Ferguson: The Great Danger of Redefining Terms and Refusing Personal Responsibility

In 1973, a landmark case was decided by the US Supreme Court. Roe vs Wade was the case that set the course of our nation’s future, at least in the area of abortion. But something had to happen in order for that decision to be issued. See, the court ruled that abortion was a constitutional right. In order for that conclusion to be reached, two things had to have happened. First, there had to be redefining of life, either in the definition of the beginning of life or of the principle that all human lives are created equal. So now the very definition of when life begins is up for debate, and theories abound. But far more incriminating is the placement of the rights of a woman above the rights of a child. For a woman to have the right to kill a child simply because it is within her womb was a major worldview shift for our nation. The second thing that had to happen was more a cultural indicator than anything. In order for life to be redefined in such a drastic fashion, you had to have a general populace who would say, “I am not willing to take responsibility for my own sexual actions. I will do what I want, when I want, with whom I want, and when consequences arise, I expect the government to create a path to deal with them (because to do anything less would be a restriction of women’s rights).” How much of an effect did that have? Study the last 40 years in terms of abortion and our society’s morality and view of life and you will see a major shift.

What does that have to do with Ferguson, Missouri? Everything. A few days ago the grand jury decided that there was not enough evidence in the Michael Brown shooting to bring criminal charges against Darren Wilson. Based on the evidence that was given (which is all that anyone in the public has access to), the decision seems to have been sound. But where I want to look is to the response. After the announcement, dozens of protestors started looting, burning, and wreaking havoc in the town. Why? The response I heard over and over again was a single word. “Justice.” “We want justice for Michael Brown.” But what do they mean by “justice”? According to Merriam-Webster, justice is “the process or result of using laws to fairly judge and punish crimes and criminals.” Based on that definition, barring further evidence coming to light, justice was done by this grand jury. What these looters are actually looking for is vengeance, but that word doesn’t sound nearly good enough when one is speaking in front of cameras and trying justice the feelings that are raging inside of you. No, something that strong actually requires the redefinition of a term.

But that’s not where the story ends. Michael Brown did not deserve to die. Let me repeat that. This young man (from a human perspective) did not deserve to have his life ended in the way that it did. However, what he did do was life in a way that put him in a position to have his life “justifiably” taken. Brown had marijuana in his system, had just robbed a store, and was walking down the middle of the road. None of those facts are in question. When confronted by a police officer, he responded aggressively and the situation escalated from there. To say that Brown’s death was somehow completely unrelated to his life choices might be politically correct, but it is a lie. Some responsibility must be taken. That goes for these looters and the government in Missouri as well. Last count I heard was that 25 businesses were looted and/or burned that first night. The men and women who committed those crimes should be held fully and personally responsible. “But they are just responded to a gross miscarriage of justice.” I have heard that numerous times, as if it justifies this horrible behavior. Would it have been justified if a store owner had defended his place of business by putting a load of buckshot in the first person through the door? Or would that have been wrong because he was shooting a thief who was only a thief because he had just heard bad news that had put him in a state of emotional instability? Or could we argue that the thief was only really looking for an opportunity to commit a crime and had just been given an excuse for doing so? See how convoluted the picture can become?

This same thing goes for the police and government. Where were the defenders of the peace that night? Why did all those businesses have to burn? Someone is responsible, and that someone has refused to take responsibility. This concerns me. Does that mean that every time I preach on something that is biblical but not culturally acceptable I have to worry about getting my home burned? I’ve preached a biblical position on homosexual marriage, abortion, immorality, and other countercultural issues. If I get a vocal and potentially violent group of protestors outside my home or church building and call 911, will anyone show up, or are there political forces in play. Who makes the call? Is it the sheriff, mayor, governor? I have to admit, that lack of response scared me.

What’s the point? First, don’t redefine terms. People do this when they are trying to slip something past you or justify wrong behavior. Second, we must get back to accepting personal responsibility for our actions. We live in a sin-cursed world, and every one of us are sinful creatures with hearts that lean toward the depraved. We must realize that and not try to gloss over it. And then we must understand that only in the blood of Christ do we find a solution that has any staying power. Those violent men in Ferguson don’t need “justice” or even vengeance. That won’t satisfy. They don’t need a “voice” or anything like that. They need what every other resident of Ferguson needs- a peace that passes understanding. My prayer is that God will move through this tragedy, and that in the midst of the chaos the gospel will emerge. The gospel that changes lives is the only thing that can truly reconcile the hearts of men.