It's Time to Listen: "How We Can Learn From One Another," a guest post by Philip Fletcher
When the peace of an individual, family, or community is shattered, everyone suffers. Every difficult situation offers us an opportunity to reflect and inwardly determine where we position ourselves in relationship to others. We are a beautiful people whom God has knit together in our mother’s wombs to accomplish an infinite number of tasks for his glory and the benefit of others.
It is on the basis of being image bearers of God that we are different from all other living creatures. Yet every difficult situation such as Ferguson offers us an opportunity to reflect and inwardly determine where we position ourselves in relationship to others.
Grieving over Sins Effects
The events in Ferguson—including the death of Michael Brown, riots, excessive force, and outside agitation—remind us about the reality of sin and its effects. While details continue to come out and a grand jury begins to convene to examine evidence, we have to step back and grieve. I cannot fathom the pain and frustration the Brown family experiences because a son and heir will no longer sit at the dinner table, talk about his first year of college, or have kids.
This is the fear and effect of sin that all families must confront at various stages of life. None of us are exempt. We have to grieve because we must once again address racism in reaction to an event. I am honestly frustrated that the death of this young African American by law enforcement appears to be the only impetus for this discussion on addressing issues of race. I personally wrestle with the fact that, after years of seeking to promote the relevance of the Gospel upon social justice issues in my own ministry, it takes the death of another young man to cause evangelicals to speak, tweet, and write.
Why is that?
What makes this death different from that of Trayvon Martin, Francisco Trujillo, or the hundreds of young African American men who die each week through violence? We must grieve because this discussion on race tends to divide men and women, revealing the idolatry of our own ethnic distinctions. Racism is not a sin specific to Caucasians.
Racism occurs when one ethnic group uses its distinctions-values, skin color, communication patterns-as a means to prevent one or more ethnic groups from flourishing as God intends. Each ethnic group has been guilty of elevating its God-created distinctions above another group and in turn using those distinctions to unjustly seize economic, social, religious and political power, at the expense of others.
This is a matter of race, but it’s not simply a matter of African American versus Caucasian, Caucasian versus Hispanic American, Hispanic American versus African American; this is a matter of the human race and sin’s impact on humanity at an individual and societal level.
Knowing and Hearing
My family, along with many other African American families across this nation, are laboring intensely to show the American culture how the Gospel transforms and to effectively demonstrate what life is supposed to look like.
My family has a Gospel-driven motivation to display to men and women in the South that the life of this African American family should be the rule and that what we are is only because of the influence of God’s grace. If I could summarize the words of Propaganda, our children won’t rep a cell block or fit into some ill-defined stereotype.
Our cities contain a diversity of persons with different perspectives, communication patterns, and presuppositions about the world in which we live. We desire to be heard and we desire to be understood. In order for this to occur, we must do the hard work of knowing and intently hearing from other ethnic groups.
When we pursue the hard work of knowing and hearing intently what life as an African American or Caucasian American resembles, embrace becomes possible. It is in the work of creating this new fellowship with each other that we have the opportunity to also demonstrate God’s embrace of a diverse humanity in Jesus Christ.
The People of God and Peace
Our fellowship as Christians does not ultimately depend on the activity of grief or new human interactions but on Christ who unites diverse ethnicities into the eternal family of God. (Ephesians 2:11-22).
We are men and women who have been bought with a price and called to demonstrate lives that correspond to God’s holiness (1 Peter 1:16). In this life of holiness, we pursue a conduct of life radically different from the futile ways of our old life.
Therefore, I would ask for you to work for peace in response to the rich outpouring of God’s grace through Christ on our behalf. The people of God do not work for peace on behalf of their denomination or theological perspectives. The people of God do not work for peace on behalf of their individual ethnicities.
We work for peace because God our Savior brought about an eternal peace for the glory of God and our joy.