Tuesday, August 19, 2014

In search of unity

Galatians 3:28

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
What if he was white? Would there be riots?

The question was asked about the death of Michael Brown on account of six bullets from the service weapon of a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., but it’s not a new rhetorical device.

It is, however, one I hope to see eradicated.

The surface intent is to get people thinking about if the unfathomable circumstances in the days following Brown’s death would have played out in precisely the same matter had the dead unarmed 18-year-old were not black. But casually asking the question not only ignores the actual underlying issue — forget the aftermath; would Michael Brown be alive today if he had a different skin color? — it reveals the person asking the question has already distanced him or herself from the central figure.

That’s a huge problem.

As soon as we start to look at someone as an other, it becomes easier to justify them being treated in ways we wouldn’t tolerate if they happened to us. This happens in small ways, such as not noticing if store employees are tailing a fellow shopper because he isn’t white, and large, such as ignoring genocide halfway across the world until the murderers start putting Christians in the crosshairs.

I say we because I do it too, but I want it to stop. I want my kids to grow up understanding we’re all humans created the same way. Whether you believe in a God who created us all in His image or look at life as a universal accident, it’s long past time to accept the fact every person deserves to be treated with love and respect.

This is not a call to be blind to color and culture. But it is fully possible to appreciate another person’s heritage without ignoring that which makes us the same.

That is how I want my children to grow up, to look at the way the world treats people and reflect inward, not outward. How would I feel if that happened to me? What would I want my friends to do for me? Doesn’t God love that person, too?

Maybe I’ll just read them the parable of the Good Samaritan over and again until they never have to ask “Who is my neighbor?” More than likely, as the boys get older we’ll try to have serious discussions about the way the world works and help them think about caring for others the way we would care for our own flesh and blood.

What if Michael Brown was white? No. What if he was your classmate? What if he was your brother? What if he was your son? Would you want anyone to care how he lived and died? About his hopes and dreams? About his failings and triumphs?

God calls us to do justice, love kindness and walk with humility. There are no conditions or disclaimers, but we seem bent on erecting barriers that divide instead of unify.

I can’t change society, but I can work on my own shortcomings and try hard to teach my kids to love above all else. I wish everyone would do the same.

A prayer for August 19:

Lord, please break down the walls in my life. Show me every time I fail to love as you would and give me the courage to answer your call. Help me live so my children will want to follow in my footsteps, and may we all be guided along your path. Do not let me fill myself with pride. Help me remember each person I encounter is the work of your loving hands, and may the light of your love shine through me as long as my life shall last. Amen.

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