This article was written for the Baptist Trumpet and was primarily aimed at an audience of members of the BMA of America. Also, this article really has nothing to do with Batman.
Not a day goes by without seeing some kind of turmoil on the news. These past few days have been exceptionally bad. ISIS is committing genocide. In my home state of Missouri, an unarmed young black man was killed in Ferguson several days ago, and there has been rioting and looting as a result. I’m guessing most of you have heard of these events.
Do any elements of these stories make you angry? They should stir up something inside of you. Recognizing injustice and being angry about it is a Godly trait — meaning God Himself abhors injustice. Speaking from personal guilt and observation, a great many if not most of us have some big problems about how we respond to injustice. We create a great paradox:
Our anger at injustice is driven by compassion. We see evil things happening to people who don’t deserve it from people who seek to gain power and we feel compassion for the victims. Why is it then that we often completely forget to be compassionate when it comes to addressing the problem. Often, our responses become self-centered rather than compassion-centered. Here are a few pitfalls we ought not fall into that lead to hateful words and actions:
1. We get defensive (usually over something we aren’t even involved in.) Humans like to make categories, especially when it comes to things like skin color. (Personally, I think the modern concept of “race” is a huge lie and tragedy.) For example, in Ferguson, the cop who shot Michael Brown was white and Brown was black. Brown’s friends and neighborhood, mostly black, are very understandably angry and see this event as an act of racial profiling and express this in TV interviews etc. But rather than trying to understand why they would feel this way, we immediately go, “Wait! I’m white (let’s face it, the BMA of America has virtually no African-American presence and so I’m confident most of the readers of this column are white) and I’m not a racist! Those people are wrong and now they’re making it a race issue!” Then we firmly entrench ourselves on one side of the black vs. white ungodly, false dichotomy Satan has used mightily for centuries instead of remembering that we should be on the side of justice. Remember, above all things, you are a representative of Christ. Christ is your source of identity. Identity for the Christian should never start with being a Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, American, white, black, Hispanic, Baptist, Presbyterian, etc.
2. We get hateful. Once entrenched in our position, we start to make general statements. “All of those Iraqis/people in Ferguson are thugs/terrorists and they ought to go wipe them out.” I remember several years ago, in Baptist churches, more than one person saying of the Middle East, “I say nuke them all and let ‘Allah’ sort them out.” This kind of speech has no place in the Christian mouth. In fact, the assumption that everyone of a certain area means to do harm to everyone else is so demonstrably false it’s crazy. For example, initial reports indicate that many of the looters in Ferguson are from out-of-town groups. ISIS has destroyed many mosques. There are many more victims than perpetrators. I could go on, but ultimately the hateful Facebook comments and things that come from our mouths can often be traced back to point number three.
3. We forget. We forget that no one will ever “get away” with anything and that it is not our job to make sure everyone “pays” (Rom. 12:19). We forget that God knows that humans have a tendency to cause chaos and that He has set up laws and governments to keep order and subdue wrongdoers so that we do not take matters “into our own hands” (Rom. 13:1-7). We forget that it is our job to be citizens of the Kingdom and take God’s glory into these dark situations so that His light will shine (Rom. 13:8-10). And, most importantly, we forget that we, as believers were enemies of God but He died for us anyway, and we have no reason to feel superior to anyone (the whole Bible).
May God be merciful to me for when I’ve let anger take over the compassion that caused it in the first place.