“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”James 1:19-20
In the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis and the subsequent protests and riots all over our nation, I have tried to take a step back and evaluate the situation from an objective position. Although none of us can be truly objective, it is important to make an attempt to hear all sides and gather as much information as possible before expressing an opinion about any given situation — especially one that is fueled with such fire that it appears to be ripping at the fabric of our society.
I, of all people, should know this because I can be quite opinionated and have often spoken too quickly about matters out of emotion or anger. The words above from James were just the reminder I needed over the past several weeks. As a follower of Christ in what seems to be an increasingly more chaotic and confusing culture, these words are both wise and true.
With that in mind, I will now share honestly about what I see in light of the recent events.
Quick to LISTEN
Listening is a lost art. In both public and private dialogue, we are so busy formulating opinions and come backs that we often forget to listen to those speaking to us. I am guilty of this. The way my mind works in concert with my argumentative nature is a recipe for poor listening skills. I also must remember that “hearing” isn’t always listening. I might “hear” what you’re saying without ever listening to a word you say.
I have to work hard at listening. I want to be a better listener — an empathizer. I want to connect with people on their level and truly hear their heart, even if I don’t agree with what they are saying.
This is a very important truth for this generation to understand — so important that I do not believe successful communication is achievable without it. We can listen to others without having to agree with them. We can empathize with others while fundamentally disagreeing with their sentiment. As a matter of fact, this is one of the most necessary characteristics of a good listener. Let people say what they need to say and be quick to listen to them.
In a culture dominated by the absurdity of moral relativism, however, we have been conditioned to believe that tolerance means that we must fundamentally agree with someone else. In other words, if you disagree with another’s beliefs or lifestyle or convictions, then you are labeled intolerant — which is the worst of labels in our “progressive culture.”
On the contrary, the true meaning of tolerance is that one can disagree with another in principle but at the same time love and respect him/her as a person. Sadly, true tolerance has been trampled under foot and replaced with an artificial virtue that neither cultivates progress nor encourages mutual respect.
It is clear that the majority of protestors out in the streets and the pundits on their social media platforms are sending a message — they just want to be heard. They want to know that they have a voice and more importantly that their voice matters. I have no problem whatsoever with this sentiment, and frankly I am willing to die for the fundamental right for people to peaceably assemble and exercise freedom of speech.
Now let me be perfectly honest. I have listened to the public outcry surrounding the George Floyd incident. His death is tragic and I pray justice will be served.
At the same time, I am hearing all the mantras and reading all the signs. While I understand and even empathize with much of what is being said, I also do not agree with much of what I am hearing.
Let’s start with the #blacklivesmatter mantra. I don’t agree in principle with most of the Black Lives Matter Movement, nor with the double standard it portrays. While some might accuse me of being a “racist” for not standing up for black lives or standing against police brutality, I see it entirely differently. As a Christian, I stand for the inherent worth and value of every human life and for the protection of human life.
But that is not where I disagree with the BLM movement. BLM wants to insist that others must unite with their cause and also how they are appropriately to do so. If an individual doesn’t meet their own prescribed demands, then they are automatically labeled a racist and black-listed by the community. Doesn’t sound very “tolerant” to me.
The Black Lives Matter movement is demanding major social changes that I cannot agree with. BLM rejects what they call the traditional, Western-prescribed “nuclear family,” which means that they fundamentally reject the God-ordained institution of marriage between a husband and wife and the sacredness of family, as defined by God’s word. Furthermore, BLM rejects traditional “gender roles,” which again violates the Scriptural definition of gender and God’s purposes of sexuality within His created order.
BLM wants to defund police departments across this nation — effectively eliminating our police force. This apparently is justified by the notion that law enforcement is institutionally racist, endangering African Americans more than protecting them. The Minneapolis City Council has already vowed and voted to do as much. Only God knows what kind of anarchy would emerge without police.
Advocates of the BLM movement preach the necessity for slavery reparations and the redistribution of wealth to the African American community. Leaders proposes a transfer of trillions of dollars to “level” the economic playing field.
Others leading this movement continue to push the envelope further by demanding white authors be removed from public libraries and white actors be denied roles in Hollywood films. Where will it stop?
While it is entirely possible to publicly acknowledge the general truth that black lives matter and at the same time disagree with the BLM movement, I feel like it is nearly impossible to separate the two while using the BLM platform.
