(This morning one of my former students posted a question on my Facebook wall. I normally answer these kinds of questions with a personal email, but felt this one was important to answer publicly because the response of the church to these culturally charged incidents will echo for many years to come.)
In the midst of so many people expressing their thoughts, frustrations, agreements, disagreements, and so on, about the Ferguson case, I keep asking God what His heart is. With that in mind, I thought of checking your Facebook to see what you thought, but you haven't posted anything, understandably. But I am curious about what you feel through it all. You don't have to respond, but I wanted you to know that I have valued the many things that you have spoken to me and others. I appreciate you and your authentic leadership.
Hello Jonathan, thanks for asking this challenging question. Just this morning I was processing the situation in Ferguson. The Lord shared with me a single word, "Compartments". There are multiple compartments in this situation and each carries its own set of facts and history.
The young man who was killed had the compartment of his own thinking the day of his death. The police officer had a personal compartment inside his police car when this incident began to tragically unfold. The history of the city of Ferguson and the history of race relations in America each had a compartment in this event, yet all parties were forced to live and work together in the middle of such diversity. All of these are individual compartments and each has their own set of facts. Each one is important if we are to understand the larger picture. The only way I can process this is to enter each of these compartments and try to understand from the other person's perspective.
Yesterday, I felt I would weep if I met a black person in Medford and entered their compartment of life. If I met a policeman, I would want to enter his compartment of life and thank him for the tough job they have. We will never fully know all the facts. Many will use this situation for their own agenda on both sides of the issue. This is where we need wisdom.
There can be a sad morphing of this situation to become the platform for blind rage on both sides of the situation. Both extremes can appear like lynch mobs. Jesus knelt down and wrote in the dirt asking the sinless ones to cast the first stone in a similarly charged situation 2,000 years ago. I want that kind of wisdom in this situation - a wisdom that knows all the facts, but interprets them at a heart level, not at an event and bare evidence level.
In the early 90's, our family lived in Los Angeles when the riots broke out during the Rodney King trial. I was asked to appear on a local radio station with community leaders, some who were black. The tensions were very high. One young black leader said so wisely, "When we pursue our own version of justice it is 'just us'". I never forget that. I want to pursue His justice regarding Ferguson. I have noticed that Jesus' form of justice was always forgiveness and restoration and that is what we need in our nation today.