What can Christians learn from the events in Ferguson?
Not necessarily politically or even racially, but with the Kingdom in mind, what can be learned?
Like many of you, I found myself last Monday night watching the grand jury verdict and the ensuing demonstrations (both peaceful and violent). I’m pretty sure the media was the only winner. There was little middle ground to be found. There was, however, much division. Where there is no middle ground, landmines always abound.
In the death of Michael Brown, I don’t pretend to know the details. The vast majority of us don’t, either. So as I searched for #Ferguson tweets while watching CNN’s coverage, I pondered what could be learned from this moment. Primarily as a Christian, what does this event teach us? Considering God’s concern for humanity — God’s desire to see all men know to Him — what should we learn?
Have you ever worried about saying the wrong thing?
As a pastor, I find myself facing many situations where I’m scared I’ll say the wrong thing. Sure, there’s an occasional slip in a sermon or stage announcement, but the place where my words find the most fear is hospitals and funerals. When you’re a pastor, walking into a time of great struggle or grief is a privilege, but when people look to you as an extension of God, it carries an unfair weight.
I hate to admit this, but I use to practice what I wanted to say before walking into an emotionally charged, grief stricken environment. I was so scared that I would misrepresent God, or simply misrepresent all of humanity, that I would practice lines like I was on a date. After all, what can you say to a husband who just lost a wife, or to a parent who’s child is suffering? What should you say when people are expecting your words to bring comfort or peace?
There are no mulligans in these moments, and I learned a few valuable lessons the hard way. Most importantly, I learned this powerful principle:
People rarely remember what you say, but they never forget how you make them feel.
That might be worth reading again.
With that principle in mind, here are a few things I try to remember when I’m facing a “pastoral moment.” Whether you’re a professional Christian or not, you can do this, too…
“Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
As a Christian, I know what you mean. But I’m telling you – no non-Christian believes you. Their experience has taught them well.
Christians have spent so many years rallying against “sin” that most people who have been told they are “sinners” cannot fathom finding love or acceptance from the Christian community today. Who can blame them? It seems everywhere we turn Christian are fighting against this and complaining about that. Even though “those fanatical Christians” may only represent a small portion of Christendom, they’re voices are loud and the media eats it up. Unfortunately, they represent more than just themselves.
But while we cannot make EVERY Christian behave, you and I should stop using terms and phrases that accidentally communicate something we never intend.
Why do we feel the need to label everything? Sure, some things need labels, like expiration dates on milk cartons or warning labels on fireworks. But why do we label churches? “They’re a missional church.” “They’re attractional.” “They’re traditional.” My guess is we label because we want a clear way to elevate our label over every other label, but again, that’s just a guess.