Last summer I read a book about John F Kennedy’s assassination. The book was about how the false narrative around JFK’s death fueled the social and cultural change that happened after his death. The idea that JFK died fighting for civil rights changed liberalism in America. It was an interesting read. What bugged me about it was the not so subtle implication that social changes, like desegregation, should have never happened. The idea being that because these changes happened under false pretense that it was somehow bad for the country. Instead of seeing the good, all the author could focus on was how the changes happened on a lie.
I read this book as America was engaged in protests and riots over the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, and countless others. And it was easy to see the correlation between the point the author of the JFK book was making and the way pundits and journalists were talking about Ferguson, Missouri and the death of Michael Brown. Yes, the initial accounts of what happened between Brown and Officer Wilson weren’t accurate. But the Justice Department still found racial biases in the Ferguson police department. And calling attention to that fact is important and needed to happen! If truth and awareness and (eventually) change come out of a situation where the initial reports might not have been fully accurate, that change and truth are still just as valid and as good as they would’ve been had the initial reports been more factually correct. Truth isn’t invalid if the situation where the truth was found is misrepresented. It’s still true.
And what I found bugging me most in conversations where I supported Black Lives Matter were comments that went like this.
“If they had only followed the law, they wouldn’t have been in trouble.” “Why are you supporting and protesting for criminal/thug?”
I keep coming back to simple phrase “Every number has a name. Every name has a story. And every story matters to God.”
I think about John 8 and the woman caught in adultery. “If only she had followed the law, she wouldn’t have been thrown before Jesus and the Pharisees wouldn’t have been ready to stone her.” “Why stick up for her? She’s just a whore.” Jesus didn’t just see her for her flaws and her sin. He saw her potential. He saw a person, created in God’s image, who just needed grace, mercy, and a second chance. From the shepherds in the Christmas story to tax collectors and prostitutes, the Gospel’s are full of stories where Jesus interacts with and shows love to people who most of us probably wouldn’t go to bat for.
We just finished a series on wisdom at church and the final week was about how Jesus is the ultimate display of God’s wisdom. I think about Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians.
“Look at your situation when you were called, brothers and sisters! By ordinary human standards not many were wise, not many were powerful, not many were from the upper class. But God chose what the world considers foolish to shame the wise. God chose what the world considers weak to shame the strong. And God chose what the world considers low-class and low-life—what is considered to be nothing—to reduce what is considered to be something to nothing. So no human being can brag in God’s presence. It is because of God that you are in Christ Jesus. He became wisdom from God for us. This means that he made us righteous and holy, and he delivered us. This is consistent with what was written: The one who brags should brag in the Lord!” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)
Sometimes God calls us to love, stand up for, support, or forgive people who we may think are unlovable, unforgivable, too far gone, and not responsible enough. Sometimes God uses those people to help you see an injustice you never would’ve have noticed on your own. Sometimes you have to stand up and support a cause or person, even when it seems “unwise.” Because you never know what God might be up to.