The shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota, & Dallas this past week (and Orlando a few weeks earlier) reveal the reality of living in a fallen world, of creation groaning under the weight of its own unrest. Two gruesome videos were followed by the deadliest day for law enforcement since 9/11. The racial wounds in this country remain unhealed. The only path toward racial harmony is through relational harmony, and the only perfect relationship that has ever existed is the relationship between God the Father, God the Son, & God the Holy Spirit. Relational harmony is best viewed through the lens of the Trinity: 1) the Image of God, 2) the Imitation of Christ, & 3) the Indwelling of the Spirit.
The Image of God
God does something different when forming human beings than when fashioning the plant and animal kingdom. Rather than speaking humanity into existence, God forms us from the dust of the ground and breathes into us the breath of life. Before you could breathe, God first had to breathe into you. He also declares that every human life is made in the image of God. The reason that mistreatment and murder of others is wrong is not simply because it is against the law, but because you are dehumanizing and taking a life that does not belong to you. Those created in the image of God belong to God. The creator has left his imprint on the creature. When you don’t see others as created in the image of God, you are going to devalue human life. That’s why the shooting of a gorilla gets way more coverage than the 44 people on average murdered in this country every day, or the 3,600 lives we lose daily to abortion. Even the gun control debate neglects the obvious: the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. James sums up this understanding well in his epistle: you desire, and you do not have, so you murder.
The temptation is to not see the problem at all. Satan is the most devoted racist you will ever meet, and one of the greatest lies he would have you believe is that racism does not exist. Racism does exist because evil exists. He seeks to divide us between black and white, rich and poor, young and old, male and female, so that he might take the throne of our hearts for himself. Our own Southern Baptist Convention bears this sad reality through its own founding (in order for missionaries to retain slaves), a founding from which we have repented and sought reconciliation. Whatever our political affiliations, we need to understand that we have African American brothers and sisters in this country who live in fear for their lives. Whenever you deny the problem, you become part of the problem.
The Imitation of Christ
How should we respond to these tragic events? By following the example of our Lord, who commanded us to render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things which are God’s, to not be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good. We know that there are police officers who abuse their power, just as there are preachers who abuse their pulpits, and politicians who abuse their policies. But for every corrupt officer, there are thousands of good officers, men and women who put their lives on the line daily. These officers are the ministers of God to us; law enforcement is for our good. We need to treat police officers with respect, thank them for their service, and pray for them. I’ve admired the courage of Dallas Police Chief Brown during these days. Chief Brown lost his son, brother, and partner to tragic circumstances surrounding shootings and substance abuse. He has repeatedly declared that these divisions between law enforcement and citizens must cease. He has also taken this issue personally. Until we realize that this is our problem, nothing will change. Brothers and sisters, if you truly believe this is not your problem, remember that you are a sinner, and that automatically makes you a part of the problem. Jesus is the solution: our job is to live in such a way that points people to him. I’m glad Jesus didn’t think the way we sometimes do. He could’ve said "Humanity’s not my problem," but instead he took on the problem by becoming one of us. So when you see someone of another race, treat them with dignity and respect. When you see someone being mistreated, stand up for them. Have conversations and build friendships with people of other races and ethnicities. Learn from their experiences. We are our brothers' and sisters' keepers. See the world through their eyes, then see it through the eyes of Christ (who was himself Jewish and didn’t speak English).
The Indwelling of the Spirit
Finally, we must have an absolute dependence upon God’s Spirit to bring about change. When our forefathers and mothers faced times of national crisis, they got down on their knees, and they didn’t get back up until the Spirit of God came down. I want to call us to that same desperation for the movement of God, that same commitment for the things of Christ, that same longing for the power of the Spirit. The whole point of Christianity is that God has reconciled us to himself through Christ. Now, our job is to be made right with one another and to share his gospel (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Remember, somebody’s son, somebody’s spouse, somebody’s father, somebody’s brother was killed in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Dallas this past week. Let’s pray for the day when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream, for on that day when the Lord shall appear, there will no longer be black and white, rich and poor, young and old, male and female, but we will all be one in Christ Jesus.
To listen to last Sunday's sermon on this message, click here:
For a previous post on our family friend Joe Goldring (and how we attempted to model these thoughts), click here: