Grief and prayers for a broken body

* Given the current climate, I have no doubt that this post will be frustrating to some. Some will think my comments are inadequate and I'm sure they are in any number of ways. But if we are to have honest conversations about race then we will have to tolerate each other's inadequate thoughts. My purpose here is not to comment about race so much as to reflect on what is most needful at this moment.

Social media brings out the worst in us (that 'us' includes me!). It is a means by which we can post our immediate thoughts with a sense of minimal accountability. Facebook in particular is a public venting forum for all our least carefully considered thoughts. This feature of social media is on sad display in these days following the tragic situation in Ferguson, MO.

It is not my purpose to write about the death of Michael Brown. The mere thought fills me with fear and trembling. Rather, I simply wish to make an appeal that we put down our weapons, cover our mouths, and for a moment simply grieve over the fact that our nation is still so divided over race. It is doubly grievous that Christians are so clearly divided. The level of certainty that some are displaying across social media is remarkable. Before the facts are even in, one side has Michael Brown painted as a thug and the other has whites licking their chops to see another black man killed.

I understand why those who have little or no knowledge of the gospel would post racially inflammatory and accusatory posts. I understand why the Christ-less would use the situation in Ferguson to advance political and ideological agendas. But does not Christ call us to something better? Does not Christ call me to refuse impulses to see all young black men as criminals? Does not Christ call me to grieve with the family of Michael Brown? Does not Christ call my black brothers and sisters to refuse to see whites as merely cogs in the wheel of institutional racism?

Let us not insist that the black community in Ferguson stop grieving. Let us seek to understand why a black father would fear for the future of his son. Let us also not compel white Christians to make definitive public statements concerning a situation of which we still know so little.

Let us instead pray. Let us pray for the family of Michael Brown. They have lost a dearly loved son. Let us pray for the churches in and around Ferguson, some of whom are doing beautiful work to press for peace. Let us pray that those churches will have a greater influence over the climate in Ferguson than the insurgent criminals and political opportunists. Let us pray for law enforcement who have a profoundly difficult task in a community on edge. And, yes, let us pray for the police officer who shot Michael Brown. We do not know what happened on that terrible night. We do not have enough information either to convict or acquit. And, in the end, that is not our job anyway.   

Finally, pray for the body of Christ. We seem to be a shattered body at the moment. What does our suspicion of and, in some cases, hatred for one another proclaim about the power of the gospel? What does our racial strife tell the world and our own sons and daughters about our love for God and our conformity to a Lord who loved those who cursed Him? My heart comes close to despair.

But the gospel will not allow hopelessness. The gospel will not allow cynicism. The gospel will not allow us to forget or treat as insignificant the fact that our Lord promised to make for Himself a people from among all the peoples who will triumph over the very gates of Hell.