#_LivesMatter: A failure to communicate
Author: Jeremy Brown
"The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him." Proverbs 18:17
Last night I had the privilege of being present for the local rally here in Lewiston, which was part of the Black Lives Matter movement. My goal was not to be a part of the movement, nor did I want to be a counter-protestor either.
There were moments that gave me joy. And there were also moments that gave me grief in my heart.
I don't know the exact count of people, but there had to have been over a hundred people and possibly as many as two hundred people present. And most of these people were passionately speaking out against injustice, and doing so peaceably and in unity. They were exposing the deeds of darkness. There were white protestors and black protestors. There were women and there were men. There was young, and there was old. When I see things like this I have to believe that some of my neighbors that I was meeting are not far from the kingdom.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ unifies people under a banner of love; truth; justice and grace. When we let our neighbors know that Jesus is the real solution to all of this mess that we are in; God uses that to spread His kingdom. I considered it a privilege to be there, because I want to see God's kingdom expand, and I want to have no part of the deeds of darkness, but rather I wish to expose them.
The reason that I felt so much grief in my heart, is because despite these good things that were happening, there were still so many bad things happening too.
For starters there were the counter-protestors. I don't think I counted more than 4 or 5, but they were there. One of them, a woman who looked close in age to me, was so vehemently angry that she was unable to listen to anyone. She wanted to shout many of us down in anger, but really did not want to have an open exchange of ideas. That in-and-of-itself was grievous, but not the real issue.
As you see with the Scripture at the beginning of this article, "The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him." We know that mankind is fallen and sinful. And we know that the reason we have Black Lives Matter rallies, counter-protestors, and
police protection at these rallies is because we have failed at loving our neighbor as ourself. We have failed to respect our fellow image-bearer of God. We are not hearing others or examining their ideas when they state their case.
God says in His word, "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another". (Proverbs 27:17)
The idea behind that verse is that we need one another to sharpen us mentally and spiritually because we are fallen and imperfect people. Only God's word contains perfect truth, and so we can share His word with one another in order that we may all grow in maturity, holiness, justice, love, and especially in our closeness with God.
What I saw last night was people unwilling to hear one another speak. I saw people who not only didn't care about godliness, but didn't even really care about their neighbor enough to respect them and have an open dialogue about an incredibly important issue: the lives of our neighbors.
I should add that the whole crowd was not like this. I did see some of the people there willing to speak with my brother and myself and have a frank and open discussion.
I also saw one man with a megaphone passionately shouting his mantra against the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. And I saw a small group of the BLM protestors all rush to surround this man and shout back at him. Each side was trying to drown the other side out with noise and chanting slogans. Neither side was willing to hear the other. And it was incredibly sad to watch.
That is why we were there, wasn't it?
God tells us in the Bible, "“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses." While this is really something that happens in a church context, the concept is wisdom that applies to all of life. When we have conflict, the loving and wise thing to do is to go to our brother to confront them and try to gain them to our side (not win a shouting contest).
We are commanded by Jesus to love our neighbors. "The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”' - Mark 12:31
Can we honestly say that we love our neighbor if we do not give them the respect and courtesy of hearing them out and trying to understand what they mean?
Do we assume that we know what they mean with every word that our neighbor speaks, without ever asking them to clarify? I can tell you that a bunch of people were shouting "no justice, no peace" tonight, and they didn't all mean the same thing when they said it.
How do I know that? One because common sense says that in a crowd of dozens or hundreds of people, even saying the same slogan they can mean different things. The second reason, is that I asked some of them what that slogan meant to them.
This is a movement that is about exposing the injustice of a certain small percentage of our police force across America that is corrupt and evil enough to kill a compliant or unarmed man (maybe not even a suspect) simply because of the color of his skin. It is about exposing the unspoken bigotry of profiling certain groups of people based on color; being more aggressive with certain men based on color; and even being more fearful at times of certain men based on nothing more than their color. And it is also about exposing the corruption of the other non- violent police officers who are not whistleblowing or publicly condemning acts of injustice and hatred.
There is no place for our protectors keeping things quiet to protect their counterparts, none at all. If a person in law enforcement knows of a case of wrongful death; police brutality; or any other kind of injustice the only good and just solution is to expose the deeds of darkness and allow your comrade to be held accountable.
I don't care if there are some small segments of the BLM movement that are violent. We just got done saying there's a small segment of the police that are violent too. It doesn't discount the worth and value of the police and their job because a small few are crooked. Likewise, it does not invalidate the message of the peaceful BLM supporters because there are some violent people in the movement that also need to be held accountable.
'“You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor." - Leviticus 19:15
How are we going to treat our neighbor if we pervert justice, and will not even stop and listen to them speak about their experiences? How can we ever claim to love them, let alone say their life matters?
God has a very simple solution for that, the Gospel. I can tell you that the apostles and the first century Church faced more hostile neighbors and a much more violent government than we do now. Every day, every single believer's life was at risk. Many were killed and tortured and unjustly imprisoned. They didn't have the blessings of an advocate like we can have today.
Their only advocate was Jesus, not their neighbor.
The Gospel changes hearts. The Gospel tells us to love our God first and foremost and then love our neighbor as ourselve. The Scriptures say " Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor." (1 Peter 2:17)
If the Gospel can make Peter love and honor his neighbors that wanted to stone, crucify or burn alive his family and friends, it can change the hearts of racist Americans. It can calm the boiling rage of millions of African-Americans who are not being treated with equity. It can cause police to do justice, avoid partiality, and refuse bribes. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is what will heal our nation!
We must listen to our neighbors and love them, so we can help them to understand how the Gospel applies to their life and to this enormous injustice. If we have something to repent of, we have to bend the knee to our God and repent.
The Gospel lets us know that from birth we are sinners, and that our hearts will deceive us and even desire things that will destroy us or our neighbors. The Gospel also tells us that Jesus Christ (God the Son) walked the earth as a sinless man, and took the wrath of God on the cross for our sin so that we might be set free from it; if only we will put our faith and trust in Jesus and obey what he has commanded. Jesus rose from the dead physically on the third day, conquering death, and his kingdom is expanding on this earth until the day he decides to come to reward the faithful and judge the wicked.
Our neighbors throughout our nation desperately need this Gospel. We need to learn to love our neighbor as ourself. We need to learn the humility that Jesus Christ has. We need to learn to weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice.
My only other question, is to my faithful brothers and sisters in Christ who may be reading this. Are you willing to faithfully proclaim that Gospel, and no other message in the face of all of this hate, conflict and evil in our nation?
"And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will." - 2 Timothy 2:24-26