CHRISTIAN MINISTERS, IT’S TIME TO LEAD WITH LOVE
I met with a friend on Saturday — the day before several police officers were shot in Baton Rouge. He and I talked for nearly 3 hours, mostly about race relations and the widening gap between peace officers and the communities in which they serve. We prayed for law enforcement. We prayed for the body of Christ to rise up and really, truly love people as Christ loved people (literally with everything He had). During our meeting, I told him I had a strong feeling that unfortunately Dallas would not be the only case of someone shooting a lot of police officers. I had the same feeling right before what happened in Dallas — that some people would get so fed up with racist acts by some police towards Black people and a system that doesn’t prosecute them and a nation that seemingly doesn’t believe that Black lives matter that they would start killing innocent peace officers as retribution.
I turned the television on the next morning to CNN to see a shooting in Baton Rouge with three police officers reported dead. I became sick to my stomach. The first thing I thought was, that’s horrible. The second thing I though was, where is the church in all of this madness? The Black church mourns, and yet there are few leaders stepping up in a big way to rally the people of God into action. The White church seems absent and indifferent — as if it’s not their problem. Do we keep going in the same direction of indifference? Do we keep mourning but not rising up into action of a transformative nature? Do we turn right and focus our energy on magnifying our glaring differences? Do we turn left and fall on our knees and ask God to help us reconcile together as one body, Black and White —and Blue?
What is happening now in America has been brewing long before the recent high-profile killings of Black men. This didn’t start with Philando Castile or Freddie Gray or even the long-ago beating of Rodney King. I couldn’t help but think that maybe we don’t see a minister taking the lead in racial justice because the last time someone did that he was assassinated. But that was 48 years ago. Surely there’s got to be someone willing to step up and love people in the way that Martin Luther King Jr. did — and in the way that Christ did, with literally everything He had. Is there?
There are a lot of people who have been driven to the edge of anger. There are others, like the killer in Baton Rouge, and the killer in Dallas, and the killer in New York who murdered two police officers not that long ago, who may seek violent retribution for nearly 400 years of slavery and oppression in America. The racial divide in America is real and it cannot be ignored any longer if any of us want to live in a peaceful and safe nation. How long is it before a deranged Black person goes to a White church to murder innocent people like we saw with the deranged White guy in South Carolina killing innocent Black people?
After I experienced racial profiling one too many times, I was overwhelmed, frustrated, suffocated and angry, but at no time did I think about killing people. I wanted justice. I didn’t pick up a gun. I picked up my laptop and wrote an article. I picked up a camera and started making a documentary film to address the racial divide in our nation in hopes of making things better. I’ve been working on it for four years and for the first two years hardly anyone wanted to listen — especially people in the church. Now those on the more militant side, they listened — right up until the moment they found out that I wanted peace and unity. As more and more cases of black men being killed by police hit the news channels, the discussion started to open up and America has had to deal with an issue that for too long has been a part of daily life for African Americans. In the last year, more people have stepped up to help me develop the film “Walking While Black: L.O.V.E. Is The Answer.” It’s 90% done, but we are still fighting to get the remaining funding to complete the film. It’s somewhat ridiculous, actually. If I wanted to teach violence, I probably would have been funded a long time ago. If I wanted to make a film about gay rights or the holocaust or make a zombie film, I probably would have been funded a long time ago. I want to use a film to teach Christians how to love across racial barriers and bridge the divide between peace officers and the communities they serve. I personally believe that lasting change in this area needs to start with the church. I personally believe it’s a spiritual battle and a condition of the heart. That might seem like a simple notion, but obviously with our segregated churches and our segregated dinner parties and our segregated groups of friends — it’s not a simple thing. When a Black man gets killed by a police officer, which is relatively rare, or when virtually every Black man in America over the age of 30 and many Black women can tell you that they have experienced racial profiling along with poor treatment by police at least once simply because of the color of their skin — we have a problem. Black people laugh so that we don’t cry, or we mourn for a minute and then brush it under the rug and go on with our lives because that’s what we’ve done for nearly 400 years. White people simply ignore it because they think it doesn’t affect them. What would Jesus do?! He would deal with the problem head on because He loves us! He might say that doing nothing in the midst of injustice could be as bad as committing the sin. Why don’t we deal with this issue head on? Do we not love each other as Christ commanded us to do? I don’t think we do, and that’s the fault of leadership — or should I say, lack of leadership.
