Black Lives Matter Too

The police shootings in downtown Dallas occurred a mere 30 miles from our home, and yet in some ways they took place in another world at least as far away as Baton Rouge or Minneapolis. There will be a time for serious engagement and debate on justice, the accountability of police, gun control, racism, and whether a just society can be sustained when the rule of law, morals, and accountability have been rejected. But that time is not today. Rather than using these tragedies to further our own agenda I suggest we pause and reflect. The articles below don’t say all that needs to be said, but for me, living in suburbia, they are a good place to start.

How To Respond?

In the face of injustice it can be difficult to know how to respond. This article at least tells us where to start. I like the call to set aside for a time “critique and disagreements, fact-seeking and fault-finding.”

Walking While Black

You’ve been raised in the suburbs which means you go to great schools and live in safe neighborhoods. You’re typically not burdened with adult responsibilities. But the suburbs lack diversity – you don’t get a full picture of life in America or the world. Be grateful for the blessings you’ve been given and at the same time recognize not everyone shares your experience. This article tells what it’s like walking the streets as a black man in America:

Black Lives Matter Too

This article was written previous to the events of this week. It compares the Black Lives Matter movement with the Civil Rights Movement. This alone was very helpful: “Black Lives Matter does not mean “black lives matter only.” It means “black lives matter too.”

A Confession

I relate to this confession by political commentator Matt Lewis (the page has a lot of gross ads, so I copy it here for you):

In the era of Facebook Live and smart phones, it’s hard to come to any conclusion other than the fact that police brutality toward African-Americans is a pervasive problem that has been going on for generations. Seriously, absent video proof, how many innocent African-Americans have been beaten or killed over the last hundred years by the police—with little or no media coverage or scrutiny?

There’s no telling the damage this has done to us collectively, not to mention the specific families and individuals that were victimized. And, of course, the long-term psychic damage transcends the physical. All sorts of negative externalities can be expected of someone who rightly feels he’s living under an occupying army.

I was brought up to reflexively believe the police. To give them the benefit of the doubt. This was before everyone had a camera—and before my own personal experience would demonstrate to me that not all cops are heroes (though some certainly are). It was also before I became a dad and could appreciate the fear that many African-American parents have regarding their children’s interactions with police. (Note: I’m writing this the morning after five innocent police officers were murdered in Dallas. It goes without saying that this violence should be vigorously condemned.)

This default assumption that the police officer was always right is, I’m sure, what a lot of well-meaning and decent middle class white people were raised to believe. Sure, there were incidents of police abuse, we were told, but those were very rare—and mostly happened in the Deep South. If you had to take someone’s word, you would always go with a police officer over the word of some random citizen (and, let’s be honest, for many Americans, this was especially true if that citizen was a minority).

It’s important to note that I’m not talking about overt racists here. Many of the white Americans who reflexively trusted cops would never personally discriminate against someone, nor would they use a racist slur. But they have outsourced their concerns about crime to the authorities, and part of the deal is that you don’t micromanage this work. It is understood that you may have to crack some eggs to make an omelette. And this was fine so long as they had plausible deniability.

Those days are gone. Decent Americans cannot turn a blind eye to police abuse; they just didn’t really believe the it was happening. Or maybe they didn’t want to believe. Today, there is literally no excuse to be ignorant of the problem.

It would be hard to overestimate the impact that smart phone cameras have had on forcing us to grapple with the fact that this is, in fact, a very real (and all-too-common) problem. The streaming video of the aftermath of the killing of Philando Castile appears to be the latest tragic example. (Note: We still don’t know exactly what happened, so I’m going to withhold judgment on this specific incident—but the video evidence we’ve all seen does not look good for the police.)

And if there’s any good to come from this horrible trend, it may be that the scales are coming off the eyes of a lot of well meaning, if naive, white Americans. My hope is that this will change public opinion to the point that we can change public policy.

This is why—though it’s not a panacea—if there’s one action item that we can probably all agree on, it’s mandatory police body cameras that monitor and record all interactions with the public. It’s in the best interest of our many responsible and professional police officers, as well as the public interest. This needs to happen.

When Conscience and the Law Conflict

Since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, Kim Davis, County Clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, has refused to sign any marriage licenses as a matter of conscience. I’m conflicted about her stand. Al Mohler explains why:

There is no automatically right answer to these questions. Each can be rooted in Christian moral argument, and any one of these options might be argued as right under the circumstances.

Read the full article where Mohler provides helpful perspective in thinking through the issues involved:  http://www.albertmohler.com/2015/09/03/in-this-world-you-will-have-trouble-welcome-to-rowan-county/

 

Down and Out

2kr diagram 2 (1)

A lot of teaching and preaching these days exhorts us to move up towards God by cultivating an inward spiritual life from the heart. Paul’s letter to Titus presents a much different view. In this short letter Paul proclaims a down and out view of the Christian life.

Down

“… our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Titus 2:13-14

Note who’s doing the action: Jesus gives himself, Jesus redeems us. We do not give ourselves to Him. We do not redeem ourselves. Jesus delivers to us what we desperately need (to be redeemed from our sin) and what we are utterly incapable of obtaining for ourselves. There is no progressively working our way up to God, only God’s grace poured down on us through the work of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Out

“… our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Titus 2:13-14

 Jesus’ redemption of us frees us from seeking to justify ourselves by our good works. No longer do we wonder where we stand with God. No longer do we look inward and wonder if we’ve done enough or if our belief is correct or if our motive is pure. We turn outward with the assurance that Jesus’ work for us is sufficient. He satisfies the law’s demand for good works. He justifies us before God.

So what does a person do who is redeemed and set free? Good works! Not good works in an attempt to please God, but good works that flow from a life relieved of the burden of self-justification. No longer exhausted from justifying ourselves, we turn outward to love and serve our neighbor with good works.

I suppose Paul knows just how consumed we are with our pride preserving efforts to justify ourselves before God. Our unfinished ladders of good works testify against us, but our nature is to persevere, to fight, to press on. We tell ourselves we’ll do better tomorrow. We promise God it will never happen again. So Paul, only a few verses later, repeats himself:

Down

 “… he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 

Not the work – it’s all downward, from God to us.

Out

… I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.”

Titus 3:5-8

Note the impact: as grace comes down, we move out, to love and serve our neighbor with our good works.

One last thought. It’s easy to read this post and think, “I know this – salvation is by grace alone, not my works. I get it. Now I need to do good.” But these verses don’t merely describe salvation, they describe the Christian life! This isn’t something we receive once and leave behind. This is how we live every day. Good works don’t flow from a spiritual insight from the distant past. Good works flow from the one who each morning is awakened with the great grace filled truth that grace comes down. In spite of all the stumbling, falling, and failing of yesterday, we are redeemed by the work of Christ for us. All explanations, excuses, burdens, guilt, and shame can be laid aside. They are no longer needed, for we are redeemed.