have much to learn. There is still so much more to say. Like you, I’m broken hearted over the loss of lives, the injustice towards our black brothers and sisters and assaults against our police officers who show up to work each day to protect us. These times are not easy. The answers are not easy nor are they quick. They go back many years.
I’m a middle-aged white man who has safely lived in suburbia my entire life. I don’t apologize for that, but I recognize that I can’t possibly relate with all the emotions and pain my friends of color are experiencing. But I want to. It’s not that I intentionally ignored what was going on around me, but I must confess, I didn’t intentionally seek to learn more than I knew and I regret that.
It is so important that we seek God and are led by His Spirit so that we respond first and foremost as citizens of heaven and as children of God who anxiously await that glorious day that we will stand before the throne with people from every nation, tribe and tongue and bring glory to our Creator who has made us all in his glorious image (Rev. 7:9)!