By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
In most sporting events, there is a clear cut winner. A team wins or loses.
It’s not as simple in life. Sometimes things happen and there are no winners — only losers.
Such is the case in our nation today. The most recent example is in Charlotte, N.C., where a black man was shot by police on Sept. 20 and rioting broke out in that city. Videos of the rioting and the violence are disturbing. What’s even more disturbing is that news media have reported that approximately 70 percent of those doing the rioting aren’t even from Charlotte. They are people who are intentionally taking advantage of a tragic situation to cause more harm to a devastated city.
At least one person has been killed in the riots and property has been stolen or destroyed. The violence has to stop before more people are killed.
Unlike some of the cases in recent months, the shooting in Charlotte involved a black man and a black police officer. The man killed allegedly had a gun and refused to drop it when asked by the police officer.
Once again, police officers are naturally assumed to be the “bad guys.” In some cases, that may be true. But most often, that is not the case.
I have written it before and will continue to do so. Most police officers take their job seriously and work to protect all people. They put their lives on the line every time they leave their home and go to work. They are underpaid and unappreciated. Yes, there are bad officers who give everyone a bad name. But by the same token, you will find dishonest and bad people in every profession who give their profession a “black eye.”
I especially am tired of people who make millions of dollars (some of whom no doubt are protected by armed bodyguards) who criticize our police officers. It’s easy to criticize when you’re not the one out in the line of fire each and every day.
It’s easy to blame someone else. Would I get upset if I received a speeding ticket (not admitting, of course, that I have gotten speeding tickets)? Of course I would. But instead of blaming the officer who wrote me the ticket, I would need to put the blame on myself for driving too fast. The police officer was only doing his or her job.
Many people who are shot by police officers put themselves in bad situations. I don’t know all the details of the Charlotte case, but if the man who was shot actually had a gun and failed to give it up when asked by the officer, he put himself in a situation where the police officer may have felt that he had no choice but to fire his weapon at the man. Is it a tragedy? Yes, any time someone loses his or her life it is tragic. Lives are impacted.
People are quick to put the blame on race. Willie McLaurin is a good friend and colleague at the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Willie is an African American and I have heard him say on numerous occasions that “we don’t have a skin problem in America. We have a sin problem.”
That’s it in a nutshell.
But the good news is that Christians can continue to pray and make a difference by sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus came into this world and died a horrific death to take our sins upon Himself.
Christians and the church in general can’t make the world perfect. The winner of the presidential race in November will not be able to make this a perfect nation or world. That is impossible. Only God can do that.
But Christians and the church can make a difference — one soul at a time.
Tennessee Baptists adopted Five Objectives a few years ago during their annual meeting at Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood. The Five Objectives are goals that the convention deems important and want to see accomplished by 2024. The first goal is to see at least 50,000 Tennesseans annually saved, baptized, and set on the road to discipleship.
If that goal can be accomplished in Tennessee and replicated in other states, think of the change that would occur across our nation. We would see fewer police shootings and fewer riots for sure. It won’t happen overnight.
Pray for our nation as the election nears. Pray for the residents of Charlotte specifically and our nation in general as turmoil reigns.
Keep in mind God’s promise that He “is with us always.” That is our hope when things seem hopeless.