Our nation continues to watch events unfold in Ferguson, Missouri over the shooting of Michael Brown. Many are outraged at another death of a black youth at the hands of white police. Some in their outrage looted and vandalized stores. Others peacefully gathered and marched. Images of tear gas, tanks and police in riot gear filled the television like echoes from the 60’s. Missing in the foray is the church. Silent is the voice of a Dr. King who would eloquently state, “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.”
Many are crying out like Malachi, “Where is the God of justice?” Mal. 2:17. Or like the Psalmist claim, “Who will stand up for me against evildoers?…They crush your people, Lord, hurting those you claim as your own. They kill widows and foreigners and murder orphans. ‘The Lord isn’t looking,’ they say, ‘and besides the God of Israel (America) doesn’t care.” Ps. 94: 16, 5-7. Our African American friends see not only a crisis of justice, but a crisis of faith.
Who cares about justice for Michael Brown? Does God? Does His church? Do His people? And what does that mean? Part of the challenge is we are looking for justice in the wrong places. I write in the book Gospel Justice that our nation holds up the image of the Greek goddess Themis as a symbol of justice—a blindfolded woman holding balanced scales with a sword at her side. But for many without the help of an advocate, the scales aren’t balanced. Cases drag on in court for seemingly no reason, and justice is anything but a swift sword. And justice often peeks under the blindfold to look at race and economic status. If justice is blind, it is blind to the real needs of people.
But true justice is not found in a blindfolded Greek goddess, but in a real God who gives sight to the blind. Justice is not found in a sword, but in the Word of God, which is sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). And justice is not found in a woman holding scales, but in the Man who removes scales from eyes and who, with arms outstretched on a cross, bore the sins of the world that all who were willing might believe and receive His promises.
Dr. King wisely finished his statement above with, “Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” For some of my white friends it is easy to hate the rage of African Americans. So another kid was shot. Tragic, but riot worthy? For my African American friends it can be easy to hate the apparent apathy of the church or attitudes of some white people. Both are wrong. Continuing to hate and point fingers only creates a greater divide. So what should we do?
First, let’s recognize that God has not lost control of this broken world. He sees and He acts. Justice belongs to our God. Recognizing that God desires we reflect His heart, let’s move forward in love as we address the systems that unjustly give rise to a shoot first and ask questions second mentality.
Second, let’s listen. When one part of the body of Christ suffers, all parts suffer. Many of our African American brothers and sisters are suffering. Suffer with them. Job’s friends got the first seven days of their vigil with him right. They just sat silently with him sharing in his suffering. Let’s be quick to listen and slow to speak. After all when Job’s friends did open their mouths and do a lot of blame casting, not only did that not help but it aroused the anger of a just God.
Third, let’s recognize the realities of racism. While I do not know what happened in Ferguson, I do know the statistics of cops shooting black kids is simply not acceptable.
Finally, as Christ followers let’s stand for justice. Who cares about justice for Michael Brown? We do! Because we stand for justice for all people. We understand justice is rooted in the Kingdom of God. We understand justice involves restoring what is broken in race relations, justice systems, and fallen people. We want to see all that restored through the hope of the gospel found in Jesus. Let’s not be silent. Rather let’s hear the words of the King of justice as we work for justice and
Go and do likewise!