Baton Rouge, the same city where police shot and killed Alton Sterling on July 5th, which was videotaped.
This was the day before Philando Castile was killed by a police officer at a traffic stop near St. Paul, MN on July 6th.
Which was a day before five white Dallas police officers where shot and killed by a rogue angry gunman on July 7th.
This was around a week before an ISIS-related terrorist drove a truck full of weapons into a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day on July 14th in Nice, France, killing 84 people.
The next day, July 15th, a military coup in Turkey resulted in the deaths of 265 people.
And of course, all of this only a month after a gunman pledging allegiance to ISIS killed 49 people at a gay bar in Orlando, FL on June 12th.
There are so many stories of devastation to keep up with, I know I’ve likely left some out (many out), which I apologize in advance for.
This is not the way it was meant to be.
So much death.
So much pain.
So much fear.
No one knowing who will be next; if they or their loved ones will be next.
Like no other time in history, I wish all people knew Jesus, loved Jesus, listened to Jesus, and followed Jesus. Here’s what Jesus says about how we should treat those who disagree with us, who harm us, and who we just don’t like:
Jesus: (Matthew 5:38-47)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
How can Jesus get away with teaching such radical commands and expecting people to actually do what he says? Well first, he lived it. Second, he lived it, and died it, for those he is giving the command to: us.
Romans 5:8, 10 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us…For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
Colossians 1:21-22 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.
This is what I love so much about Dr. Martin Luther King’s steadfast commitment to non-violence in the midst of being hated, spit on, beaten, threatened and yes, eventually killed for standing for justice. It’s why we have a holiday honoring Dr. King’s life. It’s why billions have followed Jesus’s radical commands over the past 2000 years.
The church I attended this morning was the Church of Elohim, led by Pastor Derrick Knox, Jr. Pastor Derrick preached at my church on July 10th reflecting on the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and Pastor Derrick’s own experience as living as a black man in America. This morning Pastor Derrick emphasized how we can’t expect the world to do what the Church isn’t doing. We can’t continue to live our lives as usual and expect anything to change.
It’s hard to look through the newspaper or scan the Twitter feed and feel like there’s any hope at all. Hope that things will get better. Hope that people will stop killing each other and stop hating each other. On an individual level, we have got to follow Jesus’s lead on loving and praying for our enemies instead of killing them and wishing harm on them. We have to live this, as well as help teach our peers how to live this. On a societal level, we have got to pray the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:10) that Jesus’s Kingdom will come to this place and that the way things happen in heaven will happen that way in this place, and be active agents in allowing that prayer to come true. There’s no racial injustice in heaven. There’s no revenge in heaven. There’s no segregation in heaven.
As Christians, we can’t expect the world to live out something we aren’t living out ourselves. We can’t expect the world to change when we aren’t willing to change. If we continue to segment ourselves off in our own little racial and social bubbles of segregation–in our churches–in our schools–in our neighborhoods…things are only going to continue to get worse.
You can’t love what you don’t know, you can only fear it.
Jesus came to know us and be known. He came to love us when we were still his enemies.
Let’s go and do likewise.
- Ep. 69: Pastor Jack and Becky Sytsema on being in a mixed orientation marriage and how the Church should treat LGBTQ+ people - August 8, 2022
- Ep. 68: Thoughts on Hillsong Exposed, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, & Willow Creek - July 19, 2022
- The Flip Side Ep. 67: Jack Sytsema shares about being a gay / same sex attracted pastor in a mixed orientation marriage - June 25, 2022