For the past several years, I haven’t been very active on social media. Sure, I spend time on it; I read a lot of what other people post, and even occasionally share something I think is interesting or helpful. However, I rarely make any original contributions of my own – and more often than not, I think that decision has served me (and probably lots of other people) well.
So, whenever a major cultural event happens – the kind where ANYONE in ANY position of authority ANYWHERE is expected to make some sort of “public statement” – I find myself feeling a bit uncomfortable; a bit “out of my element”.
It’s not that I don’t have thoughts, opinions, or concerns (I do). More than anything, I’m simply not a fan of the pressure in our day and age for “leaders” of various institutions to speak publicly about EVERY story on the news. On top of that, I usually don’t have much to say that others haven’t already said (and have already said it better than I could). And finally, I’m realistic about the fact that I don’t have much of a “platform”. I don’t fancy myself an “influencer”, “thought leader”, “visionary” or “public figure”. I’m the pastor of a small church in a Midwestern suburb; that’s about the extent of my “reach” (and honestly, I’m content with that).
However, every once in a while, I recognize the need to speak up about a particularly significant current event. That being said – as I mentioned above – I offer these thoughts as a pastor speaking to my church; nothing more, and nothing less. So, here it goes:
COVID-19 – the crisis that has dominated our screens, commanded our attention during every waking hour, and haunted our dreams for the past three months – had its thunder stolen over the past week. Our nation’s attention has turned to the widespread anger, sorrow, and unrest following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
I’m no law enforcement expert, but the video appears to expose negligence, poor training, and incompetence (at best) on the part of the now infamous Minneapolis police officer. At worst, it appears to expose an utter disregard for human life, maliciousness, and evil. The few law enforcement experts I know – those most qualified to judge the officer’s actions in the video – are horrified and ashamed of what they saw from one of their own.
Ultimately, it will be up to those who enforce our nation’s laws to achieve justice in this case. A man created in God’s image was murdered – and while nothing can bring him back now, there must be consequences for those who committed the crime. Because our system of laws has not always been appropriately applied (after all, the people we entrust it to are sinners), there is a place for public pressure on those in positions of authority to ensure that justice is done (not only in this one case, but in any similar cases that follow). At their best, that’s what protests seek to accomplish; they’re a reminder to those in power that the world is watching, and that the world expects them to fulfill their responsibilities. One can only hope and pray that if justice is achieved in this high profile case, any future bad actors will think twice before they commit the same kind of crime against someone else that was committed against George Floyd (and far too many like him in the past).
But again, I’m a pastor of a small, Midwestern church; I’m not a pundit, legal authority, or social commentator. So, I want to shift my attention to the pastoral side of things; namely: “What can we (as in, the believers at Prairie View Christian Church) do about this?”
Some of us may join in a protest. Some of us may post thoughts on social media. Some of us may write to lawmakers. By God’s grace, some of us may step back, examine ourselves, discover that the sin of racism lurks in our own hearts, and repent. Some of us may simply pray.
When done peacefully, wisely, and under the guidance of God’s Word, these are all appropriate steps to take at a time like this. But there are some things ALL of God’s people should do (not just in response to this situation, but at all times):
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
William H. McRaven (a retired Navy Seal) is well-known for his guidance: “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” Perhaps in other words: if you want to have a positive impact on the world, start at home. Start small. That may not sound heroic, revolutionary, or romantic enough for the ambitious tastes of some; this approach likely won’t get your name in the history books. But it’s a good place to begin. And for Christians, that “start at home” approach looks something like Micah 6:8.
Realistically, few (if any) of us at Prairie View Christian Church will have a substantive, large-scale impact on the problem of racism in America, criminal justice reform, or whatever other deep cultural and political changes need to occur. I don’t say that to rain on anyone’s “change the world” parade; I’m simply acknowledging that the majority of us simply don’t have (and never will have) that kind of clout.
But what can we do? We can figuratively “make our beds”. We can start at home. We can start small. We can do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God in our own personal lives. By the power of the Holy Spirit, and with the guidance of God’s Word, believers like us – our sins covered by the broken body and shed blood of Christ, adopted as God’s children, and enlisted as God’s servants – are being transformed, shaped, and matured to be holy people. And holy people do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.
I have no influence over whether or not the man who killed George Floyd is brought to justice. But I can treat the people I encounter today justly, fairly, and even – gulp – graciously. I can’t force anyone around me (except MAYBE my kids) to be kind to others. But I can be kind to others. (And by the way, “kindness” goes deeper than “niceness”. “Kindness” seeks the good of someone else, even at personal cost; “niceness” is often just decorum, or keeping up appearances.) I don’t have the power to foster an attitude of humility across our nation. But I can pursue humility myself by recognizing that I don’t have all the right answers, listening to others, and learning from others.
And of course, we can point peoples’ eyes to the one man who perfectly, consistently, and completely “walked humbly with (his) God”, because he IS God: Jesus Christ. Jesus offers us not only reconciliation with God; he is a source of reconciliation between believers right now.
Again, I don’t pretend to have all the right words to say about such an incredibly difficult, complex, and heated subject. I’m just a relatively unknown pastor speaking to his relatively unknown church. But I am confident in saying that if the believers at Prairie View Christian Church focus on faithfully obeying Micah 6:8 in our own spheres of influence – if we commit to doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with our God in our own personal lives – we just might be able to put a tiny dent in a world of injustice, unkindness, and arrogant rejection of God.
May we do this by God’s grace, for God’s glory, and for the good of God’s world. And may we do this looking forward to Christ’s return – when justice, kindness, and humility will win the day – and we will walk in God’s presence in peace.