It’s an ugly depraved world outside the kingdom. The views and ethics are anti-church, anti-kingdom, and anti-Christ. It is ungodly. The people outside the kingdom desire power, and when they possess it, they abuse it. The abuse of power becomes the fuel for prejudice and privilege. They cannot but sin against each other. They are rebellious and oppressive. They are hopeless and have no vision. They say they want a better world however, they have become contributors to their depravity. Prejudice, violence, and injustice will always be present in the world outside the kingdom of God.
Though the details are different, the story is the same. A white cop supposedly abused his powers over a black person. It is unfortunate that a person who is supposed to uphold justice seems to have perverted it. Whether it is true there was an abuse of power, this is the story. The man who was victimized becomes the symbol of all people like him. And then a nationwide reaction occurs. Justice is demanded. Cops as a whole are condemned. It is no longer between the cop and the one targeted. It’s the struggle and fight between those in power and those who are at a disadvantage.
Now, the aim of this post is not about investigating the details of a specific incident. Rather, it is about how the church – citizens of the kingdom of God – should view and respond whenever an event such as the one described occurs.
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer (Romans 13:1-4).”
God is a holy God. We humans are unholy deserving nothing but death. Yet, God chooses to offer mercy to many. But if needed to exercise retribution, he will use the governing authorities as his extension to administer justice. Those who rebel what God has appointed rebels against God. That rebel is choosing to fight against God. He gambles his life. For the good citizen, there is no need to worry about experiencing God’s wrath via the governing authorities. But for the rebel, be afraid. Through his selected channel of government, God will not hesitate to strike. The governing authorities are established to carry out God’s wrath against the wrongdoer, including death. Using this passage as a basis for the incident described, we must ask: Did the person hesitate and struggle to meet the demands of the cop or did he immediately comply? The actions of the individual may determine the difference between life and death.
Let’s say that a police officer or officers committed a crime. Should the police force as a whole be slandered and attacked? What makes people think that all officers are part of the problem? Isn’t this the type of thing – prejudicial attitudes towards a class of people – what is being fought against? The law enforcement should not be viewed negatively based on the supposedly unjust actions of that one incident. In these situations, generalizations demonize.
Justice is usually demanded in situations as these. But, what is justice? According the scripture, justice is whatever God deems as right. But outside the kingdom, his justice isn’t recognized. The problem of evil in a world of evil is that justice doesn’t exist. Justice is distorted. Sinners kill sinners. Violence begets violence. There is no one, not one who is righteous. Everyone everywhere are unrighteous. They think they know what justice is, but they don’t. You can’t know justice and defy authority. Outside the reign of the kingdom, people will do what they think is right in their own eyes. So, why do you search for justice in a world of human depravity?
Though we can’t fully rely on the justice system built on human principles, we can only hope and pray that God uses the systems in place. Yet, we must keep in mind that God’s mind is bigger than ours. As much as he is just, he is full of mercy as well. He will pour his wrath out on whomever he wants, and extend mercy to whomever he wants. If a man committed a small crime, and killed for not complying immediately, it may not seem fair. But that’s because we’re seeing it through the lens of our justice system. We may demand justice by insisting the officer(s) involved be convicted. And if he’s not, it doesn’t seem right. Is it possible that since justice is desired so much the officer became the scapegoat to carry all the evil that occurred? Is it possible that God saw what really happened and used the justice system to set him free? Who are we to argue against the Supreme Judge?
Kingdom citizens understand we come from the same Creator and are unified by the same Redeemer. The color of one’s skin is just a part of nature, part of God’s beautiful creation, and with changes in environments and over periods of time, the color of our skin changes. Our differences makes each one unique, but it is no identifier of status. There is no distinctions between any of us. Prejudice ceases to exist. We are blind to distinctions of race and status. In Christ, there are no positions of privilege. We are a community where “there is no longer Jew or Greek…for all of you are one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28).”
We see the world differently. We don’t see the world through the same categories as those outside the kingdom. Though we can identify the issues people are referring to, we see something deeper than what most see. Instead of race or status, we see pride and hunger for power. We see the enemy at work and how the ego of each one comes together collectively becoming a monster. We see how evil and depraved the world is, and how people are blind and deceived. No, this is not a race issue, though it’s how it’s manifested, it is a pride and power issue.
Because we see this evil of pride and power, we know what can help. The solution to this problem is Jesus. Jesus taught us to live in humility and in surrender. What this looks like is the ability to think less of what the world told us who we were. Anything that can give you pride – your heritage, your community, your job, your race – should no longer be part of your identity that you take pride in. Also, all that we have is not our own, but it’s all subjected to God, and used for his glory. When we walk in the footsteps of Jesus, of walking in humility and in surrender, we are not easily swayed to a side when a situation like this occurs. Instead, we look on compassionately.
To the outside world, we the church – kingdom citizens – are the image of what the world could become. We offer hope to the world displaying a new community that is more peaceful, united, and blind to any distinctions. What makes us different is how we treat people, including those outside the kingdom, with love and respect. It makes no difference if they are followers of Christ or not. We practice justice by seeking ways to love, serve, stand with, care, and protect as if they are part of the kingdom – the renewed human race. We long for the people outside the kingdom to taste and see how good the message and community of Jesus is.
As we encounter them, and share with them who we are and who Jesus is, we plead with them and urge them to repent from the mentality of pride, power, and violence. We warn them that this mentality is a path that will only lead to destruction. The path of Jesus leads to life, and we are on that journey, and we invite everyone to follow. And following Jesus requires leaving the old mentality behind for a new one.
- Don’t be quick to respond. Take time. Look objectively at the situation. It’s too easy to take offense when the affected party is one which you identify with.
- As much as possible, refrain from protesting. But if you must take part, do it lawfully and peacefully. Keep in mind though, protests cannot change the nature of sin.
- Obviously, don’t loot. Since this is pretty apparent, do what you can to prevent it. Protect yourself and protect others.
- If a curfew is set, abide by it. If you know there’s an errand you gotta run, do it before it’s time. Respect the curfew, don’t ignore it.
- Don’t forget this about the police officers: 1) they are our authority and, 2) some of them are our brothers in Christ. So, don’t fight against them.
- Teach kids to respect authority. Tell them that police officers are not our enemy and to submit to their orders. Train kids not to get shot by the police.
- Prejudice and violence will continue to exist outside the church. Yet, we anticipate a world free from it. We will seek to live it out by advocating and practicing peace and equal treatment to everyone, regardless of race, status, and kingdom affiliation.
Let Christianity be bigger than your race. No, better yet, see yourself as race-less. You are a new creation – a new human being. We are part of the new human race. We are kingdom citizens.
How can we stand and care for those who feel victimized? How can you defend, without supporting their actions, the police officer(s)? How can we help our brothers and sisters in Christ refrain from getting immaturely and emotionally involved?