“The Lord God’s spirit is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim release for captives, and liberation for prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and a day of vindication for our God, to comfort all who mourn.” -Isaiah 61:1-2
My heart is heavy. I mourn with the family of Michael Brown, the people of Ferguson, Missouri and people across this nation. The pain is real, and the God we believe in teaches us to call a thing what it is – death is death, violence is violence and injustice is injustice. And yet, calling a thing what it is – is not always easy. Our world is full of shades of gray. Stories are layered, experiences are nuanced and truths are complex.
My brother-in-law is a police officer. He is a kind and generous man, who loves my sister and my niece deeply. He genuinely cares about his work and aims to make the community safer. As he prepares for a 12-hour shift, he ritually layers Kevlar and polyester, pride and anxiety. He departs in good courage, not knowing what the day might bring. I believe that all people should treat police officers with respect, trust their integrity, and honor their role in maintaining good order.
At the same time, I hear the cries of our black brothers and sisters who bear undue, unearned suspicion. Young black men, black boys, learn to navigate the justice system not with integrity, but with submission. Race paints broad strokes of assumption and prejudice. Power reigns down on their lives not with dignity, but with discrimination. We live in a broken world where the color of ones skin still means more than the content of ones character.
We don’t know all the details that lead to the death of Michael Brown, and disputing the facts will not mend the brokenhearted. But we do know that racism still exists, that all people can make poor choices and that real lives are caught in the crossfires. We do know that our God is a God of mercy. And in this season of Advent, we anxiously await the coming of our merciful Savior. The one who mourns with those who mourn and speaks out for the oppressed. Our call as Christians is to be purveyors of Christ’s mercy in this broken world.
Heavy words from this heavy heart.