In Luke 9, the Lord encountered a man to whom He offered the glorious invitation: “Follow Me.” In response, the man said “First let me go bury my father.” Clearly, the man was interested in following Jesus. Had he not been, a simple “no” would be sufficed. He wanted to go with the Lord, but he first wanted to take care of something in his past. What came before weighed more heavily in his mind than what was still before him. Upon hearing that, Jesus offered one of His more concise and powerful words on the subject of dwelling on the past:
Let the dead bury the dead, but you go proclaim the Kingdom of God.
Jesus’ ministry is one of life, not death. His focus is on the positive, not the negative, and on finding solutions, not making things worse.
I say all that to say this: People are hurting out there.
In their hurt, many are turning violent. It’s a shame for many reasons, one of which is the fact that people on the other side are conveniently lumping the violent people with the nonviolent people. There are good people marching in our streets, begging for change. There are violent people marching too, and some of them are begging for change too. I can agree with the begging, but I can’t agree with the violence. What can God’s people do in the midst of all this rage and frustration and violence?
WE CAN LISTEN
I think everyone, including God’s people, can do a better job of listening. Those people tearing down monuments and burning cities aren’t all “just a bunch of animals and thugs” and whatever else people say, throwing a blanket over them all. Many of them, who are doing violent and therefore wrong things, feel like they have no voice, like they have been ignored for so long that their only recourse is violence. Getting angry at them isn’t going to help. Do you want to help? Listen to them. Cut through the violence and find the message they are trying to say with their actions, terrible though they may be. If we don’t start listening, the people willing to tear down a statue are going to do worse than that next time. History is long-filled with examples of mobs going after one thing, not sopping, and continuing until nothing is left but a cinder. Read “First they Came” by Martin Niemöller to understand how the “slippery slope fallacy” is no fallacy at all.
WE CAN PREACH POSITIVE CHANGE
Positive change is the alternative to the violence happening in our streets. Let me say that another way: Doing nothing is not the alternative. Change must be done. Whether you realize it or not, discrimination is still happening. Just because you haven’t witnessed it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Listen to your black brethren. They will tell you. People are still being pre-judged negatively because of the color of their skin. That needs to change. Why? Because it is not godly. And if I am to be a man of God, I have to be promoting godliness. That means I have to stand opposed to ungodliness in all its forms. Discrimination is one of those forms. Just as Paul fought against it when contending with the Judaizers, so too must we today. Preach for positive change. Do positive things to help bring about that change in the world around us.
THINK FOR OURSELVES LET CHRIST THINK FOR US
Turn off 24-Hour news. It riles you up. It sways you toward an agenda. It serves not to inform but to sell advertising. Turn it off. Open your eyes. See the world not through the filter of CNN or Fox or ABC or whatever, but through the filter of Christ that you put over your eyes when you were baptized into Him. Stop being led around like sheep of the world. Be led by Christ. When you do that, your whole perspective changes. You start taking a stance for things people on the left disagree with. You start fighting for causes people on the right disagree with. You find yourself standing in isolation, hated for different reasons by people on both sides, because that’s how it is to be of Christ. Jesus wasn’t liberal or conservative. He wasn’t democrat or republican. Jesus was of God.
WE CAN BE DIFFERENT
I’m not calling on my brethren to give in to the mob mentality. Far from it. I don’t think a mob mentality is of Christ. Will we remove N.B. Hardeman’s name from his school, as Oklahoma Christian did to their auditorium? Can we rename the George Benson auditorium without attacking the man for what he did in his past? I signed that petition, by the way. I signed the petition to change the Benson Auditorium to the Botham Jean Auditorium because I like the idea of naming it after a student tragically killed. I thought it would be a kind of “what do these stones mean” opportunity. I thought it would be a way to enact a positive form of change. I signed the petition but I didn’t share it. Why? Because I didn’t like the attack on Benson’s character. You can change the name without calling the man a racist. Maybe he was a racist. Maybe he stopped being one before he died. I don’t know. That’s the point: George Benson is dead. NB Hardeman is dead. Being dead, they are not able either to defend their actions or admit fault and tell us how they repented and changed.
There’s a terrible precedent being set in our current climate, where everyone’s past is put on trial and the things said and done in the past are used to discredit or destroy. This isn’t about excusing someone’s wrongs; it’s about recognizing our own flawed attempts to judge and convict the dead. There’s a reason the Bible says
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
Not to be cliched, but “how would you like it” if someone combed through the history of your life, found the mistakes you made long ago and paraded them around for all to see? Now imagine if that happened after you were dead and unable to defend yourself or, if guilty, apologize to the ones you hurt? Hopefully you grow and change over the years of your life. Hopefully I’ll understand that when I see what you’ve said or done a decade or two ago.
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
The dead will be judged as will the living. That’s in God’s hands. If you want to enact social change for the better, focus on the living; that’s what Christ calls us to do. The world will tear down monuments in the dead of night. The world will burn cities to the ground. Ask yourself: As a Christian, if I want that monument down, if I want a city to change for the better, what can I do to make it happen? How can I enact a positive–different–solution to the problem? The world will judge a man by the color of his skin. The world will defend their cultural institutions and prejudices. Ask yourself: As a Christian, if I want discrimination to stop, if I want prejudices to end, what can I do to make it happen? The world will wax worse and worse (2 Timothy 3:13). The world will bathe itself in darkness.
Go be a light in dark places, and let the dead bury the dead.