Of course black lives matter. They matter to me and most importantly to God, for the Lord Jesus Christ came that He might reconcile the world to God by demonstrating His love on the cross for all mankind. That is the core message of the gospel, which frankly transcends every subgroup, race, class, and social division that exists in our world.
What about the popular “no justice, no peace” slogan?
Again, I get the sentiment, but it is lacking one essential component. People forget that justice and peace are Biblical concepts they can only be defined Biblically.
Only Jesus Christ is able to bring complete justice and peace, and more importantly has promised to do as much through His own presence and power. True and total justice will be realized and experienced in the Kingdom of God after the Lord Jesus returns as King of kings to rule this world.
True peace can only be experienced through a relationship with God through Jesus Christ — the Prince of Peace — which is only possible when Christ dwells in an individual’s heart. So even though there are obvious injustices in this world, we still are capable to experience true and lasting peace through the presence of Christ in us.
Finally, what about the mantra that is circulating — “silence equals violence?”
In other words, many are demanding that white people in particular, who remain silent about police brutality and institutional racism, are just as complicit as the very perpetrators of hate.
That leads me to my next point.
Slow to Speak
Biblical wisdom teaches us that we should seek to tame the tongue and learn to think before we speak. It is not wise to jump to conclusions, make impulsive judgments, and emotionally vent our frustrations in the heat of the moment.
Yet we now have an entire movement that again has arbitrarily made the rules and set the standards and then vehemently shame those who don’t meet their qualifications.
But does silence really equal violence? Are those who have chosen to remain silent guilty of hate and violence? Should those who remain silent automatically be labeled racist and socially shamed for not conforming to the culture?
On the contrary, I believe that it is wise to remain silent and be slow to speak for several reasons. We must be clear about what we say, but also we must sure about why we are saying it. There is big difference of speaking out of obligation or social pressure and speaking out of conviction.
Also, let’s apply the same logic to another scenario. What about … oh I don’t know … abortion. Using the logic of “silence equals violence,” then I could just as easily say that those who refuse to openly and publicly speak out against abortion are complicit in the murder of nearly a million innocent babies every year in America — many of them black babies who are murdered at the hands of “white” doctors.
So I am sorry but I will not be boxed in or backed into a corner simply because I have chose to remain silent and be slow to speak about issues that I am still trying to understand. It is precisely this kind of social shaming and virtue signaling that leads to more anger, which is a nice segway into my last point.
Slow to Anger
Of course there are times when we should be angry. I believe every man and woman has the right to be angry at injustice because we are made in the image of God, who created us with an innate sense of morality and an inherent desire for justice. There is such a thing as righteous anger — justified anger — but most of the time man’s anger is tainted with a sinful nature that often is boiling with hate, violence, revenge, and retribution.
Those things obviously are not of God. Vengeance is the Lord’s. He will repay. That doesn’t mean we should not demand and seek justice in this life. Of course we fight for justice at all costs.
It simply means that when man’s system of justice fails us, we can rest in the promise of ultimate justice at the hands of a Holy God, who has promised to judge the world in righteousness.
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.Romans 12:16-21
Michelle Obama, recently speaking to a graduating class, shared a message that I thought was appropriate for this day. Although I fundamentally disagree with the Obamas on nearly every political and social issue, I wanted to give credit where credit is due. Even as I read some of the headlines, it was clear that some were trying to spin her words to imply that she was encouraging anger, when in reality she was not. There is truth in her words, and I would have missed this had I not taken the time to read her speech.
“Graduates, anger is a powerful force. It can be a useful force. But left on its own, it will only corrode and destroy and sow chaos — on the inside and out. But when anger is focused, when it’s channeled into something more — that is the stuff that changes history.”Michelle Obama — https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/michelle-obama-encourages-graduates-to-channel-their-anger-to-change-history
I know that man’s anger is a tremendously powerful force, but I also know that rarely does it yield the righteousness of God. So where I would differ from Obama in her words is to emphasize the one thing more powerful than man’s anger.
That of course is the love of God!
Instead of channeling our anger during this perilous time, we must turn to God in faith and ask Him to pour out His love into our hearts and learn to channel His love to others. Only then can we obey the greatest commandment, which is to love God and love our neighbors. To love our enemies and bless those who curse us. To overcome evil with good.
May we all continue to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, but more than anything, may we all be quick to love others as Jesus Christ has loved us!