Saturday, July 9, 2016

A Christian Response to Injustice & Violence

Those who know me well know that I'm not usually one to rush to say the first thing(s) on my mind, but first to ponder and pray. Consequently, it has been challenging for me to write a response to yet another week of violence.  However, after prayer, God laid on my heart several things:

First, I urge us to be in prayer for all victims of injustice and violence, in whatever guises those present themselves.  That is what happened this week... yet again.  My thoughts and prayers are with the families of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Lorne Ahrens (those who lost their lives), plus the 7 other Dallas police officers and 2 civilians who were injured.  Though the circumstances that led to their respective deaths or injuries were different, each of these were victims of injustice and violence.

Second, not only are we called to pray for those affected by injustice and violence, but we are also called by God to act - not only to refuse to use their methods ourselves, but also to speak up and speak out against them when we see them in use by others, to call out those who would use their tools, and to non-violently confront the systems and processes that support and seek to justify them.

Finally, let me conclude with words from five passages of scripture that spoke to me about various dimensions of what happened this past week, and what an authentic faith-filled response might look like. They are words which call for oppression and injustice to be confronted, but which also insist that that confrontation be done peaceably and non-violently.  I share them without specific interpretation so that you may let God guide you into their meaning for your own life:

Psalms 94:1-7 (NRSV),
"O Lord, you God of vengeance, you God of vengeance, shine forth!
Rise up, O judge of the earth; give to the proud what they deserve!
O Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult?
They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast.
They crush your people, O Lord, and afflict your heritage.
They kill the widow and the stranger, they murder the orphan,
and they say, “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.”"

Amos 5:14-24 (NRSV),
" Seek good and not evil, that you may live;
and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said.
Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord: In all the squares there shall be wailing; and in all the streets they shall say, “Alas! alas!” They shall call the farmers to mourning, and those skilled in lamentation, to wailing; in all the vineyards there shall be wailing, for I will pass through the midst of you, says the Lord. Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord! Why do you want the day of the Lord? It is darkness, not light; as if someone fled from a lion, and was met by a bear; or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall, and was bitten by a snake. Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light, and gloom with no brightness in it? I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."

Jeremiah 12:1-4 (NRSV), 
" You will be in the right, O Lord, when I lay charges against you; but let me put my case to you. Why does the way of the guilty prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?
You plant them, and they take root; they grow and bring forth fruit; you are near in their mouths yet far from their hearts. But you, O Lord, know me; You see me and test me—my heart is with you. Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and set them apart for the day of slaughter. How long will the land mourn, and the grass of every field wither?
For the wickedness of those who live in it the animals and the birds are swept away,
and because people said, “He is blind to our ways.”"

Galatians 6:1-10 (NRSV),
" My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads. Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith."

1 Peter 2:13-17 (NRSV), 
" For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor."

Always remember that God loves you and I do, too!

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