We were supposed to be more civilized; more enlightened. Race riots were supposed to be one of history’s artifacts, tucked away in the attic of time right between steam engines and leisure suits. We thought we had buried the past.
We were wrong.
The events in Ferguson, MO over the last two weeks have jolted the conscience of America. A teenager is dead, and that is tragic. His family grieves, and that is heartbreaking. His community burns, and that is regrettable. There are several lessons that the events in Ferguson teach us, and we would do well to take heed.
- Humanity is Broken- No matter what side of the racial spectrum you fall on there is one fact that is inescapable: humans are broken. Regardless which version of events you choose to believe, the death of Michael Brown was the direct result of human brokenness. And that brokenness leads to evil. Looting, rioting, violence are all symptoms of our fallen state; and this state of fallen brokenness is not restricted to any one race of people. Perhaps what frightens us the most about Ferguson is that it has served as a mirror that reflects our worst qualities.
- We are Divided Because We are Broken- In the case of Ferguson it is race that divides. But there are other lines that divide us. Economics, politics, gender, age, religion and culture all have been used as reasons not to associate with, or even hate, our fellow man. Part of our fallen state is the tendency to reject that which doesn’t look/act/talk/dress/believe like we do. In fact, we often go from rejection to objectification. When we encounter someone different than us, we tend to put them in a box. Instead of embracing them as a fellow human, we see them as a black/white/democrat/republican/rich/poor person, and we put them in their box filled with presuppositions and stereotypes. This leads to further division, mistrust, and eventually hatred.
- Our Brokenness Cannot Be Fixed By This World- Opinions are like noses; everyone has one and it smells. Our society has no shortage of opinions on what it will take to better our world. Some say education is the cure for our ills. Others say income equality will bring about unity. Still others put their trust in any number of government programs ranging from healthcare to environmental protection. Yet despite all the advances in all these areas, our brokenness is becoming more apparent, not less. Ferguson is just the latest symptom. In America alone we can point to a plethora of other symptoms ranging from corrupt politicians to school shootings to culture wars. As enlightened as we supposedly are, we have not yet achieved unity, not even in such a progressive country as ours.
So do we give up hope? We’re broken, divided, and helpless to fix ourselves. Do we abandon ship? Do we sit idly by and wait for the next Ferguson to happen? The answer is a resounding “NO!” Jesus has succeeded where all others fail. No amount of government programs, education, or income will ever achieve racial unity. Neither will smooth talking politicians, forced integration, or sensitivity training. The only thing that will work; the only hope we have is Jesus’ work on the cross. At the cross not only are our sins washed away, but so are the lines that divide us. No longer do we see black/white/male/female/rich/poor. Instead we see fellow sinners saved by grace.
So what does Ferguson need? It needs the Gospel. Just like you do. And just like I do. We all need the redeeming power of Jesus Christ to work in us. We need to offer grace before judgment, sympathy before prejudice, and love before hate. This is the call of Christians everywhere: to bring the Kingdom of God to earth, and in His Kingdom we are all equal and we are all united. We are all in need of grace, and the good news is Jesus offers it to us freely, regardless of race, gender or nationality. So if we want to move beyond Ferguson, we need to share the message of Jesus indiscriminately and rejoice that God saw fit to heal our brokenness.