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Open Letter Response to Ferguson, Missouri


Open Letter Response to Ferguson, Missouri

Spencer Traver

The Shooting of Michael Brown

High noon. It was a sunny hour in Ferguson, Missouri; yet, darkness would soon encompass the area. The darkness that would come had nothing to do with the sun; rather, it had much to do with the hearts of the affected and the afflicted. It was at this time that Michael Brown, a young African-American individual, sustained multiple bullet wounds from the firearm of a white St. Louis-area police officer.

In just a few days, we will have reached the one month anniversary regarding the shooting that took place in Ferguson, Missouri. Since then, tumultuous hearts have become increasingly divided over racial matters in our country.

The Great Divide

We do not clearly know the intentions of Michael Brown or Darren Wilson in the Ferguson shooting. However, our nation has erupted into a cataclysm over racial jurisdiction. Each and every citizen seemingly has their own opinion or "side" for what is right and wrong. Quickly, we point out the judgmental faults in one another, while we ignore the burden within our own hearts. 

As a nation, our reaction to this shooting has been everything but pure. Where is the grace? Where is the mercy? Where is the kindness? Where are the fruits of those who are filled with the Holy Spirit that Paul wrote of in Galatians chapter five? Since when did God die and make each of us the rulers and enforcers of racial justice? For being a nation that was founded upon Christian beliefs, we express quite the opposite.

In fact, it was the 16th President of the United States who proclaimed in a speech that, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." Abraham Lincoln was no God, yet, in the position of leadership that God gave him, he called not just for justice, but mostly for mercy.

Recently, God revealed a truth to me. Based on the gospel that God lovingly gave to us, we, as human beings, must come to terms with the fact that justice is good and mercy is great but both are God's. In the book of James, we clearly see that this is not an opinion, but an affirmed fact from the hand of God:

James 2:12-13, "Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment."

It's not that justice doesn't matter. No, justice is good. However, when we read the gospel we learn that mercy is great. In fact, Mercy is so mind-blowing that it triumphs over judgment by being the hands and feet of living grace. It is by the hands and feet of grace where freedom is found alone in Christ.

Justice is good. Mercy is great. But the promise doesn't stop there.

1. God uses both justice and mercy for our good. This is a biblical promise! It's evident everywhere. Look at Romans 8:28 for example: 

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

2. God uses both justice and mercy for his good. This, too, is a biblical promise! When we say that God uses justice and mercy for his good, we mean that he does so to declare his righteousness. Take the words of Simon Peter for example:

"For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority." (2 Peter 2:4-10)

The gospel is chalk-full of instances where God used both justice and mercy, for the good of the mighty Creator and the insolent creature. Here's where we miss the target: God is the Creator...we are the creature. Since when did God die and make us kings and queens over the heavens and the earth?

Because of sin, we miss the meaning of control, or maybe we choose to neglect it? Does "God in control" mean that Christianity is some sort of tyrannical dictatorship or does it mean that we are a comforted, purposed creation? Did God leave us to our futile thoughts or did he rescue us from ourselves?

Sometimes, we decide that the control of God is situational rather than absolute. Our desire is for God to be in control when we realize that we cannot. Yet, we also like to do as we please. See the contradiction yet?

For some of us, we have exchanged the absolute truth of God for a lie. The fact of the matter is this: sin may promise the freedom to do as we please, yet it entangles and ensnares the enticed. Thus, the free ability to do as we please is not freedom, it is ultimately slavery. How interesting of a word to bring into the picture of a conversation about injustice and racial discrimination...we must be careful which battles we choose to fight.

Hear me out. There still exists a racial issue in America. In the 1960's, racial segregation revealed its head. Today, it is apparent in critical issues of criminality and assumptions, such as in the Michael Brown case. However, the more that we allow our racism to quietly grow inside of us, the wider the bloodlines we will leave marred and scarred over our nation. I've come to realize that the more we argue for equality, the less willing we become to plead our brotherly affection for another person from another race or gender. We, then, scramble to protect ourselves as if there were no God in control of time itself.

Slowly, we have faded into the shadows of ethnocentrism, so far that we've left brothers and sisters behind. We have abandoned the mission of Jesus - to seek and save the lost - and have taken up a mission of our own - to promote oneself. We have ignored that man was made in God's image and treated others as if they were made in the image of a lesser god than the one we were made of.

The issue we have is a problem of the heart. Our ethnocentrism, our egotism, our partiality - it all has to do with the promotion of one's self. Yet, the gospel message is much different. We are the doulos of Christ. By doulos, I mean the servants and slaves of Jesus as Lord. To be the doulos of Christ means to gives oneself up to another's will. To be the doulos of Christ means to make service available to be used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men. To be the doulos of Christ means to be devoted to another to the disregard of one's own interests. We are not called to be studs of Jesus. We are called to be servants and slaves of Jesus.

As slaves of Christ, we can submit to the will of the Father and the will of his people before our own. Why? Because, once you have come to terms with the fact that you are not your own but indeed the Lord's, you will do absolutely anything for the kingdom of God by the power of God alone.

Yes, we must address the racial matters in America. But Michael Brown's death goes beyond the lines of racism. It goes beyond the boundaries of ourselves. Yes, we must plead for justice, but we must plead louder for mercy. We must take God at his Word for who he truly is - the divine creator of power. A failure to accept God's offering of divine power as an offering of grace means to reject the power of the cross and accept the blindness of sin, forgetting that Jesus, the Son of the Creator, died to save us, the creature, from ourselves. 

Read closely...God knows injustice. God promises to have wrath, a wrath incomprehensible to the human mind, against this unrighteousness (see Romans 1:18-32). I promise you this-God will bring justice to his creation. The wrath of God against all unrighteousness protects the truth of the gospel, the character of God, and the sanctity of life. We can rest in peace knowing that God will do his part.

So, what is our part?

Our job is to pursue the person in their sin and restore what is lost. Our job is to experience satisfaction in Jesus and let his love overflow from our hearts. Our job is to be the hands and feet of grace that picks up the pieces of hearts and lives that sin breaks and scatters. Our job is to be merciful, not judgmental, for judgment takes, but mercy gives.

As Jesus declared in the Sermon on the Mount, God makes his people peacemakers. He blesses those who are merciful. He blesses those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. He blesses those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, and by righteousness sake, he means for the sake of his kingdom.

My prayer is that we would not rush into the business of judgment but dive into the oceans of mercy. Let us pick our heads up and realize that where there is darkness, we are called to be light. Take heart, and pursue mercy, brothers and sisters.