Tragedy. Unthinkable. Horrible.
This past weeks’ events in Ferguson, Missouri reveal again the struggles of living as sinners together in a broken world. Most days we live without an awareness of the tensions that exists in some communities, among various people groups, possibly deep inside our own souls. This week divulges again fundamental desires that each of us have. We need love. We need justice. We need kindness. We need reconciliation. We need peace. We need Christ.
We hurt as individuals, as a community, as a people for Michael Brown’s family, Darren Wilson and his family, and the Ferguson / Greater Saint Louis community. If it were possible to dial the clock back, we would all rewrite the tragic events of August 9, 2014. We would plead with an eighteen year old boy to change his plans, do something positive, stay off the street. All Americans would choose a different outcome. No one revels in this tragedy; instead, we mourn.
There are lessons to be learned or at least reminders from Ferguson for all of us. Proverbs 18 helps us think through at least three lessons. In addition, I’ll provide you with six responses for each of us to this tragedy.
Lessons To Be Learned (Or At Least Reminders!)
Your words come from your heart and represent what is there (Proverbs 18:1-7.). Solomon connects your words with deep waters. His point is clear; that is, whatever you say reflects what is on your heart – something that comes from deep within. In other words, what you say reflects what you think, what you desire, what you want, and what you believe. Your words are not divorced from your inner man. You communicate by choice and the words chosen reflect what you really believe.
He also divides people into one of two camps: you are either a wise person or a fool. Your attitude and communication help identify from which of those two camps you belong. Consider what he says about the fool. A fool does not want to know the facts; instead, he desires just to let people know what he thinks. A fool isolates himself from others and rejects sounds reasoning. A fool “knows what he knows” but is not interested in someone actually helping him know something different, or at times, even truthful. A fool had rather believe the lie in his head/heart than change his thinking based upon the truth. Furthermore, a fool’s communication encourages contention and often spurs further conflict.
You should listen, think and evaluate carefully before you respond to an issue (Proverbs 18:13, 15, 17). With clarity, Solomon helps us know how to respond to this type of tragedy and general conflict when he declares any person who answers a matter before he hears all the facts is a fool. In other words, it is foolish and insulting to speak to an issue before you know all the pertinent facts. By contrast, he says the wise person seeks out as much information as he can while he investigates any issue. The wise person pursues knowledge and then strives to apply that knowledge to the circumstance at hand.
One of the best ways to respond as a wise person is to examine both sides of an issue. It is always necessary to hear both sides of a story before you take a position. Solomon reminds us that the first person we hear sounds convincing until you hear the other side of the story. The wise person recognizes that truth is somewhere in the middle of both sides of the story.
How you respond impacts your friendships and opportunities for service to others (Proverbs 18:19-21). As you listen, gain facts, and evaluate a circumstance, you measure your response accordingly. If in your response you offend someone, that person is almost impossible to reach, serve or impact in the future. Essentially, your poor and unwise response creates barriers between you and the individual with whom you desire to have meaningful conversation.
You speak first. Afterwards, you have to live with the effects of how, what, and when you spoke. If you failed to discerningly think through your response, then you are stuck with the consequences of your own response. It should not surprise us when people fail to listen to us or heed our remarks if we were unwise or foolish in the process of evaluation and wise judgment.
Therefore, be careful when you talk. You have the ability to hurt yourself and others with your words. Thankfully, you also have the ability to benefit others with your words as well. Again, that is why it is necessary to commit to handling the situation with wisdom.
So, What Can You Do?
Pray. Never discount the power of your prayer in circumstances such as this. There are many things for which you can pray. Let me suggest several:
- Pray for wisdom for all those involved (the Browns, the Wilsons, the community, the police, the national guard, the local leaders, the local prosecuting attorney, the grand jury, the governor, the state attorney general, the national leaders)
- Pray for safety for all those involved (the police men and women, the national guard, the community protestors, the business owners, the residents of Ferguson)
- Pray for justice for all those involved (Michael Brown, Darren Wilson, the business owners, the community)
- Pray for patience for all those involved (the Brown family, the Wilson family, the community, the police men and women, the community)
- Pray for comfort for all those involved (the Brown family, the Wilson family, the community, the authorities, the government employees)
- Pray for peace for all those involved (the community, the Wilson family, the Brown family, the protestors, patience for justice, nonviolent resolution)
- Pray for understanding among all races (a calming of the rhetoric, a trust for each other, a commitment to the family unit, a respect for each other as in the image of God)
- Pray for the spread of the Gospel – ultimately this is what can bring true change
- Pray with gratitude to God for the body of Christ who live in the world and can make a difference therein.
- Pray with gratitude to God for the power we have in Christ to honor Him and love/serve others.
Listen. For the sake of all those around you, take time to listen. None of us know everything. We need to listen to both sides of the issue. With an open mind we must listen, read, research, and evaluate the information we receive. We need to understand there is more than one narrative. There are two sides – at least. There are differences of opinion. Some who give opinions on both sides are doing so from a very narrow viewpoint which makes listening that much more imperative.
Hold Your Opinion. Don’t rush to judgment. None of us were there. We can’t say anything with absolute certainty. We must demonstrate wisdom as we patiently wait for more facts, more investigation, more process, and more first-hand information. More voices only add to the confusion and potentially hurt the possibility of additional, meaningful conversation. We need to be committed to wisdom which means we wait until we know more before we determine what “must” have happened and respond from that limited perspective.
Speak. At the same time, we should not be silent. We do need to speak. We need to spread kindness, express genuine compassion, and communicate a love for people through our voice and actions. We must express a hatred for violence, sin, disrespect of neighbors, illegal behavior, and attitudes or actions that intentionally encourage strife in the community. We need to avoid all-inclusive words such as all, always, and never. We need to communicate respect for others as we seek to learn, encourage, promote patience, and build solidarity within our community. We need to use our words to share the love of Christ with those around us who need the hope that Christ’s love provides.
Thank your local police officer. We enjoy life where we are served well by men and women every day who risk their own lives to make ours better. Every time we pick up our phone to dial 911, we confidently expect the help we need. Our confidence is based upon the countless, daily acts of heroism by our friends and neighbors who choose to serve our communities. As you engage these good folks, take time to say thank you, share a smile, and demonstrate your utmost respect and appreciation. Thank them for being our local heroes.
Love Someone Today. This story reminds us of the necessity to love those around us each and every day. If you have children, hug them tighter. If your parents or grandparents are living, contact them to share your love. Consider those in your local church and reach out to someone to share your love for them. As you engage those around your community, go out of your way to make your neighbor’s day better. You never know if something will happen to you or your family or friends. The families of Michael Brown and Darren Wilson, as well as the entire Ferguson community, understand how all of that can change in just moments.
Has this been a tough time? Absolutely.
Do we wish we were past this kind of social, political and racial unrest? Absolutely.
Do we wish we could change these events to save lives and property? Absolutely.
Do we hope in change and growth through this event? Absolutely.
Will you be willing to do your part in your community right where you are? ___________.
4th Annual Honor Our Local Heroes Week September 8th – 14th
Join us in honoring our local heroes. Be creative and serve your City Police Department, Sheriff’s Office, 911 Emergency Services, Fire Department, State Police/Highway Patrol, Ambulance District