Scrolling down my Facebook feed and I see “Unarmed Black Man Shot and Killed by the Police”. Not again, I mumble.
I like to think I have a unique racial and cultural background. I am a Filipino adopted by a white family at the age of 6 months (more or less). I look like an Asian, but everyone would agree, I am just white inside, like a marshmallow Peep. I maybe yellow (technically brown) on the outside, but I am white and fluffy on the inside. I grew up in a small city of Midwestern Oklahoma called Durant. I attended an even smaller private Christian school. I would guess that the minority population makes up about .5% of the student population. There was a mixed girl, surprisingly two Filipino brothers, and I. Then I grew up and married a black man raised by a black family. We attend a predominantly black church where he is the Youth Pastor. Both my husband and I speak Spanish, in fact our first date we spent 15 minutes just conversing in Spanish at a WNBA game. I wish I could have been an outside observer to see that: a black man talking in Spanish with an Asian. Except for the fact that a lot of people assume I’m Mexican. Even Mexicans assume I’m Mexican and start talking to me in Spanish, only to hear my clearly American southern accent. Then again Filipinos, who always have a knack of singling me out when I have yet to correctly identify one of my own, assume I speak Tagalog. “Sorry, don’t understand what you’re saying, I was adopted by a white family” et cetera, et cetera.
My favorite thing about having a mixed cultural and ethnic background is that I claim it all! I claim to be black when I want, I claim to be white when I want, and I claim to be Asian when I want. My husband just claims I’m confused.
I will admit nearly all of my friends are Christians, but even in the Church political views are about as widespread as that in the secular. This is probably a first in the history of the Church in America. I have white liberal friends and white conservative friends and white socialist friends. I have liberal black friends and conservative black friends. A couple Asian friends, who really don’t make political posts and one very close first generation Hispanic friend, who identifies as white. She is as confused as I am. You see I’m mumbling, because once again my Facebook feed is going to be full of tiresome opinions, inspiring encouragements, and heart felt remorse, angry diatribes, and reposts featuring statistics. Not again.
“What the media doesn’t want you to know about Terrence Crutcher”. “What White Privilege Refuses to Acknowledge”.
Last morning I was reading Luke 12:13-34. A man approaches Jesus and asks Him to tell his brother to share their inheritance with him. “Who made me an arbitrator or a judge over you?” Jesus asks him. Then in true Messianic fashion, He proceeds to give a parable and a teaching. Watch out for covetousness, because life isn’t about your possessions. See, Jesus was trying to get the man to examine himself. There was something more amiss going on in his world. Not the unfairness of this situation, but the attitude of his heart.
So perhaps this morning, the Holy Spirit is asking us, “Who made you a judge over Terrence Crutcher?” “Who made you a judge over Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby?” Are you a member of the jury? Are you the Honorable Judge presiding over the court? Most likely not.
We all have our opinion about what has happened.
“It’s just another trigger-happy policeman who can’t keep their shit together in a stressful situation, showing their true colors.”
“Obviously Terrence had it coming. He has a history of crime and he was acting erratic.”
“He wasn’t compliant!”
“He was complying!”
“Black people always got to be the victim.”
“The media is the devil and is trying to bring division among the American people.”
“Of course they are excusing the cop, because they have the privilege of growing up white.”
What Satan doesn’t want you to know about Terrence Crutcher is that Jesus isn’t so concerned about your opinion. Jesus is concerned about your heart first. Satan is just giddy, jumping up and down on his little goat hooves, waving his pitchfork gleeful in the spiritual air. He is wreaking havoc everywhere! Another life has been taken violently. A cop’s world is in turmoil now. Her very own soul and conscience has suddenly become the opinion of every individual in the country. Finally, the Church is so blinded by their own opinions, they don’t see the division and rift the Enemy has caused among the Body of Christ. We have become convinced that we are right and the other side is being unfair and unjust. Except in this situation, no one is right. We are all wrong. Because our heart is wrong.
The only place you should be concerned about being right is your place in God. What good is it going to do Christ’s Body when your opinion has proven true? Was the Body of Christ built up? Did your brother or your sister grow in their knowledge about Christ? (Ephesians 4:1-16)
So I want to challenge all of us, and myself, to examine our heart. Why is it so important for you to be right? Why is it so important for me to be right?
If you believe that the policewoman was vindicated and that this is just another example of victim mentality. That the left is trying to make a non-issue into racism. I have this for you to consider:
Oral Roberts University’s outreach department has this motto and safe word during ropes training for outreach teams: “blue light”. “Don’t blue light somebody else’s experiences” they say. They get this from K-Mart’s marketing gimmick. When they turn on a blue light in a department to show that there is a special discount. In other words, “Don’t discount some else’s experience.” If a team member is telling you how difficult a certain obstacle was for them, that is not the opportunity for you to say, “It wasn’t hard for me.” You just devalued the experience your teammate had. Your teammate is attempting to share a significant moment with you. But that statement communicates that you have no concern or care for them and you have created an obstacle for further communication and a hurdle for your relationship.
