My wife had our little 4-year old foster boy at Chick-Fil-A this week for lunch. While they were eating, a police officer came and sat in the booth across from them. Suddenly, this little hispanic boy stiffened up, looking frightened.
My wife gently asked him, “You don’t like police men?” He shook his head “no”.
“Why not?” The boy was silent.
“Is it because you saw them take your daddy away?” He nodded “yes” and looked down.
It certainly wasn’t that policeman’s fault this boy’s father had been arrested, nor was it the boy’s. And yet the residue of that necessary act of law enforcement brought a wound in this child’s heart that will not be easily healed.
Another act last week, completely unnecessary and evil, brought wounds that could have erupted in violence. A 20-year old white man walked into a Bible study in Charleston, SC and killed nine innocent African-American people. While the man was obviously mentally ill, he didn’t lash out randomly as a insane person would.
Instead, he chose a house of worship. Not for one minute do I think that was a coincidence.
There were larger venues that would’ve yielded more “kills”. But he wanted to bring chaos to a place where his prey found peace and strength. He wanted to destroy their spiritual sanctuary. The psychological damage would go on for years, he thought, and would hopefully start a race war.
While this sounds naively ambitious, after the specters of Ferguson and Baltimore the last thing our country needed was another dose of racially-motivated violence. With grim expectations, community leaders prepared for the worst, as the eyes of the country focused on the following Sunday’s service and a march planned for Sunday evening.
Please forgive the way my mind works, but I’m reminded of the moment in How the Grinch Stole Christmas when the Grinch listens for the cries of the Whos as they discover their Christmas gifts have been stolen. But instead, he’s stunned to hear joyful singing!
One of the problems with ending racial strife is that, just like the Grinch, we’ve been misdiagnosing it. It’s not just a cultural or political problem. All racial hatred at its core is a spiritual problem, so it won’t be fixed by mere political band-aids.
In all our calls for political solutions, we are in effect “bringing a knife to a gun fight”. We are woefully under-equipped with anything powerful enough to fix the problem…until we all turn to God!
Have we forgotten the battle for civil rights only started turning the corner when one pastor from Georgia started talking about the “dream” God planted in his heart? Politics followed along behind his lead, and the world was changed.
So leading up to Sunday, instead of cries for revenge these people of faith responded counter-intuitively. One son of a slain woman was joined by his college baseball team at a rally proclaiming his trust in God. Another family member of a victim offered forgiveness to the attacker at his bond hearing.
Seriously, you ought to stop and go watch that video. Nothing you see will be more jaw-dropping or inspiring.
That Sunday, church member Harold Washington was asked what might be different about that day’s services. He replied, “It’s a church of the Lord, you don’t turn nobody down.” Though the members would have had every right to worship in private, instead they flung wide open their church’s doors to everyone.
The interim pastor preached triumphantly, “No weapon formed against us shall prosper!”
Then came the march across Arthur Ravenel Bridge, an event expecting around 3000 participants. Some warned this would be the perfect venue for rioting. But again, you need to watch the video, because my words don’t do it justice.
If you do, you’ll see a beautiful mix of almost 20,000 joyful faces of all races. As they marched, everyone is smiling, singing hymns, and hugging each other. They high-fived police officers as they passed, and those officer’s smiles were just as big.
What a contrast to other protests, because this time the victims recognized the battle was spiritual, and they responded with great spiritual courage.
Maybe now our nation will realize the issue of race has an answer: God’s transforming power working in our hearts. And perhaps now, something Satan meant for evil will be turned around for good using the greatest weapons known to man: mutual love and forgiveness.
Say “amen”, somebody!