But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:17-18 NIV)
As I write this post, the news is full of the fallout from the death of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man shot by police. While many are quick to vilify either him or the cops, these situations are rarely as cut-and-dried as they seem. Still, that yet another such shooting has occurred should prove to us that something is wrong with the system. While I hope Clark’s death gets fully investigated, the results of that investigation won’t do any good if other police departments don’t try to apply those lessons.
Often, I feel helpless and hopeless in the face of such hatred and violence—both the deaths and the vitriol that springs up around them. I participated in a Twitter thread that got more notice than I was expecting. What I said was carefully worded and without malice, and I’m not personally receiving much backlash, but enough is happening to give me pause. It’s suddenly scary to think of what can happen to people on social media when others decide to gang up on them.
But God calls us to engage the world, by both loving mercy and doing justice (Micah 6:8), and his Spirit gives us not timidity but “power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). These verses tell us a lot about how we should respond to hatred and violence: emphatically, but with humility and love, not fear. (Though I still strongly urge you to be careful online.)
As it happens, I’m currently reading the book White Awake, by Daniel Hill, for a book club. Hill, a white pastor, describes his awakening to racial justice and the struggles he faced (and continues to face) to respond to it in a way that’s respectful and helpful, rather than furthering his white identity. If you’re a white person already on a journey of racial reconciliation, I recommend the book highly as a way to peek at what’s ahead of you; if you’re still on the sidelines, it’s a great place to start your awakening.
What I’ve learned from White Awake is that I need to remain in the listening and learning phase for a while longer. While my heart is moved, what I can best do is support people of color in efforts they’re already undertaking. Although social media can be a good place to find activists to support, I must ultimately move beyond mere Twitter “likes.”
When that time comes, I desire God’s wisdom, as James 3:17-18 describes it above. There aren’t enough people being “considerate, submissive, [and] full of mercy” right now, the qualities of peacemakers. I long to embody those qualities so that I might “reap a harvest of righteousness” in due time.
Abigail’s contact info can be found in the directory.