I grew up going to a relatively small k-8 school (about 50 students per grade) just down the street from my house. For most of the years there, we had 2 black students in my grade (plus a third joined in Middle School). But I never thought of them as any different than me. I mean sure, we never hung out or anything, but that was more because they didn’t live by me. And sure, there’d be the inappropriate joke from time to time, but we didn’t mean anything by it.
I mean, we’re not racists or anything, right?
And that’s how things went along: I don’t see race, racism is a thing of the past, we’re all just colorblind. And sure, I’d see the news from time to time about shootings, protests, black athletes speaking out, black actors speaking out, but that was against the really bad stuff, right? And that all happened somewhere else, right?
Well, fast-forward 29 years. I’m 40 years old now (going on 41), and today felt like take 2. Honestly, I was dreading today, fearful of what the verdict would be from the trial of Derek Chauvin. We’ve been down this road before. And I think fearing the verdict says a lot about where we are today, or at least where I am. And this trial isn’t alone. Several more incidents and the police feel like they’re under a microscope at all times, yet we still feel like this.
So what do we, what do I, do this week? Do I celebrate that a trial has gone one way? Do I cheer with those who feel that they’ve received justice? Do I mourn with those who feel targeted? How do I care? How do I love? How would Jesus live in a time like this?
The irony is, Jesus did live in a time like this. Jesus taught in a time where a group of devout followers of God claimed the moral high ground. Jesus taught in a time where a group of people who worshiped that same God was considered less than, even unclean. Jesus taught in a time where some followers of God believed the way to usher in God’s kingdom was through the political system of Rome.
So what did Jesus do? How did He navigate those waters, and how would He navigate these waters today? How did He love both the persecuted and the persecutors? Well, I think about what Jesus says in Matthew 22. The religious leaders of the day get together and had a Biblical scholar ask Jesus “which is the greatest commandment” (Matt 22:36). Now what they were trying to do is to trap Jesus, get him to pick a side, say one side is wrong, and prioritize one commandment over another. So what does Jesus do? Well, He kinda cheats, because He does give 2 commandments, but He intertwines them:
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
And that’s it. The whole formula, how to be a Christ-follower, how to be a human; it’s all right there. Love God, love others. You cannot love God if you don’t love others and you cannot love others if you don’t love God. And if you do love God, loving others should come naturally, just like loving others should lead to loving God. Everything else we ever talk about in church, every teaching, every song, every prayer, everything – just explaining how to do those two things.
So how do we do those two things? How do we love God and love others today? How do we love George Floyd and Derick Chauvin? How do we love Maxine Waters and Marjorie Taylor Greene? Well, I think it begins with forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we let someone off the hook, pretend what they did was OK, or act like it didn’t hurt us. Forgiveness means we release that anger we’re holding onto and apply love instead. The very beginning of the Bible tells us we’re all made in God’s image, and very quickly how we fall short. None of us deserve to be forgiven, to have that love applied to us, but if we remember anything from Easter week: Jesus died for us anyway. If we desire to be more like Christ, what better way than to forgive, especially those who don’t deserve it. Love is always the answer.