On Wednesday afternoon, I wept. Rarely do I cry when by myself – much less often than I probably should, particularly over my own sin. Yeah, I get emotional and shed tears sometimes when I preach and get passionate about God’s grace and forgiveness. When alone, though, I rarely get that way because, for whatever reason, the tears seem to come more when I am talking (or trying to talk) about something emotional.
On Wednesday, however, reality overwhelmed me. I have no idea what it feels like to be discriminated against. More importantly, I have no idea what it feels like to be choked to death. It sounds horrifying, though. It looks horrifying, as so many people learned like I did after the recent video of George Floyd’s murder. I saw the video Wednesday.
In February, Ahmaud Arbery was murdered, and the men known to be responsible were not charged with anything for weeks, until the video of the shooting was released. How is that possible?
How is it possible that George Floyd was allowed to be murdered by one police officer while other officers stood by?
Please realize – I cannot imagine how difficult it is to be a law enforcement officer. I know several law enforcement officers and know them to be great people and great officers. I am grateful for what they do to serve and protect our community. They have a job that is beyond difficult. What certainly should not be difficult, though, is getting your knee off a person’s neck when the person is hand-cuffed and no longer struggling, and you have back-up. Surely, of all the difficulties that come with being a police officer, that should not be one of them.
What brought me to tears (and continues to bring me to tears even as I write this), however, is not the blame I place on law enforcement. What about me? How much of what is wrong with this country and the continued racial divide is my fault? My sinful pride is just as disgusting and just as damning as that of a racist or a criminal or a murderer.
What is wrong with this country? What is wrong with this world? I am. Pride like my pride is what divides. Sin like my sin is what destroys.
I really want to point my finger at those who are at fault in our country and in our world. I want to yell and scream and cry out, “Injustice!” First, I must point that finger at myself.
Sure, I have had black friends for as long as I can remember. My wife and I have an Ethiopian daughter and a Chinese son, and while I have never seen myself as a racist, my prideful sin that has harbored bitterness and resentment against others is no less appalling.
I, too, am guilty, and until I come to grips with that and realize the horror of my own sin before God and before others and repent, then I can never help those around me make our community better.
Change needs to happen. Things need to get better. Injustice needs to be addressed.
Our country has to be better than it was decades ago when it comes to racial equality, right? I do not know. Some things are obviously better, but then again, it does not seem to be any better than when I was a kid during the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles.
I wish I had the brilliant solution that would fix the racial divide and allow for conversations and actions that would facilitate good change. Although I am really not that smart, I hope I can at least play a role in that process, even if just among my own community.
Here is what I do know about the solution, though… The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only thing that will solve our problems. The gospel is the only thing that will cleanse me of the guilt within and allow me to stop pointing the finger at myself and others. You see, the gospel allows me to point my finger at the cross because Jesus Christ took the judgment that I deserve. He died in my place for my sins. Then, He rose from the dead to win the victory over sin and death, so that everyone who turns to Him to forgiveness and eternal life will be made new. The gospel is a solution like no other because the gospel is the only solution that is eternal.
Whether you think you struggle with racism or not, would you look at yourself before looking at others? Whether you have contributed to injustice or not, would you recognize that you, too, are guilty? Whether you have experienced injustice or not, would you realize that no sin anyone commits against you is as bad as your sin (and my sin) that put Jesus on the cross?
Yes, black lives matter, and that is okay to say because it is true. Yes, blue lives matter, and that is okay to say because it is true. Yes, all lives matter, and that is okay to say because it is true. Remember, too, however, that we are all sinners, and the solution to our sin and brokenness is only found in and through Jesus Christ. Only He can change me, change you, and change our community for good.
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be starting a new sermon series through the Old Testament book of Micah – Walk Humbly. How ironic (or not) that the first message, from Micah 1, will be on our need to “Recognize God’s Judgment.” Will we recognize the judgment we deserve? Will we recognize the judgment our nation deserves? Will I recognize the judgment I deserve? Will we recognize that the only solution to that judgment is Jesus?