In a matter of minutes, the Grand Jury will announce its decision regarding Officer Darren Wilson’s actions and their relation to the death of Michael Brown. There is a collective silence as the nation holds its breath. A pregnant pause exists as everyone from police to protestor, business owner to bystander waits to see what will be birthed from the pangs of anticipation experienced since the shots were fired in the streets of Ferguson back in August. Some seek indictment, some seek no charge, all are hoping for what they perceive to be the best while preparing for the worst.
The incident is seen from differing perspectives within the Body of Christ. In the past week, forwards have come to my inbox with calls to rally Christians to support Officer Wilson and first responders. Others call for protests against law enforcement, citing scriptures in support of standing with the Brown family. My prayer is that the Body of Christ avoid setting up walls of division, but rather see and seize this moment in a redemptive and restorative manner.
The Scriptures do not promise that God’s people will live in a world free from pain, injustice, hopelessness, and strife. Instead, followers of Jesus are assured of God’s redemptive purpose taking place within and throughout the mess of this world – even as God’s people serve as bearers of hope, beacons of light, ambassadors of peace, agents of justice, and catalysts of change. Jesus enters the fray by way of his people – Christians – the “little christs” walking and serving as his hands and feet.
I envision Christ’s hands outstretched in invitation to those in pain. There may never be full discovery or disclosure of all the facts in this case. What is clear is the call to examine the systems, procedures, processes, and practices by which non-white men (African American and other men of color) are searched, arrested, sentenced, and killed at a rate disproportionately higher than that of white males. The voices of those impacted by this reality must have a place at the table to tell their stories, to share their pain, and to challenge assumptions.
The invitation must also extend to those officers who seek to protect and maintain peace. What challenges do they face in the field? What circumstances do they encounter for which they are not prepared? How has the unresolved pain of losing their partners in the line of duty contribute to a deepening divide with those they are meant to protect? The hands of Christ must comfort, while also helping to locate handles by which to honestly and redemptively grapple with these issues.
I envision the feet of Jesus moving the conversation toward productive and practical change. Reactions to the Grand Jury’s decision will eventually subside. Streets will clear, businesses will un-board their windows, schools will have classes, and the exterior of life in Ferguson will resume. That is when there must be workable, reasonable, meaningful, and productive response. The feet of Jesus must keep moving for redemptive change. The presence of a pastor on the Independent Ferguson Commission is a good start. The voice of the Body of Christ can respond to the concerns and challenges from both law abiding citizen and law enforcement personnel with conversations leading to lasting and sustainable change.
So what can we do as the Body of Christ?
Pray – Before you say anything, before you take to Facebook, Twitter, email, microphone, podium, or water cooler conversation. PRAY. Pray for sensitivity. Pray for discernment. Pray for your own prejudice. Pray for the Browns. Pray for the Wilsons. Pray for Anonymous. Pray for the protesters. Pray for the officers and National Guard. Pray about what you think you know and pray for the honesty to admit you don’t know that much. Did I mention the need to pray about your own prejudice? In fact, maybe instead of saying anything for a while, just pray.
Get informed – So much of this tragedy has been the result of incomplete, misleading, inaccurate, or just a simple lack of information. Even with the Grand Jury decision, it may be a long time before we know much more than we know right now. Do your best to become as informed as you can from as many perspectives as you can. Seek out people who have a different view than you do. The Body of Christ is diverse. Find a brother or sister with whom you can ask honest questions. Prepare to have your assumptions challenged. Don’t enter the conversation if you’ve only been in an echo-chamber.
Look for ways to be feet-first and hands-on – Seek out ways to just be part of a faithful, peaceful, redemptive presence. Stand with the hurting, listen to those who want to talk, pray with people. As a Christian, you have been strategically placed in your family, your town, your school, your office at this time in history. You’re not there by accident. Pray, listen, be present.
Open your hands, move your feet – Go.