I confess. After my last blog related to Ferguson, I have continued to read, observe, listen and think. Based on Proverbs 18, I stand by everything I wrote. My hope in the previous blog was to encourage all of us – regardless of our perspective – to choose wisdom in our personal response. However, taking my own advice from that blog, I sorrow that I’ve realized two major flaws in my own thinking and minimized one primary response. Possibly, you actually have unintentionally been with me. Please give me a few words on this page to explain.
Two Universal Principles
I simply forgot to consider two universal principles related to all people. However, these are so basic and essential to honoring God in daily responses that I have repented of forgetting them as sin. Again, possibly, you may need to go with me.
Everyone is created in the image of God.
Right out of the gate in Genesis, we learn that every person is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27-28). Being in the image of God is so important, we learn that both murder on the one hand and cursing another person on the other are wrong because you are destroying image. Male and female both equally enjoy being in the image of God. Every person since our parents Adam and Eve have shared this privilege alike. Regardless of who you are, the location of your birth, the color of your skin, or the details surrounding your birth, you are image. From the child born to the missionary couple who have prayed for years to have a baby, all the way to the child born out of the sin of rape, it doesn’t matter. From conception, God’s grace is that you are image.
The problem is that I forgot. Not in print – but in my heart – I forgot. From my own perspective as I watched the events unfold, I thought many things and could identify where I perceived much injustice. As I pondered other people’s response, both in print and in the media generally, I forgot. As I heeded my own advice previously given, I failed to keep one universally shared biblical principle in mind: we are all the same – image. Michael Brown – image. Darren Wilson – image. The protesters – image. The neighbors – image. The business owners – image. The police – image. The government officials – image. The pundits – image.
I saw myself as different. Different race. Different lifestyle. Different level of wisdom. Different level of tolerance. Different. Yet, I am not. You are not. We are all the same – image.
There is a second thing that I forgot. As a pastor this one is even worse. This one I confess as sin too.
If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are part of the body of Christ.
If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the Bible says you are part of the group known as the body of Christ (Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 2:14-16; Colossians 3:11). The Bible refers to this group of individuals who have union with Christ as those who are “in Christ.” Inside this group, all barriers of race, social status, vocations, and family background are alleviated. All walls are torn down. We share a sweet relationship together – on equal footing – no one more privileged or better than the next person. All of us equally together in Christ.
This hit me as I watched highlights from Michael Brown’s funeral. Those who participated articulated their firm belief that Michael Brown went to heaven. I have absolutely no idea whether or not he had a personal relationship with Christ. I can only listen to what this dear family said and assume that they know more than I know. From that vantage point, I can rejoice with them than Michael Brown went to heaven.
That’s the problem. As shameful as it is to admit, I never once considered Michael Brown as my brother, my equal, my kin-in-Christ. Yes, I hoped he had at some point been told about Jesus and the forgiveness of sin offered by God through Christ. Yes, I thought about the importance of sharing the wonderful gospel message to others through this horrific event. Yes, I hoped.
But hope was not enough. The funeral reminded me that given the circumstances surrounding his death that day, I had assumed he was not my brother, my equal, my kin-in-Christ. From my perspective, I could think of Michael Brown from a distance, as an observer, as a pastoral commentator essentially. My perspective was too limited and self-contained in my own little world.
The Gist of the Problem
I could watch the various people’s responses across Missouri and around the virtual world without considering them as one of my own. Yes, I was outraged by my perception of injustice on every side. However, I never considered it from the standpoint of our commonness. Michael Brown’s death is personal for all of us. It is not just one race’s burden, or one community’s burden, or one family’s burden, it is my burden and your burden. We are equals. We are together. We are affected. Michael Brown shared image with us. By testimony of his family, Michael Brown shared brotherhood with us.
That’s it. There aren’t further categories for us to consider. These two categories summarize what there is to know. These are the categories of humanity. If we move past these two and primarily think in terms of race or location or life choices, we unnecessarily limit our focus and fail to share in the commonness that essentially should touch our soul.
So we mourn and pray.
In my previous response I mentioned that we mourn and encouraged us all to pray. However, I realize how limited I was in my mourning with these families and this community. Although it was genuine, it was not personal mourning, personal solidarity, or personal hurt. I failed to see him and them as my own.
So I encourage you again to mourn – not just with them but as part of them. I encourage you again to pray with and for them – not as a bystander but as part of them.
Let me suggest two categories for your prayer: prayers of gratitude and prayers of request.
Prayers of Gratitude:
- Gratitude to God for making us all a community of people known as mankind
- Gratitude to God for making all believers one in Christ
- Gratitude to God for helping us see each other’s inherent value as created beings
- Gratitude to God for creating diversity among creation’s unity
- Gratitude to God for calling us to a missional focus
Prayers of Request:
- Pray for eyes to see people the way God does
- Pray for patience with other people who are different (or have a separate worldview)
- Pray for understanding among the races
- Pray for wisdom and energy to shine as lights in a sometimes very dark world
- Pray for love to be our primary attribute
- Pray for the spread of the Gospel
- Pray for God’s mercy and comfort for the Brown family, the Wilson family, and the Ferguson community
I confess. I failed to participate as one of them. I failed to see how personal this is from the perspective of humanity and the perspective of a Christ follower.
I failed to see how personal this is from the perspective of humanity and the perspective of a Christ follower.
Now what about Israel and Palestine? Iraq? Syria? ISIS? Lord, please help us to listen, observe, think, and respond in ways which honor and glorify You.
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