The Zimmerman Verdict: What Is the 'Right' Side for Christians?
In the aftermath of the Zimmerman verdict, everyone seems to be looking to their own prophets for understanding.
But who are the prophets? For many it is Fox News and Rush Limbaugh on the one hand, and, on the other extreme, MSNBC and Al Sharpton.
Christ's followers should approach the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman nightmare from the perspective of the Kingdom of God, not the fallen culture.
I learned this long ago as a young newspaper reporter in covering the 1960s civil rights crisis in my native Birmingham, Alabama. I realized I could not view racial issues through the lens of the segregationist tradition, which had been presented to me as holy truth, but through the truth that is holy.
It is hard to come up to that higher, more expansive view, but it is vital. Since the 'remnant' of God's followers in every age "will take root downward and bear fruit upward" (2 Kings 19:30; Isaiah 37:31), it is the remnant community that can be the blossoming tree through which a weakened nation can find nourishment and shelter.
So to whom shall we go? O'Reilly, Limbaugh? Chris Matthews, Sharpton? All the chatterers, talking heads, opinionizers, would-be prophets, including, for that matter, yours truly?
All no doubt speak elements of truth. The words from the cultural voices, however, are too often chunks of kindling on an already raging fire.
Only Jesus has words of eternal life, the thought of the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17) which is the rich fruit the remnant community can bear upward into the desperation of our times.
The key word describing the famished culture's response to the Martin-Zimmerman affair is exploitation. The well-honed skill of milking every crisis for all its worth is much in evidence, on both sides.
The key words describing the response of Jesus and His Kingdom must be loving, sacrificial service to all suffering because of the collision of those two men on February 26, 2012, and the verdict in the Zimmerman trial on July 13, 2013.
God's side in this case may surprise you
There are two clear sides in this case, and they are not Trayvon Martin's cause on the one hand or George Zimmerman's support on the other. The real sides are exploitation or servanthood. For the body of Christ, there can be no question as to which side to take.
But first the remnant must put its roots downward. Downward into the lush soil of biblical truth, downward into the rich waters of the Holy Spirit's currents. Then the church must function in the midst of society in practical ways to bring the fruit to hungry people.
The Martin-Zimmerman affair has exposed the fear under which many live in America. There's the fear of thieves and home invaders, but there's also the fear of walking through a community and being profiled on the basis of race or appearance.
How do we deal with such fear before it erupts into more Martin-Zimmerman explosions? More therapy? More medications? More sensitivity training?
If these met the ideal expectations we would all be living together in bliss and harmony. Ghetto-housed people would be having gated-community folk over for supper. The affluent would invite young men wearing hoodies to house-sit while the well-off homeowners jet to Vail or Aspen.
The Bible, and the worldview of the Kingdom of God, has the only workable solution to the anxieties of our age: "Perfect love casts out fear." (1 John 4:18) Let the remnant community pursue the perfection of love, and the healing-tree will bloom lavishly.
Love does not banish hard facts, but tells the truth. However, the truth-telling is not punitive and judgmental but restorative and transformational. Love ministers healing truth, not rhetoric rendered as an ax. Therefore, the perfection of love is the linkage of truth and comfort, facts and encouragement, grim disclosure with hope.
Truth without love is a hard imprisoning wall. Love without truth is a deceitful façade. In Christ and the Kingdom, truth and love meet. Let this be the voice and form the actions of the remnant community.
God is not a mere theorist, and that's why the Incarnation is logical and essential. Incarnation makes principles practical. Followers of Jesus Christ, God-in-flesh, are only vaporous theory-mongers without incarnational ministry. It is the Holy Spirit who transforms orthodoxy (right thinking) into orthopraxy (right doing) in the gritty streets, 'hoods, crumbling cities, and even the barred and guarded bastions of the affluent.
As Christ walked in His body 2,000 years ago, so He walks in the world today in His body. (1 John 2:6; 4:17)
The first of the actions of the body of Christ must be to pray, but not as ascetics withdrawn from the pain. We must work and pray, pray and work.
What must the work be?
As we pray, let us pursue practical peacemaking. The church is entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation – humans-to-God and humans-to-one-another. Let every real church be a house of reconciliation, where people can dwell and work together as incarnational ministers to every broken facet of their cities.
Let churches and their organizations become clearinghouses to coordinate community action – food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless, reconciliation to fractured communities.
Let churches be Kingdom outposts within their communities, infusing them with the goodness, peace, and joy that is Spirit-given.
The remnant community is in the world, but not of the world. (John 17) We are the ekklesia, the "called out" people, so we can be transformed and thrust back into the world as the leavening agents of the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. (John 17:18)
We are to come out and be separate (2 Corinthians 6:17), not in our presence, but in our thinking, reasoning, values, and attitudes. The body of Christ knows a "better way," so why should we copycat the pretend patriarchs and self-anointed prophets and their ways?
The remnant community that is not of the world can do better than the world. For the world's sake, it must.