The brutality suffered by George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers was shocking.
The blatant abuse, caught on video for all to see, ignited demonstrations and even riots in most major cities of the world. The anger and pain from years of injustice erupted into demands for action and accountability. The cry in the streets for justice and equality are pushing back at centuries of racism and unfairness that continue to affect millions of people in our country and in every part of the globe.
How should I respond to the moral indictment heard and seen in our streets? What can I do to help bring change; to facilitate healing, peace, and the balance of justice? There are no easy answers and, to be honest, I feel overwhelmed by the chaos and the many voices competing for my attention. I am deeply moved by the pain that is evident in those who have suffered indignities and offenses due simply to the color of their skin or their ethnicity. I feel inadequate and unqualified to fully understand much less to address the root issues involved, but I am resolved not to retreat, not to stay silent, not to do nothing. I am convicted and motivated by a quote I read recently from Bishop Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Fear and a sense of powerlessness can leave me paralyzed into inaction. I also find that the possibility of being misunderstood as to motives or attitudes makes it too easy to stand on the sidelines and just hope for change. Racism and injustice will not go away on their own. We have to create the change. That is what true peacemakers are called to do; they initiate change for good, for peace and for justice.
Every journey starts with a first simple step, but you have to choose a starting point. I will start with the simple things I can control; those things that can help me change. I realize that I must first be changed if I am going to help others change. Here are my first steps on the journey.
1. I will listen and learn.
I need to listen carefully to those who are suffering, to those who are in pain. Listening may not be comfortable, and I may not always want to hear what is said, but I need to listen with my heart and not just my head. What’s more, I need to hear with the heart of the Father, the One who created us all in his image. The Apostle Paul said that if one of us suffers we all suffer, so I need to feel some of what you are suffering if we are to find healing together.
2. I will pray.
Prayer should not be an excuse for passivity, but it should act as a force for change. Prayer should be a conversation with God that invites the Holy Spirit to examine my heart for any roots of the sin I am fighting against. I cannot effect change in others if I am not ready to allow the Spirit of God to confront my secret prejudices, my wrong attitudes, and my inaction. I must pray with a readiness to repentant. God will purify my heart and teach me to love as he does, but I must first open up my life to him with honesty and humility.
3. I will pursue community.
Love expresses itself in community. Life begins to change for good when I discover that I need my neighbor. My neighbor is really my brother or sister. We were both created by our God to love each other and to live in unity. God believes in community, in loving and caring, equality, and justice. These are the virtues of love that come from the Father. They are God’s DNA found in all of his children. These virtues are the very fiber of community.
4. I will join the struggle.
There is some part I can play in the struggle for love, equality social justice. I will find where I can use my gifts, my influence, and my voice to help bring about change. Though it may not seem like much and maybe not as important as what others will do, I will do what I can do. Let me share one more quote from Bishop Tutu that says it better than I can; “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” Jesus said it in another way, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 ESV)
I invite you to let your light shine and to join me on this journey. We will step into a struggle that has been going on for centuries. We will join with many heroes who have gone ahead of us and many more who are fighting hard today. It is never too late to start caring and never too late to start doing what you can to make a difference.