I have shared some meaningful conversations in the past and most who know enough about me understand what I stand for. I am a black husband, father and pastor who is preparing to lead a multi-cultural church. I have friends from all races and do life with them every day. My entire life has been committed to the gospel and racial reconciliation. I chose my second career so that I could make this issue better by crossing lines and working with people who do not look like me. I relocated my family because I wanted to better serve this issue. That being said, it is painful when those around me do not understand the issues concerning black people killed by police in America and how other black people feel about it. A recent social media post of mine seems to have been greatly misunderstood by many who know me. I wanted to take some time to further clarify my stance.
In this post I was addressing my recent experience of discovering that someone I considered a friend had a defense for every police killing of a black male over the past few years. My instant thought from this discovery was, “Is this what they would say about me too?” I did not mention hating anyone. I simply said friendship is out of the question if you value a flag over the lives of real people. I did not group everyone into a single category. I realize that there are people of many different races fighting the battle alongside me but I am referencing that fact that when those voices only rise on one side of the conversation it hurts more than it helps. So now you have the context of what I said but let’s take this as an opportunity to talk deeper about real solutions.
Whenever we (black people) feel the pain of our history we are often told to either be quiet or to get over it. This is problematic because I fit the description of the people losing their lives without cause. For this reason it is offensive when groups such as Black Lives Matter are categorized with any other hate group. Black Lives Matter is an awareness campaign. They only protest and bring awareness and a voice to an issue that is being ignored. They are portrayed as rioters by the media but that is not the case. Now as with any group you will have extremists but overall black lives matter is not a hate group. This perception is a huge part of the problem. Colin Kaepernick’s protest is the perfect example of this. He says, “Stop killing black people”. How does most of America respond? “If you hate this country leave. Find another way to protest. Stop disrespecting the flag our soldiers died for.” What you notice is that none of these responses address the real issue. Colin on the other hand has done just that. He protested to bring awareness to a conversation that makes people uncomfortable. Before the season began Colin Kaepernick committed the 1st $1 million of his salary to organizations that are helping make progress on this issue. In addition, his jersey has become the NFL’s top seller and he has committed all of those proceeds to be donated as well. When a person makes this level of commitment and you tell them to “shut up” or “leave the country” you are basically saying “take what we give you and like it”. How much more peaceful can a protest be? What else could he have done that would have brokered the amount of change we have already seen? If live video of these men being killed does not cause the masses to see a problem what will?
Furthermore, why is “America” offended by a person exercising their 1st Amendment rights? Did our soldiers die for a flag or for the ideals of a nation? Why are we bothered by a man (now group of men) taking a knee in protest to injustice but fail to bat an eye when neighbors (especially in the south) proudly wave confederate flags? Which is more disrespectful, the one who says our country has to get better through this or the one who says our country should not exist as it is? I believe Colin’s protest bothers America because it forces us into an uncomfortable conversation about the history of this nation. BUT, that’s the point of a protest. They are meant to disrupt people’s perception of normal.
Where Does Faith Fit In?
Social media post are laden with responses for hurting people to just “walk in love”.Somehow we live under the misnomer that Christians should accept all injustice. That is not the case. Even as Jesus went to the cross and to the punishment He did was so that we would not have to. He was bringing justice to those who could not bring it to themselves. Here are a few of Jesus’ viewpoints on injustice:
- JESUS when declaring the purpose of His ministry quoted Isaiah (Isaiah 58) saying that a part of his purpose was to bring freedom to the captive. He quoted the prophet Isaiah who also said that revival and renewal would come to God’s people when they poured out their lives for the less fortunate. That God would respond when we were ready to address the real issues at hand. (Luke 4:18)
- JESUS when asked what was the most important commandment of all those given by God to Moses answered with two things: 1. Love God with everything you have. 2. Love you neighbor as yourself. This love was not an ideal but rather an action. (Mark 12:30-31)
- JESUS said “As you do unto the least of these you do also unto me” (Matthew 25:40).
- JESUS encouraged us with the parable of the Good Samaritan. A story that drives home the point that people who look at others from their own perspective of haughtiness and religion look over the real issues that should be addressed. (Luke 10:25-37)
So then what is the solution? R.E.A.C.H. Using the example that Jesus gave in the parable of the Good Samaritan let’s explore ways to make a difference in both thought and deed.
The Good Samaritan saw a stranger lying on the ground and had compassion for him. Keep in mind that this Samaritan is of a different race, a despised race even and yet he shows compassion for the pain without judging the person. The Samaritan never asked what the man did to deserve where he was. It simply did not matter. The real issue was that he saw someone in need of help.
