"Can you put something out there about how to process with our students what is happening in Baltimore? My heart is just breaking over it all. I think it's going to be a crazy summer and if I can find something to try to help them know how to process and respond that would be helpful. I think I have ideas but could really use some wisdom on this."
This request was made to me by one of our campus missionaries who, like the rest of us, is unsure how to respond to the news coming out of Baltimore. Situations like this make us feel overwhelmed and powerless and often we opt for doing and saying nothing. I don’t think that is the right answer. Here are my insufficient and inadequate suggestions which, I hope, will be helpful, if only because they are something to do, instead of nothing.
Pray. Now I know some may find this trite, but may I remind us all that human solutions here are quite limited. We literally need divine intervention. And I am crazy enough to believe that God actually intervenes in human affairs and often does so in response to the concerted prayers of his people. Pray for peace and pray for justice. Pray for healing for the hurting and empathy for those who lack it. Pray for God’s perspective and God’s response from his people, especially those in Baltimore. Pray for wisdom for leaders in the police, city, state, and national government, and in the community. Pray, pray, pray.
Listen. In human conflict the most needed response is often the most lacking and that is listening. Listening to those who feel unheard and marginalized is a great way to show respect and honor. Even if you don’t understand or do not agree with another’s perspective, you can still listen. James tells us to “be quick to listen and slow to become angry.” You cannot control what anyone else is doing (other than to pray), but you can control your own reaction. An important element of listening is to listen to those who have something to share with you that you may not know. If you don’t personally know anyone like this, read and watch videos. Go to our resource page for help.
Care. Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” The most troubling aspect of many of the posts I see on Facebook from fellow believers is the apparent lack of care. There is much debate about “facts” but little concern about feelings. In the end of the day, the only one who knows the facts for sure is God, but we all know our own feelings. So let’s care for the hurting. Is this not the gospel? Did Jesus not cry at Lazarus tomb? He knew, we are told, that he would raise him from the dead, so he was not crying about his death. He cried because he cared. He chose to mourn with those who were mourning and not to, at that moment, discuss facts. This does not mean that facts and circumstances are not important. I believe that for many of Christian brothers and sisters in the African American community caring about their history with the police and the complex relationship which this history has produced, would also communicate care. Here’s one video where this issue is discussed that is worth watching.
Connect. Research shows that most people in our country live a pretty segregated experience (see article). I think one of the keys to both understanding and at some point being able to respond is to connect with others who are not like you. At some point, and a big applaud to those who are already doing this, believers need to find kingdom responses to the issues of the day. In order to do this well with complex problems like what is happening at Baltimore, we are going to need to be increasingly connected one to another.
Discern. We need to discern the kingdom of God from the kingdoms of this world' this is not easy whatever your race, ethnicity, or political affiliation. In this country, God, the Bible, and Christianity has been used to condemn and defend the very same things throughout this nation’s history, right to the present day. It can get very, very confusing. First, a commitment to God’s word and his kingdom is essential. Next, the skills to read the Bible well would not go amiss (for this I recommend the classic How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Fee and Stuart). Lastly, we must bring everything we hear, read, and think and compare it to the light of Scripture. This is NOT easy, but it is ESSENTIAL.
I hope like this missionary you are asking how to respond. If this is you, thank you. This is a great start. Next, respond, even if it's insufficient and inadequate.
"Christian refugees have revealed how they linked arms to form a 'human chain' in a desperate bid to stop Muslim migrants throwing them into the sea after an argument about religion". (Daily Mail)
"I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." John 17:20-21
If you haven’t read the story of what happened when an argument over religion erupted on a raft filled with migrants from Africa, follow the link above to do so. The Christian refugees told how formed a human chain to stop Muslim migrants from throwing them into sea. This was after over 10 others had been thrown overboard. You cannot read a story like this without having a variety of responses. I want to highlight just two points from this recent event.
The first is very simple. Christians are being killed all over the world right now. Who is doing the killing is not what I want to focus on. Instead I want to point out that the stories we read in the news of attacks on Christians are not limited to a particular race or ethnic group. In the last couple of months I have read of attacks and persecution against Egyptian, African, Indiana, and Asian believers. We may divide ourselves into ethnic groups, but our enemies do not do so.
That brings me to my second point. These believers linked arms in order to protect themselves. They realized they were much stronger together than apart. It’s time that affinity issues like music styles and service lengths stop dividing us and instead that we come together. We need to have each other’s backs and fronts. We need to see our Christian identity as first and foremost in our lives, because it is all our enemies see. It’s time we rethink the things that divide us and focus instead on coming together. If you know anything about Africa, you know that they have their own division issues, usually along tribal lines. The Christians on this raft were from different countries and different tribes, but they all came together when their unity became a life or death matter. What are we waiting for?
So how do we come together, practically? Well, if your local congregation is made up of just one ethnic group, you can begin to pray and work towards changing that. You can also connect with other congregations in your area that may also be homogeneous, but made up of different ethnic groups. Begin to come together for prayer and encouragement. These are two things we all need right now. It's time we link arms with other believers around us.