Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble-l Peter 3:8
Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony
Side by side on my piano keyboard, oh Lord, why don’t we?
These are the lyrics to a song written and performed by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder many years ago. Black and white keys on a keyboard being played together to create amazing sounds and beautiful music not possible if any of the keys were missing. Sounds like a simplistic approach to the races living together in love, even naive given the recent events making news headlines. Is racial harmony attainable in our society or are there powers at work to keep us at odds with each other, trapped in the sins of our past? I wish I knew the answer.
Let us not beat around the bush. Two weeks ago in Ferguson, MO a black and unarmed youth was shot and killed by a white police officer during an arrest. While we are still waiting for the facts to come out, we know from the autopsy report that the youth was shot six times resulting in his death. Not long before that a white officer applied a rear choke hold to a black man, who stated several times that he couldn’t breathe. The man died of asphyxiation. And in a case in Texas a man with his hands cuffed behind him allegedly shot and killed himself in the chest while in the back seat of a patrol car. I am in now way attempting to jump on the “white police are looking for black men to shoot” band wagon message being marketed as common practice. Being a graduate of the local citizens police academy I have much respect for the police department at large who risk their lives everyday and have the right to return to their families at the end of their shifts. But when these incidents happen, as isolated or exploited by the media as they might be, they serve to open up old wounds that in all honesty, never healed. And even those who are siblings in our Lord tend to get caught up in the momentum and the new life breathed into the social demons of hate and bigotry. It’s a cycle that is like a True Blood vampire-it just won’t die! How do we love our neighbor and promote peace in ignorance of racial history?
In Luke Jesus tells a parable about the man we refer to as the Good Samaritan;
Jesus answered, “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he travelled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the host, and said to him, ‘Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.’ Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?” He said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
The Samaritan was not only a hated man by most Jews but he was also of a different race. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was known as The Way of the Blood due to its history of robberies and murders. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife traveled this road when they were in the Holy Land. I love MLK’s synopsis of the travelers. The first two upon approaching the man in distress must have thought to themselves, “what will happen to me if I assist this man“, while the Samaritan thought ” what will happen to this man if I don’t assist“. Jesus had just stated that we should love our neighbors and used this story to show that brotherly love extends beyond the races.
I am a white man. I was born that way. Many parts of my character and preferences are more black than white but that’s another blog. But even I have been criticized by many of my black brothers of “not understanding” or being to white to get it. My genuinely good intentions of trying to insert Christian love into the solution and response has been summarily dismissed as a “just get over it” attitude, not my personal stance at all. I firmly believe that when Christians perceive injustices they have not only a right but an obligation to acknowledge and address them, just not in the same way as the hate mongers given our national spotlights do. In the widely accepted “Love Chapter”, l Corinthians, it is stated “…love barely notices when it is wronged“. I know how tall an order that is to the parents of a youth unjustly shot by an officer, or another the victim of a terrible rape or murder. The indignation that is the human spirit trumps the divine nature of Christ that should be indwelling us at all times. Our response is always “yes, but”. Loving our neighbors and those who persecute us is not turning a blind eye, as I have been accused of, but rising above the existence of hate. Even scripture tells us that if we only love those who love us, how are we different than the world. Applying Christian love in situations of hate does not mean we don’t peacefully protest, it does not keep us from seeking justice for all, and it does not render us inactive in seeking resolutions to social ills. However it does compel us to approach these issues with the mind of Christ as His disciples and as a voice of reason and compassion, seeking restoration, not chronicling all history’s sins against mankind and pouring salt in the wounds.
It is high time that the leaders in the church, black and white, come together and raise their voices in harmony against injustice at every level and set the example on a national platform visible to all, tackle the tough and obvious questions, identify the ugly beast and raise the standard of peace as Christian brothers and sisters who are not of this world, and by doing so draw attention to the ultimate peace keeper, Jesus Christ. I am convinced with all my heart that there is an attainable solution to this once all parties agree to come together, “forgetting what is past and pressing on” to acquire harmony and balance in our earthly domain as we prepare for and wait in eager anticipation of our Heavenly kingdom and reward. At the throne of judgment there will be sheep and goats. I wonder if there will also be peacekeepers and and war mongers. Label me as you will-I will use what little influence I have for peace and pray every day that I will see it manifested in my world.