This is a reprint of article I wrote published August 31, 2020 for the Baptist Standard. Right now, it’s hard for me to write. I’m triggered by the events of the past week in the video of 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario and the murder of Daunte Wright. I’ve discovered that in my moments of anger, grief, and fear for our lives, I had to step back and regroup. It can be overwhelming to see these scenes repeatedly and even remembering my personal experiences of encountering law enforcement that were painful and terrifying. This isn’t easy and just as I encourage all of you to pause and take a break when needed, I am doing the same thing this week. I find that when I feel like this, it’s important to remind myself of what’s important and why we can not stop or give up even when it feels like these abuses of power never seem to end. I hope this reminds you, too, of your why. Be encouraged and do not grow weary in well-doing. Find your way in participating, doing something, saying something—whatever that looks like for you. Don’t do it for yourself only—it’s about legacy. Our children and grandchildren deserve much better.
“… let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).
I have been wrestling with this idea of anger. As a society, we are more comfortable with rage and other manifestations of anger, like hate, than we are with displays of righteous anger, which Jesus demonstrated.
In the Gospel of Matthew, we see Jesus upset with something he witnessed. He saw the house of God being used for something other than it was intended. “Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers’” (Matthew 21:12-13).
Jesus exhibited righteous anger. He did not stand back and watch injustice occur. In that moment, he did not just speak up; he did something. Many would describe his anger as righteous anger. Righteous anger is a response to the mistreatment of others and to sin.
Righteous anger speaks out
In this season when righteous anger not only is needed but is critical, much of the church has remained quiet, refusing to speak out on behalf of those who are part of the body of Christ.
As we witness racial injustices, there has been a deafening silence from pulpits and congregations across our country once again.
I am reminded of a parable in Luke 15. “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:4-7).
Jesus is not saying the 99 sheep are not important, but when one is lost and needs to be reunited and returned to the flock, it is important that we find that sheep and bring it back into the fold.
Love at the core of God’s will
At the core of justice is God’s will and an understanding that without love, we are like clanging cymbals (1 Corinthians 13:1). We create noise that continues to divide and separate the church. Our lack of love could be the very thing driving away those to whom we are called to serve and minister.
1 John 4:20-21 says: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”
Right now, justice looks like the righteous anger of Jesus.
Right now, justice looks like reconciliation and repentance and restoration.
Right now, justice requires speaking up on behalf of those who have been separated from the body of Christ because of racism and discrimination.
Right now, justice is love for those who do not look like us or live the way we do.
I pray we begin to live and embody the Lord’s prayer: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
But right now, I’m angry. I’m hurt. I’m grieving and I’m tired.