Baltimore and loving our neighbors – Jim Pace

Loving our neighbors well

I realize that Facebook is covered with opinion, anger and suggestions for how we handle the situation in Baltimore.  Some of these are good, reflective responses and many are more of the same rhetoric that helps produce things like this in the first place.  I also recognize that we probably don’t need another idea, voice or opinion on it, we have a big enough job sorting through what is already there.

But I want NLCF to know how to walk through something like this, at least the way that makes sense to me.

First, we follow Jesus.  We are not Republicans, Democrats, and Independents first.  We are Christians first.  And Jesus teachings plus the teachings of scripture don’t allow us to demonize the police or the protestors.  It simply doesn’t.  In my experience the strongest and loudest voices tend to be some of the most simplistic ones.  This is not as simple as racist policing or a violence prone black community.

Jesus tells us to serve and love those around us.  In his good Samaritan parable he makes the “good guy” a Samaritan, a person that most Jews hated –Samaritans hated the Jews as well. He did that intentionally.  Jesus said that we are to love our neighbor the way the Samaritan loved the man who had been beaten, robbed and left for dead.  No qualifiers.  Love him.  That means we love and listen to the experiences of police who are often underpaid for a job that can erupt into danger in a moment.  That means we also listen to those who have reason to be angry for not having as easy a time in life as my white middle class kids do.  We are called to serve and love them both.

That doesn’t mean that if it is found that those officers caused Freddie Gray’s death they shouldn’t be held responsible, they should.  It also doesn’t mean that those that looted stores shouldn’t be held accountable, they should.

But our work, as the church, is to take James 1:19, 20 very, very seriously right now.  “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Listen quickly and carefully to those whose experience is different from yours, be careful in your anger as it can easily lead you poorly, and likely you won’t realize that is what it has done.  Anger isn’t automatically a bad thing, but it is a very untrustworthy guide.  It needs to be reflected on and not reacted to.

Please NLCF, be careful what you post, and be attentive to how you serve and love others during this time – even those you strongly disagree with.  Then let’s get busy seeing how we can move forward so this doesn’t happen here.  Let’s see how in order our own backyard is before we make easy comments on our neighbors’.

Jim Pace, Pastor

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