“What do we want? JUSTICE! When do we want it? NOW!” In the aftermath of the Grand Jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson on any charges in the death of Michael Brown, I can only imagine that the calls for “justice” will grow ever louder. Those calls will come mostly from the African-American community. And, yes, some of those calls will come from a few who should know what true justice looks like, but who have sadly so distorted and twisted the meaning of justice (usually to advance their own agenda) that they are doing an injustice to the causes for which they claim to speak.
Sadder still will be (and has been) the response from too many within the white, Evangelical Christian community who have chosen to allow American justice to replace Biblical justice (not always the same thing) when it comes to issues of crime and race. While I believe that we have the best legal system in the world, that does not mean that it is perfect. It is easy, although not necessarily right, to believe that the criminal justice system is the final arbiter of justice. It is not, at least for those of us who believe that we answer to a Higher Authority.
So, what do we make of justice issues in the wake of Ferguson? For some, justice was done and the system worked. The unjustly accused white cop was exonerated of all wrong-doing in the death of a young, black man who, after all, was presumed guilty of robbery, assault, and resisting arrest. Officer Wilson was just doing his job and had no other choice but to stop Michael Brown with multiple bullets. No harm, no foul. To be perfectly clear, that is not my take on the issue. I am merely sharing the thoughts of many, including many Christians who have commented on this case.
For others, justice was violated last night. A white cop gets off “Scott-free” (no relation) after gunning down an innocent black man in the middle of the street in cold blood. No trial. No cross-examination. No jury. No nothing. Same old, same old. The system is rigged in favor of white people and against people of color. When will things ever change? For the sake of transparency, neither do I agree with those who have portrayed Michael Brown as a saint and Darren Wilson as the devil incarnate.
For Christians, particularly of the white, Evangelical variety, we need to take a step back and look at the Ferguson case as a symptom of a far-reaching, devastating disease. What disease is that? It is the sin of racism. Unless and until we begin to view these issues through a spiritual lens, we will never get to the root of the problem.
The root of the problem is that humanity is fallen. We are sinful creatures in need of a new nature. The old nature is warped with all kinds of sin, including the sin of pride, which is a foundational component in the sin of racism. It’s a feeling of superiority and self-righteousness, but the feeling is neither Biblical nor God-honoring. After all, everyone is made in the image of God and deserves respect and dignity. While it may no longer be politically correct to sing, the children’s song nevertheless still speaks truth:
“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
If children (and adults, as well), regardless of the color of their skin, are precious in the sight of God, then what does it say about us when we so cavalierly dismiss the feelings of African-Americans because we don’t agree with them? What message does it send to people of color, particularly brothers and sisters in Christ (where there is no black and white), when we refuse to even discuss issues of racial injustice?
While our nation has made great strides on racial issues, we will never overcome the prejudices which so easily entangle us if we do not see them as resulting from our sinful nature which so easily rears its ugly head. We may not agree on political solutions to our racial problems, but if we cannot agree on Biblical, spiritual solutions — most importantly the Gospel of Jesus Christ — then we will never see lives transformed and the power of the sin of racial bigotry and hatred defeated.
As Christians, we should pray for peace to return to the streets of Ferguson. But, that will not happen unless and until peace comes to the hearts of those in the streets. That peace will not come by cheering the outcome of legal cases nor by turning a blind eye to the injustices that we see all around us. Peace will come, not when Christians unquestioningly rely upon our justice system, but when God’s people actively participate in His justice system, even when it is at odds (and it often is) with American justice:
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 5:8