When I saw the news of the Tulsa shooting I thought, "Not again." Then, when it happened here in North Carolina, it hit literally close to home. I couldn't help but watch live feeds of the protesting happening within a couple hour drive of my house. It breaks my heart. All of it. The gun violence, the unrest, the hostility, but what really bothers me is that our response is to take sides, place blame, and justify a position rather than work together towards a solution.
This situation is just another of so many that reminds me of Jesus' words in his sermon on the mount. I feel that we could study these 3 chapters of scripture for the rest of our lives and still find meaning that is fresh, relevant, and needed in this moment.
Who are the real peacemakers of today? Some would say that is the job of our police. Others would say that the Black Lives Matters movement is attempting to bring peace to a group of people who have been treated unfairly by the American system. I believe that there are peacemakers on all sides of this debate, but as we can see, things are not right and we are in desperate need of change in this country.
All that we are seeing in the news, the murdering, protesting, lawsuits, and so on, is not the problem in itself, but are symptoms of much deeper issues. We could spend a lot of energy trying to treat the symptoms, but we need to strike at the heart of the issues. And it is exactly our own heart that needs to be the first thing we try to fix.
We know that it's wrong to murder. Even though our US systems of government, policing, and military justifies killing in many circumstances, let's just say we can all agree on this point: Murder is wrong. Well, Jesus takes this basic idea of morality to higher levels by explaining that we are already guilty of murder if we have anger or hatred towards another in our hearts (Matt 5:22).
So as I struggle with all of what is happening, I realize that the first thing I need to do, and the first thing we all need to do, is check our hearts. Am I feeling anger towards one side or another? If so, I have to start by coming to terms, asking for and giving forgiveness, praying for and even loving my enemies (Matt 5:44), and when I can do that, I am ready to begin to be a peacemaker.
I have to conclude with saying something that might offend some people, but God actually does choose sides and pick favorites. Someone had to say it. The thing is, God always sides with the underdog, the oppressed, the minorities who are hurting, broken, beaten down, and hopeless. This is part of what Jesus means when he says blessed are the poor in spirit and those who mourn. They are the ones who will truly understand God's redemptive grace.
The picture of the kingdom of heaven that Jesus gives us to ask for and act out as we pray, "on earth as it is in heaven," is a far cry from the state of the kingdom of America right now. But I have hope because God only brings new life where there is death. Will you join me in mourning with all of those who mourn so that we may be comforted and filled with hope?