Mount Calvary Family,
We are experiencing some tremendously difficult times. In the midst of our battles with COVID 19, we once again see communities torn apart by issues of racism. It is a difficult struggle to deal with effectively at any time, but especially so amidst the heightened sensitivities of this pandemic. To find a way forward, I believe we must look for common ground shared by those on all sides of the issues before us. I say “all sides” because I don’t believe the issues before us are so simple as “two sides”. Even if you break it down to its basest form, right vs. wrong, it is not so simple as a right side and a wrong side. There are those with good points and bad on all sides of the issues.
I believe we can find common ground in the words of Sandra Turner-Handy, one of the leaders in our community. Sandra writes:
“While we stand in solidarity for the nonviolent protests, shoulder to shoulder against the injustices of harm, danger, and death against people of color, as a community of hope, faith and peace. We will not support any acts of violence upon members of our community or police precinct or any destruction of property. We send prayers of strength and peace to the George Floyd family and the countless other families of victims of police brutality.”
I understand the fears many share when they consider involvement in our community. Our neighborhood has experienced some difficult times that have left it desolated and largely deserted. Having said that, I believe the words of Sandra are far more representative of our community than many may expect. These words could easily have been written by anyone of us. They proclaim the validity of the Black Lives Matter movement’s message, that Black Lives indeed matter as much as any other because each life is precious to God. Too often, that message is missed because, when we hear the words declaring, “Black Lives Matter!” we miss the context in which they are spoken. That context is one in which many suffer beyond those of other races because of skin color. People often fear the dangers around them, and because of the value they place on their own lives, they fall prey to the temptation to devalue those they fear even when they are no danger at all.
As we stand with our community in pursuit of justice for all, I am reminded of Martin Luther’s writings during The Peasants’ Rebellion. Luther spoke out against an unjust system that was not fair to the peasants of Germany. Then, when the peasants revolted with extreme violence, Luther spoke out encouraging the German aristocracy to act in defense of innocent people, put down the revolt and restore order. The aristocracy responded with such great violence that Luther promptly spoke out against them as well. I believe God calls us to take the difficult place in the middle with Luther, “sitting on the fence” between warring sides and calling each to repentance when they employ excessive force.
We must indeed acknowledge and hold police officers and others accountable for acts of excessive force. We do, indeed, need to speak up against a system which devalues certain segments of our society and individuals who use excessive force against others. At the same time, we must condemn the equally unjust responses of victims, their families and friends when they attack the innocent. We need to “sit on that fence” but we cannot sit there passively or indefinitely. We must stand and reach out our hands in both directions to draw together and affirm the values of all those whom God in His grace has created to be His children whom God desires to join Him in His eternal Kingdom through faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, our Lord.
We are also thankful that we are part of a community that has a great relationship with our police officers, as Sandra’s statement declares, and can readily turn to them in times of need. We must stand with these men and women as well and celebrate that they are indeed a positive force in and part of our community. We must celebrate that Blue Lives matter as well and pray for their safety as they concern themselves with their responsibility to serve and protect our community. We are indeed blessed by those whom God has brought to serve our community.
It is often said in these circumstances, “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” We are thankful for the opportunities to put God’s love in action through the efforts of our community partnerships with our Camp Restore ministry. We can be part of the solution with our actions, relationships, and service right here in our community. May we indeed be part of the “solution”, and may it be a “solution” grounded in God’s love and care for every life He has created. May we “speak the truth in love” in such ways that everyone hears God’s warning of coming judgment on sin and with it the loving compassion of God that caused Him to send His Son, Jesus, to bear that judgment that we might experience God’s grace through faith in this His Son!
May we indeed acknowledge that “Black Lives Matter” because “All Lives Matter to God!” John 3:16-17 says it all.
May God bless you as you serve Jesus in all you do,
About The Author
Since 2015, Pastor John Carrier has been Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church's pastor in Detroit, Michigan. He is also the Director for Camp Restore Detroit. Mt. Calvary has a bi-monthly newsletter, which opens with words from Pastor Carrier, called "From The Pastor's Desk..."