Realize that there is a group of people hurting right now because of senseless injustice. If we are not willing to admit that a real problem exist with black people being killed by police we cannot make progress. We must admit this without throwing in any other issue (black on black crime, “just obey the officer”, etc.) and deal with this in and of itself as it deserves our undivided attention. Every time a black person is killed by police we must BRAVELY address the perpetrators no matter who they are. Let’s speak when blacks are killed by police and when police are killed by blacks. Consistency in viewpoint is what we need.
The Good Samaritan came down to the level of the one in need. He stepped down to both get a better assessment of the problem and to get in a position to help. When he dismounted his donkey, he then was in a posture to begin to soothe the man’s wounds. Understand that soothing and healing are to different things. Soothing was an attempt to deal with what the man was feeling after his ordeal.
If we are to make progress we must do the same. There are children without parents because they are unjustly killed. Not only that, but the murderers are facing no consequences. Instead, they get paid their regular salary to stay at home until the public forgets about what happened. Imagine how people of color feel knowing they can be killed and their killer will face no consequences. We need white Americans to get close enough to see the real issues. To do this you must live a multi-cultural life. From a Christian perspective, to really live the gospel you must have a multi-cultural perspective. Jesus commands us to go into all NATIONS. That word nations in the Greek is ETHNOS which is where we get the word ethnicities. Get to know some people who do not look like you. Hear them. Understand what they are going through. Pray through how to respond to them. Be filled with compassion for their situation and help soothe their wounds. We do not tell victims of sex trafficking to just “love” their captors. Instead we fight the system of trafficking and work to disable it. We do not tell Americans to love radical Islamist after a terror attack. We fight against their structure and fight to bring it down. Why then would telling black people to just “walk in love” be the solution? It’s not. Love is not always passive but it does “rejoice when truth wins over injustice.”.
After soothing the injured man’s wounds the Good Samaritan put the wounded man on the donkey. The man was in need of help and care. His situation prohibited him from making the journey to further resources for the help he needed. This Samaritan did not just point the way to help, he became help. He personally walked the man along the journey. This Samaritan became a tour guide not a travel agent. travel agents book your trip and tell you where to go. Tour guides book the trip and take the journey with you. That is the mark of life changing discipleship.
We must be willing to help those who need it. One of the major reasons for division is that some, not all, white Americans speak loudly when blacks are wrong but say nothing when their peers are wrong. We can pick one another up by acknowledging that police should not be allowed to kill unarmed people. Say the words “those police were wrong”. This is not an indictment against all police. There are police in my family and I am partnering with police to develop mentorship programs that aid in relations. What one policeman does only becomes an indictment against all police when they remain silent when clear wrongs take place. I get it, being an officer is a hard job. I gladly pay my taxes to support their salaries. BUT that does not mean I should fear for my life because I am a muscular, black male who carries a natural blank expression on his face.
The Good Samaritan spent some time at the inn nursing the man back to health. He invested his time and efforts into the well being of a person he never knew as the “religious” moved on with their lives. This Samaritan did not just love the “idea” of the Jewish man being better. He supported the idea with action.
If change is to take place in America we must ALL be willing to make sacrifices to see that happen. How can you do this? Build meaningful relationships with people of different races. Join and support organizations making strides in racial reconciliation. My organization of choice is a local pregnancy center that brings people from all races as both volunteers and clients. The point is that we must invest in change for it to happen.
The good Samaritan understood something very important. To fix the issue he was facing, it would require an open ended commitment. After he had worked as he could he then paid someone else to care for the man until he returned. He knew that healing would not be an overnight process.
Change will not happen easily or quickly but it can happen. To help with this always remember that this problem was not created overnight. It will take time. Black people in America are a part of a dark and heinous history of mistreatment and abuse. DO NOT tell anyone to “get over it”. I recently had a friend who is a white female to share that both her father and grandfather are racist and owned slaves. She shared her remorse for what happened and how grateful she is that God has allowed to progress to where they are now. I know she does not fully understand my plight but I greatly appreciate that she wants to.
The Big Picture
Why does this parable matter so much when talking about justice? Because the story of the Good Samaritan is our shared story. This parable is really a veiled picture of Christ and his work in all of humanity. Jesus is the Samaritan (mixed race or both God and man) who found a man (mankind) wounded a broken because of sin. He dismounted his donkey (descended from Heaven to Earth) soothed our wounds and traded places with me (He who knew no sin became sin…). He then paid a price (Crucifixion) placed us under the care of an inn keeper (the Holy Spirit) to be kept until He returns. Without this story there is no faith for any of us. As Christ has been to us so must we aim to be to others.
America is changing. The next 20-30 years will see demographics change rapidly. White American will no longer be the majority. America will be more diverse than ever. The church must understand this trend. In the future homogenous churches will be the minority and they will lose influence as a result. This is our opportunity to take up this cause and lead the charge towards reform.