This article was written by Michael Burns, Teacher for the Minneapolis St. Paul Church of Christ,
and is being posted with his expressed permission.
I've had many people ask me, in response to a previous post, what can disciples do in regard to differing views on injustice in our country. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but here are some thoughts.
1. Pray constantly (1 Thess. 5:17). Pray for those that you agree with. Pray for those that you disagree with. Pray for those that you believe are victims. Prayer for those that you believe are perpetrators or the unjust. Pray for all. Pray before you post things. Pray before you speak. Pray for guidance and for God to show you what you can do in addition to prayer.
2. Proclaim the kingdom of God at every opportunity. Every problem the world has is because of sin. Fallen humans put our own interests first and do our own will rather than God’s. To accept the good news of Jesus as King and live by the values of his kingdom is the only true solution for the world. We must never lose sight of that (Luke 9:60; Acts 8:4). We can be active in different ways, but in the end, all roads must lead back to showing people what the life of the true kingdom looks like and how that can change the world, one heart at a time. Many are proclaiming things other than the kingdom a whole lot more often and louder than they do God's kingdom and his church. It is amazing to be part of a fellowship of all nations, tribes, and languages that love one another. Shout that to a watching world. It's unique. Embrace it and be proud of what God has done.
3. Love your enemies. If you think someone is racist, love them. If you think someone is deluded, subjective, and emotional, love them. If you think someone is a victim, love them. If you think someone is a perpetrator, love them. If you think I am wrong, love me. If I think you are wrong, I will love you. Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray him and yet none of the other disciples did. That means that Jesus loved them all the same. Regardless of whether someone is your friend or your enemy, the world should see no distinction in your kindness, patience and love for them.
4. Help those that are your enemies. If you think someone is a perpetrator of violence or racism, go volunteer in their world and find a way to love them. That’s true discipleship. You want to go love those you view as victims? Good, do that. But even the world does that (Matt. 5:43-48). Go help, volunteer with, and build bridges and relationships with those that you think are in the wrong. That’s big boy stuff. If you think that there are too many policemen out of control, go volunteer with them and get to know policemen. Make a difference. If you think that the problem is with those that instigate violence or what have you, then maybe you should go volunteer in the inner city or wherever the appropriate situation applies. Love, help, and support those that you violently disagree with. That’s what will really stand out to the world and show them the true life of the kingdom. If it is another brother or sister, you can avoid or ignore them (or even “tolerate” them). You can do that, but it’s not godly. Guess who is the first person that you should be having over for a dinner to lavish love on? Not to change their mind, to lavish love on them.
5. The road to freedom runs through the cross. Jesus lived that message out his entire life. So did Paul. Men like Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela learned it. We will never enact change or bring freedom by putting the suffering on others, even if we think they deserve it. If that was the case, Jesus would have come and put everyone else on the Cross. If you want to really make change, be prepared to bring the sacrifice on to yourself. This is perhaps the largest missing piece of many groups today that want justice. They are yet unwilling to take the sacrifice on themselves. As Jesus’ people, this is our calling every single day (Luke 14:27).
6. Denounce all forms of violence and murder (Isa. 2:1-4). This is incumbent upon all disciples. But we must also remember to be mature. If someone says that they people need to repent of greed, it is bit odd to then accuse them of not caring about lying or lust. If someone speaks out against what they believe to be unjust killings or some such thing, to then accuse them of not caring about millions of babies being aborted, or other situations of death and injustice is also unfair and to quite miss the point.
7. Peacefully demand equal justice for all people (Prov. 20:23). This is important but do remember that your obsession must be for the kingdom and not for worldly justice. We can strive for it but will never achieve it outside of the full coming of the kingdom. We will have very different perspectives, but I remember how crazy some people went when they believed that OJ Simpson was escaping justice and they decried the legal system. That’s how many others feel when they see videos of what they believe is clear unprovoked violence or killing and then are let off by the legal system. Be gracious with one another and create space in your worldview for differing perspectives. Also remember that it’s not good to be disrespectful to policemen, but that should not be a crime punishable by death.
8. Accept one another (Romans 15:7). This is primarily for disciples and how we interact with each other. Accept differing perspectives and respect them. Be open-minded and listen. Don’t grow weary of doing good. Read Romans 14:1-15:7. These were important issues over which they violently disagreed and yet Paul called them to respect one another and to unity knowing that they may never agree.
9. Don’t get caught up in political solutions. Far too many Christians come to their opinions or worldviews based on their upbringing, their culture, or because someone in the media or some such thing made a convincing argument. Whenever you hold an opinion, simply ask yourself if it is rooted in Scripture. Every position we hold should be Scripture-informed.
10. Show unity. If Christians can’t be unified, despite differences and start to fracture and divide or devolve into arguments and blocking one another then we have lost already (1 Corinthians 6:7).
11. Validate the experiences of others. I have never been sexually harassed or whistled at as a I walk down the street. I’ve never seen it happen to a woman. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. How demeaning would it be if I told women that have experienced that they are crazy. Hear each other out. Ask one another what they have experienced it. Some believe certain things because the media portrayed it, while others don’t believe what countless others claim to have experienced, largely because other media outlets have told them not to trust what the media portrays. Let’s just cut the media out all together and listen to one another.
12. Consider that you may not be right. I may not be either. And perhaps let’s not throw meaningless stats at each other. You can’t judge a basketball team by solely looking at their stats. If that’s the case, the Cleveland Cavaliers would never have won the NBA championship. Plus, many don’t interpret stats well. For instance, I’ve seen numerous people recently posting that 49% of police shooting victims are white while only 26% are black. There you have it. But it evidently did not occur to them that only 13% of the country is black but they account for double that number of shooting victims. Oops. If you disagree with that, then I’ll be excepting an amazing night of hospitality at your place soon :-) Please remember, though, that during the height of the slave trade the majority of the population thought that they were right and good and charged the slaves with ignorance, exaggeration, and unfair complaining. We look back and it’s obvious who was right. Just before the Civil War, we find the same story. In the 1940’s over 60% of white Americans said that there was no problem with race relations or racial justice in the country. They dismissed the claims of injustice as subjective, unfair, invalidated, or fantasy. We look back and it’s obvious who was right. Who is correct about the state of things right now? Are you sure?