Summary: Change, if the world is not the way it needs to be---what is our response
One of the pressing questions of our day, or any day, is how do we make lasting social change which reflects the values of God’s Kingdom. The short answer for many is the ballot box. Yet there are plenty of issues which demand more nuance than legislation. From the Temperance movement of the 1820’s to the Moral Majority of the 1980’s, to the Occupy Wall Street Movement in 2015 someone is always fighting for Micah 6:8 to be more than a prophetic word from an 8th Century Jewish prophet. But as you can see from these examples the change is always temporary.
The Temperance movement, for instance, won the legislative battle, but in the end, they lost the war. The Moral Majority made a lot of noise but in the end was disappointed with political influence.
Allen Jacobs a police officer here in Greenville was shot and killed. Michael Xavier Johnson a military veteran ambushes five policemen in Dallas earlier this year. An African-American Terence Crutcher died at the hands of the police in September, in the video, he looks to be compiling with officers, before he is shot. Terence, as we all know, is only the latest of African-American men to be shot by the police. Robert Jones, a researcher recently reported that 53% of all US citizens view these killings as isolated incidents. 65% of white people see them as isolated incidents. While 15% of African-American see the shootings as isolated events.
Yesterday 2 officers are killed in Palm Springs, responding to a domestic dispute and it is reported they were killed my machine gun fire? Now a veteran of 35 years who was retiring in December and a mother of a four-month-old are dead.
So is the problem racism, is the problem violence, is it social un-rest, or is yet another issue. The response to the killing of African-American Men or police officers or children has been protesting. Protest aimed at raising awareness of the problem. Yet, even with the protest, change is slow and difficult to measure. 16 black men were shot by police officers in September, many were unarmed. Yesterday two more officers were killed. There is a lot of violence going on and it is not showing any signs of slowing down. Which brings me back to the question, how do we make social change that reflects the Kingdom of God?
As Dr. King said, you can’t legislate a person of color to love a person of a different color. So if you can’t legislate a solution, how do we make necessary changes? Some will say change starts in the heart. Well, there is nothing wrong with that unless we are saying it as an excuse to NOT do anything. Jesus offers a new way to break old patterns, so let’s listen to him for a moment.
Jesus identified a problem. The problem wasn’t killing. Killing was the end result, but the problem started way before the killing began. Anger and frustration in human relationships is where Jesus started. People could not get along or work together. People spent their days in arguments and their nights angry. Divisions were growing. So the first thing Jesus does is remind people of traditional righteousness.
‘You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.”
This is straight from the 10 Commandments. While it is true, it is also limited. Let’s say you don’t kill someone, but you have to live with them. Let’s say you refrain from murder, but have such resentment or fear in your heart that you can’t get along with them. You have followed the letter of the law, but life is still not good. You still have tension.
Not murdering another person deals with the most extreme possibility but not the most common. It’s like having an answer for heart disease, but nothing for the flu.
What is created and experienced is a vicious cycle;
But I say to you that if you are being angry with a brother or sister [you are involved in a continual process of anger] you are liable to judgment.
You don’t have to kill someone. You place yourself in jeopardy with anger, not killing. Well, this could happen daily or hourly depending on your co-workers or family. But this is the vicious cycle. You find yourself angry-----but you refrain from killing----so where does the anger go? Nowhere! It builds up in us. It becomes toxic, maybe it becomes fear, maybe it becomes rage, maybe it becomes low self-esteem, but for sure it does not bring us closer to God. In fact, the judgment implies a separation from God. A self-imposed one.
Dylann Roof, Adam Lanza, and the 14-year old who shot Jacob Hall all violated the commandment “do not kill.” But does anyone doubt that long before they killed they were angry? The anger is like a storm it will always blow, sometimes it stays at sea but when it makes landfall that’s when the ambulances come and the tears fall.