As I lie down, I hear the news from Dallas. No, no, no. First 4 and then 5 police officers killed. Even more injured. 2 civilians. Sniper fire. Peaceful protest. The ache in my chest is deep. The tears come again. This is not the answer.
That very morning I had wept as I read another man shot and killed by the people we trust to protect. Another black man. Two in two days. A sick feeling rises up in the pit of my stomach. That sense of fear and anger bubbles up and settles in my throat. Surely not. My heart hurts thinking of the unrest that is sure to come. What that means for families like mine. What that means for racial tensions in our country. What that means for the police officers honorably serving. What it means for the black community.
I spent half my morning trying to write about it. Trying to find the right combination of words that unify instead of divide. Trying to portray my frustrations and my anger through a grace filled lens. Trying to find the phrasing to capture my heart and pierce through your own. Trying to see Jesus in this space. Come Holy Spirit, Come. Give me the words, I prayed.
I wrestle through the day unable to focus and blotting hot tears. I work hard to find statistics from a neutral enough place that will help you see. Then another act of violence against police…and another…With all my heart I want to write my experience, my emotions, my pain. I want my voice to be heard on this…And I realize then, the only words I can share, are those that point to Christ. His spirit presses in on me, Matthew 5:9 blessed are the peacemakers….
John 17:21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one–as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
Not only was God’s dying wish that we all be One, but He went so far as to say our unity is how the world will come to know Him. Jesus basically says that the world can judge His ministry by how His people love one another, by how we are united. Unity amongst the people of God enables the world to know Jesus. How are we doing at that? Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” Unity literally brings Jesus to earth. This isn’t about looking the same or acting the same or believing the exact same thing. This is about abiding in the Spirit of Christ. This is about mourning with those that mourn; holding space with the hurting. Celebrating with one another, breaking bread together. This is about dying to our own desires so that God’s glory can shine. This is about hurting when a black man dies AND a police officer. This is about grieving with both. We cannot be reconciled with Christ and not with His people. The first bears fruit to the second.
“There is an infinite number of rays, all coming from the same sun: a single will, particular for each person. The closer the rays come to the sun, the closer they come to one another. We too…the closer we come to God, by doing the will of God more and more perfectly, the closer we come to one another. Until we are all one.”
Our world isn’t in a mess because of any political ideology or separation of Church and State. It’s easy to point a finger at Obama, Trump, guns, police, Black Lives Matter, urban culture, media, or the radical right and the liberal left. It’s much harder to look at our role in it. The world is a mess because we are failing at what Jesus has asked of us. If you want Jesus in your school, be Jesus. If you want Jesus in your neighborhood, be one with your neighbors. Jesus himself is warning that the world will doubt His love, His goodness, His ministry if love and unity aren’t present among His believers. It’s on us, kids. This gets particularly tricky because often the most divisive, unloving actions come from Christians in an effort to ‘speak the truth in the name of Jesus.’ He doesn’t ask for our conformity. He asks for our unity. He asks for our love. Jesus shows up where we are. No one can separate God from me. He is in me. I am in Him. Where I go, He goes. It’s a huge responsibility but it’s also a huge freedom. We don’t have to work so hard to legislate Jesus. He will be where we are if we bring Him…if we live our life according to His will.
The early church was practically obliterated because of deep racial division and oppression. Gentile and Jew. Slave and Free. Rich and Poor. Man and Woman. The church took the lead in unifying every tongue, nation, tribe, race; in the name of Jesus. The cultures remained different. The skin, different. The customs, traditions, different, but One in the love of Christ. One in His love for others. His love for us. His desire for Unity. We can do this. We have done it before and we can do it again. It will take each of us praying for our own heart’s darkness to come to light and for unity amongst us. It will take each of us setting aside our own biases and embracing a life intentionally united.
El-Shaddai, Mighty God, I cry out to you in anguish. I look at the faces of my children and the faces of the men lying dead in our streets and fear grips my gut. I send my husband off to work and wonder what will happen if he gets pulled over. What kind of person will that officer be? I know what kind of man my husband is. But the police officer won’t. What will they assume? God be with them both. Please, Lord, heal our nation. Don’t let us forget. Don’t let us sweep it under the rug. Don’t let us pacify the hurting, but I boldly ask for significant systemic change. I know you are able, Lord God. I ask that injustice by the few be condemned by many so they know there is no place for that here.
Merciful Father, protect our police officers. Encourage them and calm them. Quiet their fears. Bring forgiveness and peace and respect in to the relationship with the black community. Bring forward heroes that put down bitterness and embrace healing. Take the anxiety from their families and bless their service to their communities. Let the light of your son shine bright in the darkness. I pray there is an army of angels asking to be used by you for the sheer purpose of racial reconciliation. Give us courage to do the hard and holy. All powerful God, make the violence stop,
Father God, for the families that have lost loved ones, I plead with you to let your presence be felt in a concrete way. Surround them with love from their community. Give them your strength. Keep their spirits fresh in the mind of others so our continued prayers will carry them. May we mourn with those that mourn. All of those that mourn. Let us love one another well. Let us follow your example.
Abba Father, I call on you to unite your children. Help us to see our humanity. Open our eyes to the struggles of others. Give us your eyes to see the value of their experience. Take our pride away so we believe them. Take away our desire to dismiss other’s feelings and fill us with the grace to affirm. Let us lead with love not fear. Let us listen with the intent of understanding instead of defending our point of view. Help us to shoulder the pain of others. Help us to offer hope over politics. Grace over our need to be right. Love instead of Hate. Provide opportunity instead of blame. Peace over unrest. Settle our souls.
God have mercy on us for the role our history plays in the devastation we see played out in our urban landscapes. Forgive us. Ignite in us a passion for change. A passion for a community that is different than the one we call ours. Unite us as one. Help us to practice grace and mercy and goodness. Help us to celebrate the beauty in our differences. It’s impossible for us to be colorblind Lord, so instead help us to say I see your color and it’s beautiful. I see the God designed differences and I celebrate them. We are all born of your image, Lord, may we believe that to the depths of our spirits. Change our hearts, Heavenly Father. Bring our bias in to the light. Work on it with us. Bring us in to relationship with one another and let the fear fade away. Heal our nation. Heal our hearts…that we all may be One for the Glory or your son Jesus Christ.