Truth Amidst Chaos: A Biblical/Theological Look at Ferguson, New York, etc…

When men have lost their reason, reasonable men are no longer heard. This seems to be the situation all over our country, as people have turned off their ability to rationally think through situations, and have instead defaulted to a worldview that has been twisted and skewed by their various experiences and backgrounds.

  • In Ferguson, MO, a black man is shot multiple times by a white police officer. The black man is unarmed. He dies.
  • In New York City, a black man is confronted while illegally selling cigarettes. He verbally resists arrest. He is subdued by white police officers. He dies in the confrontation.
  • In another jurisdiction, not far from Ferguson, a black man points a loaded 9mm at a police officer. He is shot and killed.
  • In NYC, two police officers, one of hispanic descent, the other of asian heritage are shot at point-blank range while sitting in their patrol car. Their murderer is a black man claiming revenge for the earlier killings of black men by police.

As I heard about each of these shootings (and others), my gut was twisted. The needless loss of life is appalling. But I have been equally appalled by the response of some of the protestors, who insist that revenge is the new justice. Different people have been more responsible than others. Anyone who uses a “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture has no credibility. Forensic evidence has rendered their protest a lie. On the other hand, I have great respect for those who have peacefully worn their “I can’t breathe” shirts. Anyone who associates in any way, shape or form with Al Sharpton has no credibility. Anyone who can use these events to speak clearly, specifically, and compassionately about change that needs to take place has my utmost respect (and my ear). I have grown tired of talking heads- one stripe who claims that this is an epidemic of cops targeting black people because they are black. Then another type of person comes on and claims that cops are always right (they don’t say it that way of course, but the implication is there), and that while there are some bad cops somewhere, they didn’t play into any of the cases now making the national media. These people use broad and sweeping generalities, and lump all cases together into one mass, instead of considering each case (and set of individuals) as what they are…individuals. Eric Garner was NOT Micheal Brown. That goes for the police officers in each case, and the other black men who were involved.

Rather than just add one more “blah” voice to the chaos, I would like to add the voice of the only authority who supersedes all human authority, and whose opinion is never fallible or prone to error. What light does the Bible shed on issues such as this?

A few principles to keep in mind from the Ultimate Authority…

  1. Every human being is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). What does this mean practically? Every person, from conception to natural death, is a special creation of God Almighty. Animals aren’t created in God’s image, people are. All human life is precious. Unfortunately, our society has lost this perspective (just think of the millions of children murdered since Roe V. Wade). We need to regain God’s perspective on human life. From the womb to the nursing home, life matters.
  2. Every human being is tainted by sin (Romans 3:23). You hear people on television say over and over again that people are basically good. This is a lie. It represents a false worldview. Romans tells us that every human being on earth has sinned against a holy God. That doesn’t mean that we can’t do “good” things. It does mean that we can’t do “righteous” things outside of the cleansing power of Christ.
  3. Every human being who has been tainted by sin has their own designer sins (James 1:14). This is not a popular concept to hold to today. Today my sins (or “issues”) are all someone else’s fault. If I am hooked on pornography it’s because my wife didn’t make her attractive enough. If I don’t like black people, it’s my parent’s fault for not raising me right. If I get angry easily, it’s definitely related to some sort of disorder (once again, that cannot be blamed on me). But that’s not what God says. God tells us that the evil we do is first of all, actually evil, and second, we can blame one person, and one person alone- ourselves. I’ve never struggled with racism. It’s not one of my “designer” sins. That’s probably partly related to growing up in a multi-ethnic neighborhood near Washington, DC, and never having ethnicity be an issue in my home or church. But for some, this is a struggle. It is wrong, and it must be confronted and dealt with, not justified and explained away. Once again, we must go back to the gospel here and understand that the only way to really deal with our designer sins is through the forgiveness that comes through the blood of Christ. For those of you reading, I would love to talk with you more about that concept if it is foreign to you.
  4. Human government is to be obeyed and respected (Romans 13:1-7). This should be self-explanatory. We used to understand that we were to respect the office of those in authority over us. Unfortunately, in many homes today, authority is not respected on any level. This leads to conflict and trouble on the family level, the church level, the government level, and in our relationship to our Creator.
  5. God-appointed authority figures will be held to a strict accountability. There has at times been a “thin blue line” of protection for police officers who have broken the law or gone outside the range of proper policy and procedure in apprehending someone (the NYC case is a prime example). And while our hearts cry out for justice in this life, injustice will occur (once again, 55 million babies unheard cries rise us against our entire nation). We must take steps to ensure genuine justice does occur (within the legal system we have to work with), while resting in the fact that the “Judge of all the earth will do right.” Accountability is coming.
  6. Human nature will always tend to push against authority and authority will always tend to abuse power. Our founding fathers understood this, and we need to better understand this today.
  7. All cases of violent conflict between authority and private citizens must be evaluated through a biblical worldview and on an individual basis. Michael Brown charged a police officer. He was shot and killed. Forensic evidence to this point has backed the police officer’s version of the story. This is NOT the case with Eric Garner in New York. In a case with video evidence, a man committing a nonviolent crime and not physically resisting arrest is subdued using a technique not approved of by the NY Police. His cries for breath are ignored, and he dies as a result. Based on the available evidence, he was murdered by the officer. In the more recent shooting outside of Ferguson, a young male pointed a loaded 9mm gun at an officer. The charge later by a local pastor that the officer should have used pepper spray or a taser is absolutely ridiculous. If you point a weapon at any citizen of this country, anything that happens to you in the immediate moments following is justified. As for the murder of the two NYPD officers, there is nothing to add. They were murdered in cold blood while trying to complete a duty that involves protecting you and me from the types of people who would do us harm. My heart goes out to their families.

Life is a mess. There is chaos. Because we are fallen people, justice will no always be served. Sometimes it will fail because of human error, and sometimes because of human wickedness. Sometimes justice will occur. The solution to what ails us lies in the truth of the gospel. We are sinners, rebels against God. Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, died in our stead in order to pay for our sins. We can be redeemed by placing our faith completely in the work Christ did on the cross. This is how you make sense of the world we live in.
I would love to dialogue with you about any of the stuff posted here. Feel free to contact me and I will respond.