Back to my conversation with my friend. I told him I wish I could go speak to every minister in America and let them know that we as a Christian people, and particularly them as leaders, have to step up and be visible figuratively shouting from the rooftops about the love of Christ. We need to shout that to each other as Christians but to the world around us we need to live it out. We need to shout love to the world, not with our words, but with our actions. We have to take the lead in turning from our current ways of apathy and divisiveness and turn towards reconciliation. If we truly believe that Christ is the light of the world and yet we don’t even shine that light on each other with our segregated services and inaction towards hate, then we must know that darkness will prevail and more innocent lives will be lost. We can’t cry out to God for help if we are not willing to reach out to help each other.
Christians! Christian leaders! Now is not the time to pray and wait. Now is the time to pray and act! This is not a time to wait for someone else to do something about the issues that our country is facing. The divide that we are seeing between police officers and the community is a direct result of the indifference the church has shown towards the matter of racial reconciliation. Christ called us to love, but where are we?
Today, all of us who call ourselves Christ followers or Christian leaders must begin to act like it. What would Jesus do today? Simply go to his racially segregated, comfortable church service, say a quick prayer and then go to a barbecue with his racially segregated friends? No, I think he would lay down his life for his friends. Just like Martin Luther King Jr did. It’s time for someone to rise up and lead the church — your church — towards love. If your pastor isn’t doing it, then you need to be the one to start. Here’s a plan you can follow.
L.O.V.E. Is The Answer. For us Christians, L.O.V.E. stands for:
LEARN about the community in which you live, work or worship. That means get out of your comfort zone and learn about the members of the church down the street whose members don’t look like you. When was the last time in your community that 5 or 10 churches that don’t look the same got together to do something for the entire community, including the police and every color skin you can think of — simply for the sake of the community getting to know each other and to find ways to work together to make the community stronger. Make sure there is at least one minister from your church serving as a chaplain in your local police department. Learn about the adversity our peace officers face, both in the community and within their own department. Learn about the ways families are affected by racial profiling, from the families that experience racial profiling. Be there to learn so that you can serve their needs.
OPEN your heart to the humanity in the community. Get past the stereotypes and the profiles — and the fears. Get to know people who don’t look like you. Get to know them on a personal level, to the point where you feel their pain and you can empathize with their needs. Build bonds of the heart. Open your heart to the unique divide that exists between police and the community, especially the Black community. It’s real and it’s affecting real people every day — in your community. Sit down with police officers and their family members, and with people in the community who have felt marginalized or oppressed by the police. Listen to their hearts and prepare yours.
VOLUNTEER yourself in service to the community and the people in the community. Do something for someone in need who is a member of a church that doesn’t look like your church. Members of at least two churches of different colors, get together to host an officer appreciation event for the peace officers who are in your district who are doing the right thing. Or, hold a monthly wellness day for the community — and intentionally make it a multi-cultural event with funds raised to take care of families in need — not overseas, but right in your own community. Maybe start a flash mob and invite other churches to join you in spelling out the letters L.O.V.E. in a public place and sing a song of love to and with the community. Invite people you don’t know to join you in that effort and watch their faces light up. Minister to people who are hurting. And make sure to invite peace officers to everything you do.
EMPOWER others to do the same. After you’ve done the above steps with others in the body of Christ, encourage each other to start doing that with the greater community. Live out L.O.V.E. throughout the community. Simply live out the above three steps and teach others in your circle how to do it too. This is the step that pays it forward. This is how we unite as one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
L.O.V.E. Sounds like something Jesus would do, right?
The practice of L.O.V.E. will transform a ministry, a community and an entire nation. I’ve seen it happen firsthand many, many times on a smaller level. It’s time we saw it happen on a large scale, starting with local churches — starting with you.
Are you ready to see America live up to its potential and your ministry rise to new heights? It’s time to make a choice. Indifference or Love? I choose love.
ON RESTORING UNITY IN AMERICA: “This is not addressed with more laws. The laws are there to address the issue. So it has to come from within and not without. That’s why I say it isn’t solved in The White House or on The Hill; it has to be solved in our houses of worship, because it is our houses of worship which change the souls of people, which is the soul of our nation. It is the soul of our nation that must be healed so people respect and admire one another and start living the way Jesus told us to live, in loving your neighbor.” ~ Dr. Robert Anthony Schuller
SAMPLE THINGS YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW:
- Act out L.OV.E., described above. For example, Organize a L.O.V.E. Flash Mob in your community and post it online with #LOVEISTHEANSWER
- Share this post with your church members: http://wellness101life.com/its-time-to-choose-love/
- Support a documentary film and movement that will teach people how to love: www.walkingwhileblackthemovie.com
- Join my friend Dr. Robert A. Schuller in the WEEKEND OF PRAYER: September 16-18, 2016. https://www.facebook.com/events/1770761496541077/