It’s hard to know how to respond to everything we see in the 24-hour news cycle. News, commentaries, social media, and television report hundreds of injustices (and thousands still go unreported). How do we choose which ones to engage?
Honestly, it can be numbing at times, if not daily. Terrible stuff happens all across the globe every minute — and as it was once said, “We have more on our plates than we can say grace over.”
On top of that, we’re prone to respond to things that we feel relate more to our own lives. So when we receive news that’s far removed from us, we emotionally disconnect. It’s understandable considering how much comes at us constantly. Many of us don’t respond in the grief and outrage that actually fits with the news of infanticide in Third-World countries or Christian persecution in the Middle East. We care, at least in principle, but it’s just not a core concern.
The same is true about the most recent tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri. Many of us don’t know how to respond emotionally because we can’t relate to the situations surrounding Michael Brown’s death.
Michael Brown and the Facts
Since the news began reporting on Mr. Brown’s death, things have only escalated. A helpful article from the New York Times reported that Michael Brown was killed Saturday in Ferguson, igniting protests and outcries in St. Louis County. The report revealed that Mr. Brown was unarmed when shot. What actually happened is still in question. One side said he and a friend were stopped on the way home from the store because they were walking in the middle of the street. Witnesses say Mr. Brown’s hands were in the air when he was shot several times, while the police say that Mr. Brown was shot during a fight over the officer’s gun.
It is hard to understand why an officer would need to shoot a teenager “several times” over a fight with a gun, just as much as it is hard to believe that an officer would unjustly kill a teenager with his hands up.
At the end of the day, only those present know what really happened. But given the facts, we all can admit it’s quite possible that a fatal injustice was done to Michael Brown. Despite the lack of details and our ignorance about the situation, what then is the Christian’s responsibility? Is it right to remain apathetic when we hear about tragedies such as these?
Human Like Us All
As a Christian, even if you can’t relate, you have an opportunity. As a black man, I don’t connect with the situation as easily as some might assume. I’m not from the city or suburb. I’ve never had a negative encounter with the police. It’s unlikely I would ever be bold enough to run from the police or resist arrest. It also helps that what many have ignorantly profiled as “suspicious clothing” isn’t a part of my wardrobe these days. Therefore, the chances of me getting gunned down by the police are slim. From what I’ve read, the most obvious thing Mr. Brown and I have in common is that we’re both young black men.
But more than that, the young man killed was human — like us all. He was made in God’s image. Regardless of the circumstance surrounding his death, we can care. Every Christian can respond to this situation. If an injustice took place, it matters because, according to the Scriptures, injustices are an abomination to the righteous (Proverbs 29:27). And regardless of what actually happened, we have a responsibility to pray for “all people” (1 Timothy 2:1), without prejudice.
The Christian First Response
So what should our response be? Every Christian can pray.
John Calvin, commenting on 1 Timothy 2:1–2, writes,
Some might reason thus with themselves: “Why should we be anxious about the salvation of unbelievers, with whom we have no connection? Is it not enough, if we, who are brethren, pray mutually for our brethren, and recommend to God the whole of his Church? For we have nothing to do with strangers.”
This perverse view Paul meets, and enjoins Christians to include in their prayers all men, and not to limit them to the body of the Church.
Therefore, in that same spirit, I encourage every Christian that encounters tragedies and injustices like this to pray. Pray for Ferguson, Missouri. Pray for peace to be restored in this city. Pray for Michael Brown’s family as they mourn the loss of their loved one. Pray that if they don’t know our Lord Jesus, that they would come to know him through this tragedy. And pray that if they do know Jesus, he would give them peace that surpasses all understanding.
Pray for the officer involved in this shooting. Pray for honesty and justice. Pray that if he doesn’t know Jesus as Lord that God would use this tragedy to save him. Pray that if he is a Christian that the Lord would grant him wisdom as he navigates this process. Pray that God would protect him and his loved ones.
Pray for the church in Ferguson. Pray that they would be a true city on a hill. Pray that they would point the world to the One who, one day soon, will restore justice and peace for all time. Pray that they would be quick to mourn with those mourning and eager to share the reason for our hope.
Pray. This is our calling in Christ, and our great privilege and opportunity.