As a Christian and a Preacher called to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel in good times and bad, the past two weeks have been a challenge. Two Black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were killed by police officers, one in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and the other in a Minneapolis suburb. Then before we as a nation could come to grips with these tragedies, five police officers in Dallas, Texas, Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith and Lorne Ahrens, were killed by a sniper near the end of a peaceful demonstration by the group “Black Lives Matter.”
We also know that there were others in America who died violently last week in situations which did not make the national news and which were less politically charged. These losses of life were no less important to the loved ones of those who died or to we as a people.
How do we who are followers of Jesus, “the wonderful counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace,” respond to these actions and the divisions the either cause or point out in our nation?
I want to begin looking for an answer by looking at the Gospel which was read at Christ Episcopal Church in Albertville, Alabama, and many other churches this past Sunday.
We read in Luke 10:25-37, that a lawyer stood to test Jesus, and asked him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” We know the story, Jesus asks him what is written in the law, and he responds, “you shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your strength and all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” When the lawyer tries to justify himself by asking, “who is my neighbor,” Jesus tells him and the crowd the story of the ‘Good Samaritan.”
He then asks the man, “who then was the neighbor to the man who fell among thieves?” To this he responds, “the one who showed him mercy.” Jesus then challenges him to “Go and do likewise.” So this is my beginning: as Jesus People, as Christians, we begin with scripture and we open our hearts to that scripture together. This is not the starting place for all people today. Often we begin by choosing sides. We either choose the police, or we choose “Black Lives Matter.” I believe Jesus would choose both, just like he choose Samaritans lives matter and lawyers lives matter.
As many others are doing I have been watching Dallas, Texas to see if there are lessons we can learn from them. I have seen police and civilians of all races embracing one another and supporting one another. I have read of Sergeant Ed Trevino, a member of the “Heroes, Cops and Kids Community Campaign work to build better relationships between police and civilians by sharing concerns and listening to one another. His advice to all of us: “communicate and make sure you have all facts before deciding who is right and who is wrong.”
Dallas has strengthened my belief that we are all in this together: police and civilians, black, white, yellow, brown, Christian, Moslem and Jew. If not, we are in deep trouble. As Sergeant Trevino says, “the vast majority of people out there are good people and we have to band together rather than divide.
Our world is not simple, there are competing philosophies and ideas and it is important to hear the words of others and try to understand where they are coming from just as it is important for them to hear and try to understand us. Will this be easy? No. Can we with our human wisdom and knowledge alone solve the problems of violence and division? Probably not, but if we build our foundation on the solid rock that is our God and on the foundation of the Prince of Peace, than there is truly hope that we as human beings will find the “peace that passes all understanding.”
“Which one was neighbor to the man who fell among thieves?” “The one who showed him Mercy.”
“Go and do likewise!”