The events of recent days have been truly disturbing. We were already stressed out as a nation over covid-19. Now, added to that, we’ve witnessed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, a wave of violent reactions, and a confusing myriad of voices speaking out. It’s all terribly unsettling. If you’re feeling upset by a senseless death in Minneapolis and events stemming from that act, you’re not alone.
Before I go any further, let me say that if you’re upset, that’s a good sign. We should be bothered by bad things. When we see acts of racism, abuses of power, illegal activities, mass chaos, violent demonstrations, opportunistic exploitation of a crisis, and the like, we should be appalled. So many things have been wrong with the picture of the last few days across our nation, it can be hard to know where to start in processing all of it. But we need to process it, and we need to do so in a healthy and God-honoring way.
When we’re upset about something, we can respond in destructive or constructive ways. Ephesians 4:26: “Be angry and do not sin.” God gave us feelings. Anger, or being upset, is part of having human emotions. But anger can so easily lead to sin. We need God’s help to restrain our sinful impulses.
Some destructive responses to avoid:
- Despair. This world is not deteriorating hopelessly. All of history is moving toward a goal, the return of Jesus, when we will behold “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9) God has not taken His hand off of the wheel. He is still very much in control. Have hope. And, come Lord Jesus!
- “Kicking the dog.” When we’re upset, we’re prone to take out our frustrations on innocent bystanders. All of us need to be on guard against lashing out, unfairly making others pay the price for our stress.
- Adding to the turmoil. It’s one thing to use your voice to promote justice and fairness. It’s another to compound problems with thoughtless words and actions. Social media can be a dangerous forum for airing frustrations. As we choose our words and actions, a good question to ask ourselves: “Am I helping or hurting the situation?”
When we’re upset about something, we can respond in constructive ways with the help of the Holy Spirit. Some constructive responses:
- Pray. The only way for people’s attitudes and behaviors to change is for their hearts to change. God is in the business of changing hearts. Pray for God to change our hearts to be more like His. Pray for God to curb violence. Pray for harmony among people of all colors and backgrounds. The God of our salvation hears our prayers, and He will respond.
- Reject racism. The Bible teaches that all people, regardless of race, should be treated with equal respect and dignity. “God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him.” (Acts 10:34) If Jesus loves people of every color – and He does – then for Christians, there’s no basis for racism of any kind. None.
- Educate yourself on other perspectives. As a white man, I acknowledge that my perspective on issues of race is limited. I’ve never walked in the shoes of a black man or woman. I don’t know exactly what it’s like to be a victim of institutionalized racism. Learning from others helps us to be more sensitive to their unique problems.
- Change the tone. None of us singlehandedly can stop the racism, violence, or anger that has gripped our nation. But we can set a more positive, loving tone with the people in our circle of influence. “You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself.” (Mark 12:31) “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
Allow me to share a personal illustration. On Sunday after church, I drove up in front of my house and was about to turn off the car when the battery light came on. I decided to go directly to the auto parts store to have the battery checked. To make a long story short, the alternator fried and the car shut down in the middle of Eckhert Road. God sent an angel to help me – one of our church members who was driving by at that very moment. He pushed the car downhill while I steered into a parking lot. Getting all the way into the lot, however, was going to be a big uphill push. Seeing our dilemma, two other men jumped out of their cars and helped. There they were, three men, pushing the car while I steered. Three men – one white, one Hispanic, one black.
Afterward I thanked them. One of them, the black man, responded, “Hey man, we gotta look out for each other.”
Those words might as well be a Bible verse. They ring with truth: “We gotta look out for each other.” In that moment, none of the men asked what skin color anyone was. They saw a person in need, stood side by side, and sweat it out together.
Our nation is hurting. We are hurting. We gotta look out for each other. All of our individual efforts to love others add up. The way you treat others matters. None of us can fix our nation’s problems singlehandedly. But each of us can do our part.
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)