Part 1 | After Ferguson: "What do we do?" by Eric So
This is a three part blog series in response to Ferguson that will be posted throughout this week. Each part will be written by a different leader of The Well and offer next steps to guide our church family.
Part 1 | After Ferguson: "What do we do?" by Eric So
Whether you consume the news through print, television, or internet and especially if you engage in social media, you know it has been an eventful few weeks in national news coverage. From the humanitarian crisis in Iraq involving ISIS and the beheading of James Foley, to the killing of Michael Brown by Officer Wilson and the ensuing uproar and protests that continue on, we clearly see the brokenness that exists in the world. Whether you are White, Black, Middle Eastern, Latino, or Asian, whether you are a Christian, Muslim, a democrat or republican, man or woman, old or young, I believe we can all agree that what has been undoubtedly uncovered amidst such trials and conflict are our insecurities, fears, wounds and fierce emotions. Indeed, trials and conflict effectively do just that, expose what is already in our hearts.
As I have watched and read up on these events, my heart weighs heavy. I would be dishonest if I said I quickly knew how to respond as a man, a citizen, and a church leader. It has been a humbling time as I have been forced to navigate through my own reactions, opinions, and emotions. But God has been faithful and gracious to use these times to direct my heart and hope to Jesus, the author and perfector of my faith. So my hope and prayer is that the same would occur for you, my church family.
One temptation for us all is to be knowledgeable of what is happening but choose to be disconnected due to it being far from us or thinking it does not involve us. These are lies we must ardently reject. As Christians, though we are no longer of the world, we have been sent into the world by Christ. 2 Corinthians 5 states that we, once enemies of God, have been reconciled to God, in and through Christ, and thus, have now been entrusted with the message of reconciliation, the gospel of Christ Jesus. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ here in this world. Followers of Jesus Christ are to be ministers of reconciliation. That is who we are. The Church of Jesus Christ is to be an agent of reconciliation. That is who we are. Reconciliation is at the heart of our Christian faith.
As racial tensions have erupted regarding the Michael Brown case, I am not naive to think that all of our initial thoughts and reactions revolved around reconciliation. I think I can safely assume that for some of us, myself included, our initial reactions included feelings and thoughts of anger, of prejudice, of condemnation, of defensiveness, of disdain, or of apathy. While all the facts must still be gathered, it is clear that this incident, and many others like it, point to a larger systemic pattern of injustice. And while the media, by and large, portrays it as a Black and White issue, make no mistake that it extends far greater than to just white privilege or black cynicism. This is about all people and our awareness (or lack thereof) of privilege and power that is attained and how we relate to people with it and to people without it.
As followers of Jesus, we must be passionately committed to justice, truth, and action, but it cannot be separated from love but deeply rooted in it. For the love of Christ is a love that redeems and reconciles. May we remember Christ's response to our own rebellion and injustice. He who knew no sin came to dwell among his enemies and loved them (you and me), even to the point of death on a cross, becoming sin so that those who might believe would become the righteousness of God. Whether trouble is behind us or before us, may we not lose sight of Jesus and his life, death, and resurrection.
Silver Spring is incredibly diverse so consequently our church family is made up of people from different ethnicities and cultures, holding different political views and possessing unique life experiences. The one thing that unites us in midst of our diversity is Jesus Christ who reconciles all different peoples to himself. As ministers of reconciliation, we must aggressively lay down our crowns and love one another and, even more specifically, love those who are unlike us, even our enemies. We must grow in our ability to understand, to empathize, and to fellowship with those who are unlike us in appearance, in social standing, and in perspective. This is not an easy task but a necessary one.
What will this require?
- It will require gracious, proactive movement towards people who are not like us, for Christ did this very thing.
- It will require a posture of humble listening and learning in which uncomfortable critique will be inevitable but necessary. Honesty must be coupled with gentleness.
- It will require godly repentance and forgiveness for one another.
- It will require conversations with those who are unlike us to evolve into close proximity, shared life, and true fellowship. That is true gospel community.
- And ultimately, it will require action and reform, for the power of the gospel does not leave a situation unchanged, for it transforms and redeems people and culture.
We mourn the deaths of many men, women, and children in Iraq. We mourn the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and many other young African-Americans. Our leadership's prayer is that our church would deeply grow and mature in our identity as reconcilers here within our church body as well as with the diverse community of Silver Spring, where we have been divinely placed. May we be fiercely committed to being a church that rightly recognizes all people as image bearers of God and be proactive in loving one another, especially those who are unlike us, even our enemies, as Christ has loved us. To God be the glory.
NEXT STEP: Talk together. Read the followings blogposts, linked below, and discuss in 3Ds this week. May we read, process, and discuss with a humble posture of listening and learning.
The following blogposts are responses to Ferguson by a number of key evangelical leaders (White and Black) who provide a diversity of perspectives.