Our country is truly going through heartbreaking division and violence these days. This week–ironically a week that began with our nation’s birthday–is the worst I can remember in some time. Everyone seems to know who to blame: The police, the Black Lives Matter movement, the president, conservative talk radio… But where are solutions? As Christians, our first response is to pray for peace, for cultural renewal and spiritual awakening, and rightly so (I preached on that very thing Sunday). But we must do more.
Jesus said in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:9), “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” In other words, we don’t simply pray for peace; we are supposed to make peace. For instance, if two of our friends are in a fight, we take the risk of getting involved, trying our best to bring them back together. When we do that, we’re truly children of God, acting like our Father.
So what does that mean for us in these days of violence, anger and fear? I don’t have all the answers, but I truly believe it means at least the following:
–When everyone else is taking sides, we choose to stand for both sides. Should we support the police, who have a dangerous, vital job to do, and let them know they are appreciated? Should we stand up for them when they are being painted publicly with a broad brush? Absolutely. Should we care that African-American men are being killed in encounters with police, often in situations that seem very preventable? Should we care enough to demand that changes be made? Of course. When everyone else seems to think we must be on one side or another, we choose to love both sides. Obviously, that puts us at risk; neither side will feel like are on “their” side. But that’s the risk that is necessary to be a peacemaker.
–When our neighbors weep, so do we. That means that when we hear someone say “Black lives matter,” our response should not be “No, all lives matter.” Think about it this way: Imagine seeing a news story about starving people in a distant country. Your child, who is watching with you, says, “Those people need food.” You respond, “All people need food.” Is your statement true? Yes, but it’s not compassionate. It doesn’t acknowledge the pain those hungry people feel, and that their need is more acute than the need of people like us, who have more than enough to eat. Most of us who are white don’t want to hear this, but we really have no idea what it’s like to be black in America. We don’t know how terrifying these news stories are; they don’t make us feel afraid for ourselves, our sons and brothers, husbands and fathers, like they do for our African-American neighbors. You may not agree with me; frankly, it doesn’t matter. The Word commands us, “weep with those who weep.” It doesn’t authorize us to tell those who are weeping that they have no right to feel as they do.
–We listen. Do you have friends in law enforcement? Check in with them today. See how they are feeling. Let them know you are praying for them. Ask them what you can do. Do the same for your friends in the black community. Really listen. You won’t like what you hear. You’ll want to defend yourself, to say, “We’re not all like that!” You’ll want to find fault with those whose lives have been lost. But for once, just listen. We can’t love people if we don’t understand them…and most of us have a long way to go in that department.
I’m not saying that these suggestions will produce peace. Our world is far too broken for easy answers. But they are a start. I truly believe if God’s people would begin there, we would know what to do next. The ultimate solutions are far, far more difficult, of course. But we follow one who chose to make peace between us and Himself at the ultimate personal cost. When He could have stayed out of the conflict, could have simply shaken His head in impersonal pity or written us off as a lost cause, He got involved. His death reconciled us to God. We’re not His true followers if we aren’t peacemakers, as well.