By Joseph McGaha
Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church, Lenoir City
I have hesitated to wade into the discussion concerning the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta and the mayhem that has ensued afterward for various reasons. Yet I find after much prayer and consideration that I am compelled to speak out as a Christian, as a pastor, and as an American.
Perhaps the one quote from history that continues to echo in my heart and mind the last few days is “To sin by silence makes cowards of us all.” It is very clear from the study of history that no one made, or makes, a difference by continuing to do the same thing over and over again.
I have been, and will continue to be, an ardent supporter of our law enforcement officers and their families. They are doing an extremely difficult job in the midst of increasingly hostile situations from a public that is rarely, if ever, appreciative of the toll that it takes on their mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health; as well as the overall shape and state of their marriages and family life.
That being said, from what I have seen and learned about the situations in Minneapolis and Atlanta leads me to believe that the officers in question should be tried, convicted and punished, if found guilty by a jury of their peers, to the fullest extent of the law.
There is no way to implement the changes that need to take place in any community when such behavior occurs. And yes, sadly, the actions of one individual do make all of those that wear the uniform appear untrustworthy in far too many eyes. And let us remember that this is not anywhere near the first time that such an atrocity has taken place.
Far too many men and women have been lost in a conflict that continues to claim innocent lives year after painful year. This is why and where I will say that All Lives Matter — black lives and white lives and unborn lives! We must come to the place where we see that all lives matter to our Creator God, in Whose image all have been made. To treat someone differently because of the color of their skin, or the language they speak, or the level of education or social standing is clearly against the teaching of the Word of God.
But let us again come to grips with the fact that this is not a new problem in America. It has been present since before the formation of our nation. In various parts of the world, men and women are still being treated differently by others simply because they do not belong to “the accepted” group of society. Whether it is the caste system of India or the class structure of Great Britain, the problem of recognizing that we are different and yet are valued in the eyes of God is timeless and universal.
It has been said, “Let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.
For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”
Those words are as true now as they were when our 35th President spoke them in June of 1963. I had not yet been born when John F. Kennedy uttered those words and I did not grow up in a home that was taught to be prejudiced or racist.
I have not lived through segregation and the subsequent forced integration that followed. I was taught that every life was valuable and to be valued. And yet I live in a world, in a nation, that is as divided on the matters of “race relations” as it may have ever been. I truly believe that we are all of one race, Adam’s race, the human race. We all are born and live and die and will ultimately spend eternity in one of two places: either in Heaven or in hell.
The choices concerning our eternity are up to us, but so too are the choices concerning our time here on earth. We can choose to love, or we can choose to hate. We can choose to blame someone else for our lot in life, or we can strive to work together to see that the world, and all that dwell therein are treated with the same amount of courtesy and decency. We can choose to look at someone else because of their ethnicity and see them as the enemy, or we can choose to see that we all have the capability to be allies in a war that should have ended long ago.
I am troubled by what happened in Minneapolis and Atlanta. I am bothered by the actions and inactions of the law enforcement officers who were on the scene. And I am also upset by the activities of the “protesters” since. There is an ever-widening chasm between ethnicities in America, being fueled from many sides — many of which are preoccupied with labeling one group or another as the enemy.
Yet I am not an enemy, nor do I become someone’s enemy, simply because of the color of my skin. What resides within my heart and within the hearts of others determines whether they, or I, will be treated with respect and compassion. Since Christ lives in me, I will choose to love everyone regardless of their ethnic, social or economic status.
I have been privileged to preach in black churches and I have, and will continue to welcome into any pulpit where I serve, men of different ethnicities who believe in the same love, mercy and grace of the same Savior and soon coming King that I do.
I echo the words of so many of them and a host of others, that we believe that the answer to the problems, the solution to the situation, rests in turning all of our lives over to a God who not only made us in His image, but who also sent His Son to die for those from every nation and people.
The answer is not politics or posturing. The solution is not legislation or looting. Nor is the resolution going to be found in what happens in the next election. The remedy to what is killing us is to realize that Christ died for all of us.
When Christ resides in the heart of people, strife and hostility cease, arguments end and real love and acceptance begins. Yes, there are a multitude of questions, but thankfully there is the miracle of the Cross that can change the landscape when we meet together at the feet of Jesus and ask Him to make us one in Him. B&R