Part 2 | After Ferguson: What do we do? by Matt Klingler
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 2 | After Ferguson: "What do we do?" by Matt Klingler
GK Chesterton and other prolific professionals of the day were once asked by a reporter to respond in essay to a profound question: “What is wrong with the world?” The answers given covered various ground. Voluminous, extended, circumlocutions abounded. Education, government, war, racism, family, a sundry of symptoms were to blame. Chesterton cut to the core of the issue, simply responding: “I am.”
Let’s set a few things straight.
You and I are the problem. Not police, not unarmed men, not systems. I am. You are. We are the ones that put on police uniforms, rob stores, populate and legislate systems. Rationalizing our actions. Judging others. It’s what we do. It’s why you reacted the way you did to Ferguson. We are the ones that defended, or condemned. Few mourned, few introspected, few condemned themselves. Our hearts are twisted. The bible simply responds that in sin we are born (Ps51.5), that we are all lawless (Rom3.23), and that we are all self-directed, rejecting God, harming others (Is53.6). As we find ourselves in this reality, then the more power and capacity a man has to sin, so he will take his opportunity. Unfortunately, as the old adage goes: Absolute power corrupts absolutely. “Not me,” you say. “Not me, I’m not evil, I see things more clearly. There is wrong and there is right. I can tell the difference and am different. I am not that bad.”
Wrong. You are blind. I am blind. We are all blind to our own state of godlessness. We are blind to our own sin. We are particularly blind to the sins of any people group with which we most naturally associate. My sports team doesn’t cheat. My business does all things by the book. My kid is not responsible. This makes external changes insufficient. Different people in different roles, more people in more positions, better legislation, cameras, accountability, these won’t solve the problem (though they are necessary and helpful in curbing the effects of sinful hearts).
We need an overhaul. New hearts, changing who “I am.” The solution to our problem is the good news that you are way worse than you thought. You will leverage power for your own advancement, harming others. You will act out in unknown or explicit racism when given the opportunity. You will judge, slander and condemn people you have never met. You will ignore sound correction and needed repentance. When a whole group of you get together, and power increases, so will the impact of your sin. It starts with that bad news, but ends in the good news which transforms us. The good news that even though this is you, me, and us, we are forgiven. Jesus absorbed the wrath of God, penalized on the cross, condemned for our selfishness, racism, injustice, slander. God welcomes you in to His family, covered in the grace of His Son. Jesus rose, giving us life in the Spirit that we would not remain as we are. We have received and are receiving and overhaul.
Let’s cling to the Savior, together. In the beauty of the church is the reality that God has brought together sinners from every tribe, tongue and nation. We once associated primarily with our own networks, work places, families, races, and now we connect deeply as one family. What a mess! The unity and transformation of our new people group, the church, begins with the identification of our blindness to imbedded sin. This week, let’s take time to inspect ourselves towards deeper change.
First, inspect yourself in front of Him in prayer and repentance. You will find your deepest sins imbedded in your presuppositions (assumptions made beforehand). I have spent the past three weeks inspecting my unintentional loyalties to certain people groups and institutions rather than to Christ and my fellow man who is made in the image of God. I have read countless articles on Ferguson, listened to my non-white brothers, pastors, church members, and sat silently in prayer before the Father. I have found sin imbedded in my presuppositions. Why was your knee jerk reaction your knee jerk reaction? You found yourself there for a reason, a twisted heart. I have seen my natural inclination to side with those who look like me, “think as clearly about the situation as I do,” rather than to empathize with others, validate opposing feelings, and investigate my own sin. I have an unwillingness to give credence to “white privilege” which is more than obvious to so many (non-white and white friends) choosing rather to ignore realities and credit myself with my standing. More broadly, I have seen my daily overpass of anyone who can’t give me something, or move me forward, a general disregard for valuable men and women God places in my life. We must choose not to justify these things away, ignore sin, or refuse to take the time to do the hard work of realizing we are the problem. All of us. Inspect yourself, before the Father in prayer.
Inspect yourself in front of others. Jeremiah 17.9 pulls no punches. Our hearts are deceitful, full of blind spots. If you want to live honestly, you must ask others to help you look deep into your blind-spots. Without outside help, you will cruise through life checking your passenger side mirror only to collide with the semi you didn’t realize was barreling down the road next to you. Take time this week to talk openly in your 3D groups. Ask each other what your knee jerk reaction to the events of the past month, and talk through what blind spots exist in your interpretations. Take time to linger, and talk openly about any other sins, blind-spots, you are seeing in each other’s lives. We must be humbly honest, Christ has secured this for us, sinners. Similarly, you and I are a part of a fantastically diverse body here at The Well. Take advantage of it. Ask someone who is unlike you to take a look. Ask them for their perspective, of Ferguson, our city, and our church. We will be a people who continue to reach the nations in Silver Spring and Northern DC. He is doing it, and will do it as we actively approach each other and the throne of grace together in Christ. Inspect yourself, in front of others.
May we be a lens into each other’s souls. God is so gracious, taking sinful men and women as His very own, shaping us into a unified diverse body in Christ. Let’s enjoy the mess together.