Dear Parish Family,
I have had a number of conversations in the last week or two since George Floyd's death about the state of our country and the various responses that we have seen in the news, the newspaper, and from friends and neighbors. There is no question that this is a difficult time; and no easy answers, with questions surrounding the Coronavirus, the economy, the protests; and beyond the protests, the riots and looting.
I believe that what happened to George Floyd was unjust and cruel. Police are important to our country; and most are not only upstanding, but are true servants of both our country's people and the laws. Most seek to keep peace and help others in a variety of ways; and, at times, they face persecution and even violence themselves. But, what happened to George Floyd needs to be addressed with justice, and possibly, with some needed reforms. But, abolishing police departments would result in chaos, even more than we are seeing now; if not anarchy.
Not everyone is seeking to be a "good citizen" and that exists on both sides of the law. Reform is sometimes necessary, and people need to speak out to address injustice, abuse, prejudice and racism, and all the challenges of living in an imperfect world with imperfect people (including each of us!).
But protests are not enough. And, the Christian community can be a source of healing when we model what our society needs: true love, friendship, humility, morality, integrity, and compassion. People can appreciate each other, appreciate differences, appreciate that there are "no two people alike" and seek to love one another, both because of and in spite of differences. That is the call on our lives. Learning to build community across racial differences shouldn't just be at times of protest, but always. And, when people use excuses, justification, and rationalization to express themselves with violence or abuse, there will be more strife and a further divide. The combination of the Coronavirus and the ill effects on the economy, along with the death of George Floyd has propelled some to very helpful and necessary responses; but there is the other side where anger or fear have taken over, with resulting division and even violence.
Paul writes: “live peaceably with all as much as it depends on you.” This is only one of the recommendations by Paul in Romans 12 that directs us how to treat, even love, one another (see Romans 12:9-21). We need to be peacemakers all the time (Matthew 5:9), but especially now.
Learning to deal with our own fears and anger in a helpful way, even with a godly response, will help us to bring peace in a time of discord; learning to love one another and even "bear with one another."
Paul also writes that "there is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; there is neither male nor female, but we are all one in Christ" (Galatians 3: 28). Believers have the great gift and privilege of modeling community for the world: learning how to appreciate our differences; appreciate that none of us have the same background, same family, same personality traits, or same experiences that have helped to shape us and mold us. In Christ, we choose to love one another as He loves us; and we seek the Holy Spirit to help and empower us for the times when we are dealing with people who are a challenge for us. Unity in Christ does not mean that we are all the same, but rather, the differences become less important in light of the cross and resurrection of Jesus. We must learn to treat all with His love; and respect one another, because Jesus died for all and we have the dignity of being His, a child of the Father, one whom Jesus died for!
The recent cry that "black lives matter" is true. Because God created all and loves all, one cannot be selective about who to love and who to treat with dignity. Black lives matter because all lives matter. And Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10); and, that abundant life is offered to all through Jesus, just as all human life was a gift from the Father. Christians, more than anyone, should realize this. Our response is to be Jesus and to bring Jesus to all; and, it begins with self-sacrificial love; with serving others; with reaching out and valuing everyone. Will we reach everyone? Jesus didn't; He was persecuted, and eventually killed, even though He loved all and He is love!
That is why, especially now with our society on edge, when feelings are raw, with fear and anger constantly around us, this will not be easy; but, it is critical. Not everyone's response will be the same; but the response of those who are followers of Jesus needs to be in step with the Holy Spirit.
I invite you to pray about what this means to you and for you during this challenging time in our history. Let's seek to be the church, loving each other; modeling community to the world around us; and, reaching out in love with the gospel of Jesus.
With love, in Christ,