After Ferguson, What Does the Lord Require? Justice!

“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

 

4 comments for “After Ferguson, What Does the Lord Require? Justice!

  1. Max
    November 25, 2014 at 3:16 PM

    “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.”

    Amen Brother Scott! I posted the following on another blog today, but thought it appropriate here as well in reference to your cited comment:

    Content of character is being displayed on the streets of Ferguson, no matter how you spin it. The heart of the problem is a problem with the heart. Lost hearts are black hearts regardless of the color of one’s skin.

    What’s the answer? Jesus, of course! Perhaps that seems too elementary a fix for most folks to wrap their head around, but it’s the only hope we have in this country to resolve racial tension. That was the essence of Dr. King’s dream. To drag Dr. King into the mess in Ferguson is to misunderstand the man and his mission.

    • November 29, 2014 at 12:10 PM

      Bro. Max,

      Sorry I didn’t see your comment earlier. Always good to hear from you. Thanks for your kind words. You are right that Jesus is the only answer to the problem of what ails Ferguson or any other situation where sin is present. Lostness is lostness, regardless of what the outer man looks like. When we fail to realize that Jesus and the Gospel message are the only thing that can truly transform lives and communities, we will continue to see events like Ferguson and will not see the truth of the situation. Thanks again for stopping by. Hope you have a great weekend and God bless,

      Howell

  2. November 25, 2014 at 3:36 PM

    First of all, as who ministers in a poor area that is 96% black, I appreciate the concern that many blacks have with regard to the police–not even violence necessarily, but, things like being pulled over for traffic stops where a middle-class white like myself might not be. Interestingly, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has also expressed concern along these lines recently. On the other hand, it is totally irresponsible to inject racism into a situation where there is no evidence of that having been a factor, and where there is every reason to believe that the young man who was shot and killed was acting in an unlawful, aggressive manner.

    There can always be lurking in the heart all kinds of evil. (After all, as a Calvinist, I do believe in man’s total depravity.) However, the positive way to overcome much of that is through the preaching of the gospel and the community of the church–a covenant community where there really is no division along racial, ethnic, or socio-economic lines. Anyone who would like to come and visit us in downtown Atlanta, and to see genuine community taking place, is welcome to worship with us some Lord’s Day evening. (If you visit our website and click on Ministry Newsletter at the top, you can read some of my wife’s articles, “Penny’s Pen,” as well as some of my articles, “From the Pastor’s Desk,” all of which would give you a good flavor for our ministry.)

    As for Martin Luther King, I would be hesitant to embrace him, given his grossly heretical views, including denial of Christ’s deity, virgin birth, and second coming; denial of a final judgment; rejection of the inspiration of Scripture; and arguing that Christianity borrowed from paganism and mystery religion. King’s views combined the social gospel and liberation theology, and indicate that he was not a genuine Christian minister.

    For Christ’s crown and covenant,
    Frank J. Smith, Ph.D., D.D.
    Minister, Atlanta Presbyterian Fellowship (RPCNA), Atlanta, Georgia
    http://www.atlanta-rpc.org

    • November 29, 2014 at 12:07 PM

      Dr. Smith,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. You are exactly right that the only thing that can overcome evil and sin (including racism) is the Gospel. Glad that God is using you and your ministry in Atlanta to reach the lost and penetrate the darkness. God bless,

      Howell

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