The thing is, everybody has his or her own experience and we all place a value on our experience. And that value is not a moral issue or a right or wrong issue. Now that value can be helpful for your life or unhelpful, but because it is your personal experience only you can decide what it means to you. As all good marriage and family therapists will tell you, one of the rules in communication is that you can’t discount another person’s feelings. They will feel what they will feel, and if you tell them they are wrong or that they are over reacting, you just shut down communication and the situation is going to escalate. Any attempt to resolve conflict becomes null.
The classic example, a wife has asked her husband to fix the sink. The husband forgets and goes out golfing with his buddies. The wife is angry because she assumes the husband is being lazy. When she confronts the husband and is still angry after he explains himself, the husband says, “You’re overreacting! It was an accident! I said I’m sorry.” What does the wife hear? That the husband didn’t hear a single thing she told him. That he is blaming her for the situation. That he doesn’t care about her. And that he thinks she’s hysterical and over emotional. So do you think the conflict is any closer to reaching a mutually satisfying resolution? This couple is just going to go around and around until the husband is sleeping on the couch and the wife is on the phone with her girlfriends with a chocolate bar and a glass of pinot noir.
What do you think happens when a Christian brother or sister tells their black Christian brother or sister, “You’re overreacting! You’re just playing the victim. Don’t you know who you are in Christ? Look at the statistics. More black people kill black people than white cops do”? The thing is, you’re not black. And even if you are black, you just communicated to another Believer that you are not listening to what they are saying, that you don’t care, and you are placing blame on them for the situation. If there wasn’t any racial division in the American church, there is now.
But what your black brother and your black sister are feeling is neither right nor is it wrong. If the black Christian community is expressing their horror and sadness at what has happened, how are we, as members also of the Body of Christ supposed to respond? Paul says that if one member suffers, the whole body suffers, if one member rejoices we all rejoice (1 Cor. 12:26). Invalidating their experience is not suffering with them. It is making them suffer alone. What we easily forget is how closely Christ identifies Himself with his Body, which is the Church. What did Christ says to Paul on the road to Damascus, “Why are you persecuting me?” If Christ says this to Saul an unbeliever, how much more accountable will He hold you and I for how we treat each other? Christ takes the treatment of His Church personally. And when we treat a member of His body with contempt, so have you treated Christ, so have I treated Christ. When you don’t hear what it is that a black Believer is saying, whether or not you agree, you make Christ to suffer alone again.
Now, if you believe that Terrence Crutcher was innocent and that Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby should be held accountable and that justice should be served. Have this question for you: Did you forget that justice has already been served on the Cross?
I once had a dream that my parents were being maliciously tortured. As I was watching this, I could just feel this hateful rage erupting inside of me. I wanted to protect my parents, I wanted to be violent, I cursed at the criminals and demanded that there be justice. Immediately in my dream, the Holy Spirit showed me a vision of the cross and all that anger just disappeared. I realized that on the cross Christ became my parent’s murderers and He became their torturers. He unjustly served their just punishment for them on the cross, because of His great love for them. How could I still be angry towards them? How could I still demand that they suffer for their actions, that they face judgment, when their crimes have already been judged and served. If they were to turn to Christ in repentance, He would receive them just as He has received me.
Are you ready to forgive? It is easier for me typing on this side of the screen to tell you this than it will be for you on the other side reading this to have a compassionate and loving heart towards the one who killed Terrence Crutcher. But the thing is if you claim to follow Christ, then that means you will have to follow Him to the place of forgiveness. “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) And isn’t that what racism is. The racist truly does not know and understand, they have become deceived. Either believing that they do not have racist beliefs or believing that a certain race or races is less superior to their own.¹ Yet Christ calls you to emulate Himself. You are so angry about your experience, I am so angry, that we have forgotten there is another human being with their own experience. Can you feel remorse and compassion for her? Whether she is feeling the turmoil of regret of guilt, the hatred of racism or she is feeling the hardness of nothing. Her life will never be the same again and most likely in a negative way. She has come under the microscope of public scrutiny and everyone will judge her every motivation and intent. It is most likely that you have never been in this kind of situation.
Whatever side you are on or no side at all, we know that our actions come from the contents of our heart. Whether you participate in a prayer vigil, a non violent protest, repost a blog on social media, participate in a debate or have a conversation with your friends is it compassionate, are you listening, are you caring? Because at the end of all things when Christ the Righteous Judge holds you accountable for your life, He won’t ask you what was your view, He will ask you about your heart.
¹Not that I am saying that Police Officer Betty Shelby is racist.