Black + Blue

By Dr. Bruce Hebel

All over the news we see pending chaos as the African-American community and our nation’s police officers are on the verge of an all-out war. The Black community, with historically legitimate concerns, views the police with suspicion, fear and, in some cases, contempt. Recent tragic deaths in the Black community have brought emotions to a fever pitch and have bolstered the belief of many that any action taken by a police officer against a black individual is driven by racism. This has led to protests. While the majority of the recent protests have been peaceful, rhetoric by a very vocal minority has led to violence against law enforcement officers. A sniper assassinated five police officers in Dallas, three officers in Baton Rouge were gunned down, another was killed in Kansas City. This, quite understandably, has caused some of our men and women in blue to become more guarded. Unfortunately, this has led to a few officers overreacting to certain situations resulting in more tragic deaths. Thus the cycle continues.

In response to the Dallas shootings, President Obama said, “We cannot let the actions of a few define all of us.” Yet we are quick to do just that. Former President Bush remarked at the Memorial Service in Dallas, “We tend to judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions.” So true! Yet the question begs itself: How do we, as individuals and as a nation, navigate our way through the suspicion and the misconceptions to find our way to peace? Simply put; is there a way out of this mess?

For the sake of full disclosure, I am white and I am not a police officer. I have many black friends and have ministered in many African-American churches. I’m an adjunct professor of Carver College, a predominantly black school. I also have friends who are police officers and I served as a temporary police chaplain in the aftermath of in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. I have friends who are both black and police officers. More importantly, I’m a follower of Jesus Christ. I am a simple enough man to believe that in the Cross of Jesus we find the solution to everything.

 

As I have taken some time to reflect and ponder the issues underlying the events of the last few weeks, it seems to me that people on both sides are demanding what
they are not willing to give in return. Let’s be clear. It is wrong to look at a black person and assume a mindset or behavior pattern simply because they’re black. It is equally wrong to say that because a police officer stops a black person, he’s a racist. Both of those mindsets are wrong. Yet it’s a typical scenario, isn’t it? Both sides excuse in themselves what they denounce in others. When we do that- when we take that bait, we open ourselves up to the spirit of offense.

The spirit of offense keeps us from seeing the offender as a person. When we dehumanize our offender, our indignation is free to fester and we begin connecting the current circumstances with previous offenses. This always distorts our present reality and provokes us toward an ever-increasing anger, which leads to a desire for vengeance. “Somebody’s gotta pay!” Oh, we know better than to openly call for vengeance, because, well, that’s just not civilized. So instead we sanitize our terminology and cry for “justice”. “I will not be satisfied until the person who did this, or someone associated with them, suffers!” “No Justice! No Peace!” Yet the more we cry for justice, the less peace we actually find. The spirit of offense only leads us to torment, never peace.

No one who receives the justice they demand ever finds peace. Ever! Why? Peace doesn’t come through justice. True peace only comes through the injustice of the Cross. The Cross is where the sinless Son of God was unjustly crucified to receive the death sentence each one of us deserved, so that we, through His resurrection, could have a relationship with God, which none of us deserved. (Reflect on 2 Corinthians 5:14-21; Romans 5:1-11; Colossians 2:8-19 and 1 Peter 2:13-25.)

The message of the Cross is countercultural.

The culture says: “Focus on what they did to you.”
The Cross says: “Look at what Jesus did for you.”

The culture says: “Focus on the past.
The Cross says: “Focus on Jesus!”

The culture says: “They must pay!”
The Cross says: “Jesus already paid!”

The culture declares: “I demand justice!”
The Cross declares: “Choose to forgive.

So how does this apply to our Black and Blue dilemma? The same way that Jesus applies to all relationships. To the injured, forgive. Choose to apply the blood of Jesus as payment in full for every wound you or those you love have suffered. This includes the atrocities of slavery, the civil rights abuses and the police shootings. When we actively believe that Jesus’ death is satisfactory payment for every sin committed against us, our hearts find peace. Every single time! Nothing is so bad that Jesus hasn’t settled the debt. If His blood doesn’t satisfy you, what will?

To the offenders, repent! If you have viewed people through the prism of racism, change the way you think. The truth is that we are ALL created in the image of our creator and we are ALL called to “honor ALL men.” This includes all races and both genders. Repentance involves radically changing how you view people, moving from the lens of suspicion or hate to the lens of love and honor. In other words, see people through Jesus’ eyes.

If we are honest, most of the time we find ourselves on both sides of the equation, needing to both forgive and repent. Wounded people wound people. The cycle stops when we forgive and repent for our part and entrust the other person’s repentance to God.

We never find peace with each other until we find peace with God—through the Cross of Jesus. Once we find peace with God, we view people differently. When we view each other the way God views us, we find peace.

Nothing else works.

 

Amy Smithwick