Black Lives Matter.
I do not want to trivialize the plight of the black race in America. I will never know what it is to be black. I am not the recipient of a heritage that is the result of centuries of enslavement, degradation and having my very personhood stripped away. So when young black men are shot by police officers, even when the shootings are found to be “justified”, I will never be able to experience the deep emotions that my black friends struggle to express. To them, each face represents a loved one, a potential family member; a life that matters.
Blue Lives Matter.
I am the nephew of a police officer. I grew up idolizing my uncle. I was fascinated by his badge. I played with his handcuffs. I marveled at the weight of his belt that held the tools of his trade: mace, nightstick, radio, handcuffs, and last but not least: his gun. I remember thinking his bulletproof vest made him look bulky. I remember thanking God for it when he was shot in downtown Richmond in the late 1980s. Because of him, I viewed cops as friends and servants of the community. Their lives matter.
That’s why this week hurts. Both communities are wounded. Both are angry. And both distrust the other. And in between them lie the senseless deaths of black and blue lives.
That’s also why part of me is angry and another part of me wants to sit down and weep. How many of those Dallas officers were parents? Spouses? Sons? Daughters? And it’s not any better when a young black man is killed in front of his daughter. These stories should anger us as well as provoke us to action.
I don’t pretend to know the solution to this dilemma. Debates abound over gun control, policing tactics, racial profiling and systemic racism. I am not an expert in any of these areas, but I do know that Christians can help. We can model compassion towards those who are grieving. We can practice listening to the voices in our communities, and we need to listen to comprehend, not to respond. We can speak out against injustice. We can love without borders. For too long the worship hour has been the most segregated hour in the American week. The American Church has abdicated her job to make disciples of all peoples within her own borders. White churches have been much more likely to send a missionary to Africa than to ask their black neighbors to join them in worship. The result? A divided America in every aspect of life, even in our worship of our common Creator. Our churches need to reflect our kaleidoscopic communities better. In the church we have the opportunity to see black lives rub shoulders with blue lives. But to see this happen we need to admit our shortcomings in unifying our neighborhoods under the cross.
This won’t happen overnight, nor will it be enough. The only hope any community has, black, blue or other, is to be transformed by Jesus Christ. Only He can save. Only He can heal. Only He can unify. We must find a better way. We must demonstrate that love conquers violence, that life conquers death, and that the King of Peace can unify us all.
The Government can’t fix this. They created this broken system.
Activist groups can’t fix this. Too often their focus is too narrow to offer a holistic solution.
Hashtags and slogans won’t fix this. Awareness is a very small first step.
Only the Church can fix this. Throughout the centuries it has been the Church that dared to step into communities bruised by their circumstances. Churches have built hospitals, orphanages, and universities to try to cure the ills of this world. The Church has gone where no one else would go to show God’s love, whether that was a plague-infested town in medieval Europe or a leper colony in 20th Century India. Our love shines brightest in the darkest of places. Let us not shy away from shining light into the darkness of the hate and violence that threatens to destroy our cities. Don’t shut your compassion off from someone simply because their politics and causes don’t align with yours. Resist the urge to jump to knee jerk reactions and snap judgments, especially when only one side of a narrative is being presented. Don’t be afraid to let yourself hurt for the lives lost in this conflict, whether those lives be black or blue.