The story of the protests in Ferguson, MO is complex. Why did the police officer gun down an unarmed teenager? How will justice in the case be served? How much of what is going on there is magnified by the angles of media coverage? I’m sure Ferguson is a populated place. What else is going on in the town? There are people protesting and causing chaos in the area that are not even from Ferguson. For that matter, many of them are not even from Missouri. Who is sending them? Why are they coming? What is their agenda? Are they being helpful or hurtful? Who is taking advantage of the situation and who is actually working to rectify it? Furthermore, what else has happened in the area to make the situation so volatile? These questions need our attention, but it seems no one is interested in knowing the answers.
As a discerning Christian we should be sensitive to the specifics of the complexities of the people and issues involved. We should not be merely image driven, but rather driven toward truth. At the same time, a text from Scripture is very apparent in this that we cannot ignore.
In John 10:10 Jesus described the evil one as someone who comes only to “steal, kill, and destroy.” No one can deny, those three words are inseparable from this situation.
The situation in Ferguson is a very physical reality. It is emotionally volatile. But what we see and hear should not serve as a camouflage for another reality that is readily apparent. Satan is having a field day in Ferguson.
From a social perspective this is a situation that will only aggravate racial tensions. The media capitalizes on this. But there is more here than skin color. This situation is an assault on life and peace. It is the noise of demonic chaos designed to drown out the message of the gospel. What we hear on the television is that we need the National Guard, we need Presidential policy, we need the ACLU and the NAACP. We need judicial justice.
No sir, we need Christ in Ferguson.
In the midst of his own very tense, judgmental situation, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul pens these words:
For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:13-21 ESV)
How does the gospel instruct us as we watch what is happening in Ferguson?
- There is a spiritual reality of demonic activity, in a fallen world that we cannot ignore. Humans are not well. We need miraculous intervention in our lives, not from policy, not from politicians, not from military might. We need the Lord. We do not need a change in a situation, we need a change in our nature. We must be born again (John 3).
- The work of reconciliation should not be relegated to response in crisis. The work of reconciliation is something we are called to everyday. There should be more to the work of law enforcement to patrol a community, it should also be their work to know the community. The tensions of relationships are being exploited by the media and driving nightly ratings through the roof. The real work of reconciliation is not done with posters, T-shirts, or in protest. There is more to knowing a person than viewing his picture. The work of relationships is done at dinner tables, in homes, in church communities, and in conversations. Knowing what is in the heart of man is not a newsflash.
- The gospel calls us to an ideal higher than ourselves. The talking heads are running to the podium to bring peace to the situation. The problem is that this situation will not be solved in pleasing a person or appealing to an ideal, the question in all of this should be asked, how does our handling of this please the Lord? The need for justice and the ensuing emotions as well as the various opinions should all be subject to the desires of a righteous God as revealed in Scripture. The Lord is not pleased in all of this. We cannot lose sight of that reality. Reconciliation will not be made by making statements. Reconciliation is made through repentance before a righteous God. All we want to do is win the argument and prove who is right. Until we are willing to kneel together and confess what we have done is wrong, there will be no peace.
- The church must itself become a community of protest and demonstration. I do not mean this in the sense of causing chaos in the streets, but the church should rise up and articulate the implications of the gospel in the culture. The church should be able to offer a convincing narrative of what is wrong and how to make it right. If there is racial prejudice, the church should not be merely a microphone for political pundits, the church should demonstrate that the gospel creates a peaceful community for both Jews and Greeks, men and women, white and black, rich and poor, etc (Gal. 3:25-29). What is in our pews should show an alternative to what is going on in the streets. Until the church repents of its own prejudice we have no voice in this.
- Through the lens of the gospel, Ferguson should cause us to open our eyes in our own communities. What is happening in Ferguson is merely a flashpoint for underlying tensions. We should not watch this situation from a safe distance, we should watch it and think critically about all of our communities. What is happening in Ferguson could just as easily happen in your town. We can’t turn a blind eye to this. Ferguson is a micro-narrative of a macro problem of secularism, spiritual apathy, unrestrained evil, and human rivalry that is threatening the fabric of our culture in all places. We need an awakening. We are blind. Ferguson is teaching all of us that it will cost us far more in human life and property if we wait until our problems are on the news before we begin to address them.