Responding to Ferguson

Last week, a grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. In response, some said, “That boy was a hoodlum and got what he deserved.” Others said, “The officer is a scumbag and a racist.” Some hit the streets to protest systemic injustice saying, “Black Lives Matter” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.” Others literally hit the streets and set buildings on fire. Some exploited crowds of hurting people to advance a political agenda. Others wondered why white people are still being charged with racism when there is a black man in the oval office.

handsup-1140x641I want to share a familiar story about King Solomon and how it has challenged my own thinking about the polarizing situation in Ferguson:

Two prostitutes walked into the supreme court of Israel seeking the king’s wisdom. One wanted justice. The other wanted acquittal. Solomon listened carefully as the first woman charged the second with kidnapping. The second woman intensely denied the accusation. They reached an impasse. So the king calmly ordered that the child be cut in two with a sword. In horror, the true mother of the living child wailed with desperation, “She can have him! She can be his mother! Only don’t kill my baby.” The second woman shrugged and smugly accepted the king’s order, saying, “I guess we both lose.” The wise king had his verdict. “Give the living child to the first woman. She is his mother.”

mikebrownfather

When there is conflict or division, we must listen to the ones who weep. If someone is crying, there must be something wrong, even if the truth is not immediately apparent. When we take time to listen to the complaints, the cries, and the accusations of our neighbors, we will learn something about the nature of our mutual brokenness.

First, we must question our initial judgments. Whatever we impulsively think about the situation may be tainted by our own background and biases. We need to be willing to withhold judgment and ask, “What am I missing here?”

Second, we need to pursue people’s hearts. By God’s wisdom Solomon knew that he could not determine the truth until hearts were revealed. When we seek to understand people that we do not know, it is imperative that we ask questions that get below the surface. “Why are you upset? Help me understand what you are thinking and feeling.”

I wish I had an easy solution for the problem of racial division. But simplistic answers ignore the complexity of what is broken. God did not send a quick fix to the problem of sin, rebellion, and death. He sent a Person. “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility… [that he] might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Eph 2:14-16).

Whatever our initial reaction to Ferguson, we must not dismiss the fact that a group of people is crying out. This is a time to draw close to the brokenhearted and “weep with those who weep.” May we pursue our neighbors with the same reconciling love, the same understanding, and the same compassion that God has given to us by his grace.

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