Yesterday, Ferguson, and today, Baltimore. A city burns and a nation roars. This is not the first time and it is more than likely not the last time we will see rioting in the streets. It is heart breaking and disturbing.
But, how should Christians respond? How does the gospel speak into this?
1) We can put ourselves in the rioters and protestors shoes.
It is really easy to simply dismiss the hurting and the broken when they choose to riot, loot, destroy, and even peacefully protest. But that isn’t a response that lines up with the goodness of the gospel. God did not simply dismiss us as we rioted against him in our sin, destroyed ourselves and everything around us. No, God stepped into our madness, our rioting, our “thuggery,” and delivered us from ourselves.
If anyone can sympathize with the rioters it ought to be Christians. We were the rioters until Jesus filled the gap for us. Remember, it was while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us? It wasn’t after we realized our rioting against him and our sinfully destructive lives were wrong. Yet, that is typically what I see from a lot of Christians as they respond to #BaltimoreRiots. Many want to sit back, arms crossed in arrogant judgement and condemnation of the rioters as if that could never be them. Christians, the gospel shows us that it already was us.
2) We can have compassion when others don’t.
One popular response to #BaltimoreRiots is to scoff at the rioters and ignore their pain. We can have compassion without affirming behavior. As Christians, we ought to love people, really love them. Sometimes loving people means sympathizing with them and having compassion for them even when they are acting sinfully out of their hurt. Is that not what God did for us?
I do not want to see buildings burned. But, I also don’t want to ignore the pain that has led to the burning. Both of those errors are wrong.
In the parable of the prodigal son you have a kid who was in a horrible situation, a situation he put himself in. Yet, did the Father sit back and say, “You did this to yourself. You greedy, ungrateful, entitled brat!” No, he ashamed himself out of his radical love and the compassion he had for his hurting, weak, and broken son. Christians, the gospel shows us a way of compassion that is other worldly.
3) We can hope for true justice one day.
If this world is all that their was… I would riot. I would be forced to. I would always be forced to take up my own causes, defend myself, and fight against all the injustices around me because no one else would… if this world was all their was.
Thankfully, the gospel shows us that we have King that is perfectly just and perfectly loving. We have a King who will return and make all things right. He will undo all the sad things and he will right every wrong. “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.” Vengeance indeed. We are free to not riot because God will riot on our behalf when Jesus returns to establish his new heavens and new earth. We can trust that true and final justice is coming. It isn’t right for people to riot, it isn’t right to take vengeance in our own hands.
Justice needs to happen. Corrupt authorities need to be exposed, stripped down, laid bare, and destroyed. Justice needs to happen. Those who destroy need to be subdued, stopped, and shown a better way. We have to be willing to see injustices that are on every side and “seek justice” for all.
Christians, that justice is coming and we can have hope that corrupt authorities and those that destroy won’t have the final say.
4) We can show a new, better way…
The saddest part about #BaltimoreRiots might be the reality that no one knows what to do about it. One side says, “Get rid of all the corrupt cops! That will solve everything!” The other side says, “Put the thugs down and their will be peace again!” Christians, we know better than that. We know that sin runs deep and gets us all.
We do not need to “pick a side.” We need to hold fast to Jesus and his Word and be people who shine a gospel light by sympathizing with the hurting, having compassion for the angry, and working positively towards justice knowing that final justice is not in our hands. The world does not need more Twitter warriors. The world needs christians who are willing to pray, be compassionate, champion justice, and act.
We can simply be the people that don’t condone lawlessness, but also don’t ignore the hurting. Christians, our side is King Jesus and we can demonstrate a new and better way.