Follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws, and you will live safely in the land. Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and live there in safety– Leviticus 25:18-19 NIV
Kenosha, Wisconsin is the latest in a long list of cities to erupt in violence after the police shooting of Jacob Blake last week. It has become customary following these occurrences for everyone to pick a side and then defend their side to the death.
The “sides” tend to fall into three distinct factions:
There are those who feel police shootings are always wrong especially when the shooting involves a person of color. This group believes people make most of their decisions based on biases that grow out of racism, most people don’t recognize their own biases and are therefore incapable of operating outside of them. These individuals would like to eliminate the police all-together. Then there are those who truly believe the police are incapable of making a poor judgment call. This faction believes police never make mistakes and should never be questioned about anything no matter how shady their choices appear in retrospect. Lastly, there are those who believe society has made it impossible for the poor and people of color to make good choices or live productive lives. They tend to think that because the poor are at a serious disadvantage in our culture, they should be exempt from judgment and consequences. This group believes society must fix itself and provide equal opportunities for all people. Until society is better it’s wrong for anyone to expect individuals who come from less than ideal circumstances to live law-abiding and productive lives.
The first two views are foolish and naïve in equal but opposite ways. It’s silly and childlike to think anyone could possibly be all right or all wrong all the time. People are a peculiar mix of impulses and behaviors, some good, some bad. Some police officers are racist, evil or have been poorly trained. However, the majority of police officers are honorable people who cheerfully do a thankless job for relatively little pay because they sincerely wish to make the world a better place. Good officers sometimes do stupid and/or sinful things. Truly evil police officers sometimes do good things.
Welcome to the paradox of being human.
The third view is gaining momentum with Christians who want social justice. Those folks tend to believe human beings are ultimately held captive by their origin story. A white child who grows up in a good home with devoted and loving parents in a safe neighborhood is more-or-less destined to be a person who makes good choices. Conversely, a kid who is fatherless, the child of an immigrant, born to a prostitute or who lives in a neighborhood where violence is normal is doomed to be a criminal or a prostitute or a drug addict. It is not the fault of the criminal or the addict. It is the fault of the society that did not offer the child of an immigrant, drug addict, alcoholic, prostitute or poor person the same advantages as other children.
The notion people are prisoners of their backstory assumes men and women are incapable of rising above tragic circumstances. This has become a self-fulfilling prophecy for millions of children. No one expects anything of the poor son of an immigrant or the daughter of a prostitute. As a result, society gets exactly what was expected. Nothing. Additionally, this notion is actually aiding and abetting the looting, murder, violence and mayhem that has become commonplace in many of our cities in recent months. One of the reasons no one is stopping people from rioting is because ultimately those in charge believe the people rioting are powerless to behave any differently due to their upbringing.
This idea is unbiblical because it makes God a liar, salvation unnecessary and entire groups of people beyond God’s redemptive reach. The Bible is clear: ALL people are sinners in need of redemption (Romans 3:23, Romans 5:12, Galatians 1:3-4). God also makes it clear that ALL people are capable of change if they put their faith and trust in Him (Isaiah 1:18, 2nd Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 4:24). Those who subscribe to the origin story myth BEHAVE as if they Think people who come from good homes don’t need Jesus because they are already good and those who come from bad situations are hopelessly lost unless society changes the way those children are raised and educated. Treating people as if they cannot change runs contrary to the gospel and makes God into a liar.
Christians can make a difference in four ways.
First, Christians must boldly declare to our decaying culture that expecting people to obey the law is not asking too much, sad origin stories do not alter that reality. Second. we must shamelessly share the gospel with anyone who will listen (2nd Timothy 2:25). Jesus the only hope humans have for authentic and enduring change. Third, Christians must live out the reality that Jesus changes people. When Christians choose to live like they did before they knew Jesus they reinforce the notion that God is powerless to change people (1st John 1:6, Hebrews 10:26). Finally, we must never forget Christians are called to assist the poor and show love to all people of all races. Christians should be the first to provide practical help, support and encouragement for those who wish to rise above their circumstances.