The governor of Missouri has declared a state of emergency in anticipation of publishing the conclusions of a Grand Jury that has considered bringing an indictment against the police officer responsible for the death of Michael Brown. The declaration of an emergency attests to the deep concerns for public order and safety in anticipation of the Grand Jury’s decisions. If the past is an indicator, whatever the decisions, there will be those who believe justice has not been served and that deeper issues having to do with racism and equity remain unresolved. There are likely to be demonstration and protest–such that governing authorities have declared an emergency.
I believe, even as the Governor declares a state of emergency, so must all followers of Jesus. In that regard, consider several reminders.
First, I remind you that racism in all its forms, whether witting or unwitting, whether active or latent, whether in spirit or deed, is an abomination to our God and incompatible with the faith of our Lord Jesus. Here we cannot be over-cautious. The human heart of deceitful and capable of harboring unthinkable realities, sometimes even among the unsuspecting saints. So the Psalmist encourages us to plead with our God to search our hearts and see if there is anything perverse or amiss in the light of God’s holy gaze. Whatever that Light reveals must be confessed and renounced.
I also remind you that injustice cannot stand in the courts of the Holy One, which constitute the ultimate Supreme Court. This reminder can help frame our responses in different ways. For those harmed directly by the injustice there can be solace and assurance by the Spirit of the Holy One, who convicts the world and people of their sin, and all the time works to bring injustice fully to light. It was not without the work of this Holy One that grave injustices of the past have been exposed and eventually corrected. The same Spirit also impels those close at hand to act–that is, to take a stand, to demonstrate and agitate and refuse to allow continuing and unfolding injustice to go on. Such acts of holy witness and prophetic power must not be the work of solitary individuals, nor of those driven by unholy ulterior motives, but in community with those who seek the Holy One’s vision for human flourishing. Followers of Jesus will pray to see and then look to find collaborators, close at hand (I mean those already on site or near who are there not by accident but by the Holy One’s fore-ordination!) with whom they may unite to act. This takes both courage and discernment, but we are not alone and left to merely our own resources here, for we seek to be in tune with the Holy One who sees and knows all, whose ways are right and true. And, the Holy One wants what makes for human flourishing more than any of us do!
Speaking of taking action, the ways of the Holy One, revealed most clearly in Jesus, are not the ways of the world, the common and seemingly natural ways. All the great practitioners of Jesus’ ways, even those who would not profess to be Christian, walk a path of non-violence, loving endurance even to the point of suffering themselves, and even paying the painful civil price of their nonconforming disobedience. The cause is right and just; the means in pursuit of it cannot be less. There would be those eager for the “glory” but reticent to embrace the possible suffering along the way. We must encourage gritty and gutsy refusals simply to “put up with it,” and lay life on the line expecting that the Holy One whose kingdom is founded on righteousness and justice will act in ways we cannot, ways that others will not be able to thwart.
For those of us who are not near the epicenter of injustice and its eventual overthrow, we can pray for all persons caught in the throes of the injustice and the ongoing struggle to right the wrongs. That is, we can enter into the spiritual battle that stands behind–for indeed we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers in the present dark and evil age (Eph. 6:12). We can pray for those who engage into forms of civil demonstration and prophetic witness, that they would be guided by the Spirit of the Holy One, protected against those acting from other motivations for whom any means might justify the ends, and strengthened to endure until justice arises–even if from the grave!
Lord of Life and Lord over death, Holy one! Let your Kingdom come! Let your will be done in Ferguson and beyond, as always in your Presence, amen!