This past week has been a difficult one for our state and for our country as we have seen racial tension come to a head with violence. I read about these tragic events while I was at student camp supposedly 'isolated' from the outside world. But unfortunately due to the age in which we live where we can get access to news instantly, I was able to read out the tragic event that took place in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Dallas. As I sat there reading about what was taking place, I was struck by the fact that it has now become easier in our world to hate someone than love them. When we disagree, it has become easier to use violence instead of discussing things rationally. How did we get here? More importantly how to we move forward?
This summer our Small Groups are studying the books of 1 & 2 Peter. These letters where written at a time when the church was under tremendous persecution and was literally under attack. In I Peter chapter 3, Peter writes this, "Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing." I see a couple of key points in this text that can help us move forward to address the current situation that we find ourselves in as a society.
1. Be sympathetic (i.e. there is no winner in this conflict) Both sides of this conflict over race have valid arguments. Both sides have lost lives trying to make their point. In the grand scheme of things it does not matter if we are on the right side of the argument! The only thing that matters is to be sympathetic for the loss of life on both sides and not take a side in the first place.
2. Love one another. At the top of this post is a picture of me and Sam Collier. Sam was our camp speaker and lives in Atlanta, GA my former hometown! I love Sam very much and the crazy thing is that I only met him last week! How can you love someone that much when you only just met him? Simple, what we have in common is more than what divides us. Sam is African American. I am white. Sam lives in the inner city of Atlanta. I live in the suburbs of Houston. It's easy when dealing with issues of race to focus on what is different about our worlds. Now maybe I will never understand everything about Sam and where he comes from but I know this; Sam and I both worship and serve the same Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I love Sam because Jesus loves Sam. Sam loves me because Jesus loves me. This is what it means to love one another.
3. Be compassionate and humble. In the coming weeks, more rhetoric and blame is going to be thrown around for why this happened and what we are going to do to 'fix it'. Let me encourage you to take Peter's advice and focus on being compassionate and humble. Resist the urge to post that inflammatory comment on social media. Instead why not bake some cookies and take them to the police station and tell them 'thank you' for their service and for keeping you safe. Pray for our leaders and for wisdom to address this current racial crisis with humility and love.
These are extraordinary times in which we see ourselves living. But the church can rise up and be the voice of love and compassion that is needed at this time in history. As Small Group Leaders we have tremendous influence and opportunity on what this looks like. I pray for our country and for each of you this week. Remember "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8) and what unites us is greater than what divides us.