Four months ago, I had never heard of Ferguson. Today that St. Louis suburb dominates the headlines, trends on Twitter and hangs over all of our heads. I was one of the millions who watched as the grand jury’s decision was announced on Monday night. I’m one of the millions struggling to make sense of it all. And I’m one of the millions whose struggle has led to silence. I’ve wanted to tweet, update my status or blog. I just haven’t known what to say. So, I’ve said nothing.
As a pastor, I’ve come to believe the danger of silence is greater than the danger of saying the wrong thing. I fear silence could communicate three equally dangerous messages to my congregation: One, the church is totally oblivious to what’s happening in the real world. Two, the church should steer clear of difficult conversations, especially racially charged ones. Three, the gospel offers no hope to a culture looking for answers.
In wanting to say something, I’m confronted with just how easy it would be to say the wrong thing and do more harm than good. I fully aware of just how limited my knowledge is. I don’t know all of the evidence presented to the grand jury. I don’t know what it’s like to grow up under the cloud of suspicion that seems to follow young, black men in our culture. I don’t know the sacrifices men and women in law enforcement make to do an incredibly difficult and frightening job. I don’t know what it’s like to lose a son. I don’t know if the grand jury’s decision was right or wrong.
All of that “not knowing” makes silence look pretty attractive. But silence mutes what we do know:
- Our World Is Broken. Self delusion might be the single greatest epidemic in America. We’re terrifyingly good at ignoring economic, cultural, political, financial, social and international problems. We are desperate to believe the lie that people are fundamentally good, our world is a happy place and everything really is okay. We need the smelling salts of Ferguson to awaken our consciences. Whatever you think of Ferguson, let’s be honest enough to admit the injustice of racism still exists in America.
- The Fight For Justice Is A Christian Fight. The God of the Bible is a God of justice. Consider Deuteronomy 32:4, “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” The cross of Christ is an announcement that God is stunningly just, even in His forgiveness of sin. If God just swept over sin, He wouldn’t be just. The death of Christ allows God to be perfectly just and infinitely forgiving. That’s what Paul is getting at in Romans 3:26, “It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” God calls His church to be a beacon of justice in an unjust world. Our mission is to live in such a way that the helpless would find hope and injustice would shut her mouth (Job 5:16). The pursuit of justice in an unjust world isn’t comfortable work but it is the right work for a Christian.
- The Gospel Reconciles. I’ve worshipped in post-genocide Rwanda with Hutu and Tutsi brothers and sisters in Christ united in the same church. I know the promise of a gospel where “there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” (Col. 3:11) The gospel offers a hope our politics never will.
I believe Dr. King was right when he said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Ferguson matters to me as a Christian. I don’t pretend to have all of the answers but I do know where to look for hope, for justice and for a better tomorrow. My prayer is that we as Christians would respond to the wounds of Ferguson with the hope of the gospel.