Alton Sterling, Black Lives Matter and My Son

My thoughts below are a re-post from Facebook.

The last couple of days have been hard for a lot of people. The death of Alton Sterling at the hands of Baton Rouge police officers has once again ripped off a scab on a deep, deep wound. And for Hannah and I, this hit very close to home. Our son, who is Black, was born in Baton Rouge. He still has family in Baton Rouge. Our hearts are heavy.

I struggled for most of the day with what to say, if anything.

We don’t know all the facts concerning the situation, so I wouldn’t begin to assume. I do know one thing though, after seeing the video, I don’t see how anyone can simply shrug their shoulders and be OK with how Mr. Sterling was treated.

I realize that there are many, many honorable police officers. Not all are bad. I realize they have a very hard job and I’m grateful for their service to our communities. But for the Black community, these type of occurrences are all too repetitive. And it’s statistically proven that Black men are 50% more likely to be shot and killed by police than those of other races.

50%.

Why is that ? (rhetorical question)

Unfortunately, it seems one can not focus on the lives of Black people without receiving some form of rebuttal (which typically includes “All Lives Matter”). Or, one can not say “Black Lives Matter” without being labeled a police hater or a flaming liberal.

Since when did standing up for life become a hate crime?

If you were attending a funeral of a man who left behind wife and kids, would you walk up to the widow and say “All lives matter. So you should get over it because your husband isn’t the only one who has died today.”?

No. You would grieve with her.

And to a friend who just found out she has breast cancer, would you walk up to her and say “Breast cancer isn’t the only cancer. Your struggle isn’t that big of a deal. There are other people dying from cancer too. We shouldn’t just focus on breast cancer.”?

No. You would care for her. Encourage her. And see her to victory over breast cancer.

So in this situation a segment of our society, a portion of the human race, my son’s city of birth, brothers and sisters in Christ, are grieving the loss of a human being.

A human being.

A man created in the image of God.

Whom Jesus died for.

And loved so dearly.

Alton Sterling.

My son, who is Black, was born in Baton Rouge. Does his life matter?

Grace Can Hurt

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Grace seems to be quite the buzz word lately. Sermons upon sermons have been preached. Ministries have been birthed. Books have been written.

A lot of what has come forth is good, but other aspects maybe not so much. When it comes to teaching on grace, the pendulum can swing anywhere from a greasy, perversion of grace to a cold, hard, dry distortion of it. Neither of the two extremes are biblical, and thus not healthy.

There’s an aspect of grace that I’ve come to know personally that I don’t think many of us think about much. Or, at least, I never had until recently.

And that is: grace can hurt.

We love being recipients of grace, don’t we? Who wouldn’t? Unmerited favor. Getting what we don’t deserve. Being forgiven of sin, even though we didn’t do anything (and can’t do anything) to earn that forgiveness. Having favor with God and being made His friends, even though we had been His enemies.

Grace is amazing. Grace is good. It’s life-giving. It’s life-changing.

But that’s from the recipient side of things.

It’s when we have to be the givers of grace that it doesn’t always feel so amazing, so good.

What about when someone offends us? What about when someone does something so treacherously wrong that they deserve to be severly punished?

Yet, extending grace to someone is probably one of the most Gospel things we can do.

In the midst of our sin, in the midst of all of our wrongness — Jesus stepped into that mess, our mess, and gave us another chance.

“…you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:11

That’s grace. And really, He didn’t just give us a do-over, rather, He made it as if we never, ever sinned. That’s what justified means.

If God did that for us, who are we to not extend that grace to others? Sure they may not deserve it. It wouldn’t be grace if they did. Sure it may hurt for you to extend that grace. It hurt Jesus as well. He endured such pain and turmoil as He hung on the cross.

In the end, extending grace will be worth it. It may cost you something in the mean time, but think of what goodness will be poured out in someone else’s life because you were willing to give of yourself.

Jesus did it for us. Let’s do it for someone else.

Freely we’ve received, now freely we must give.

Slaves of Fear

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One fundamental aspect to the Gospel is freedom. Jesus came to set free the oppressed and captive. That includes both the physical and spiritual. His onslaught on injustice was clear and still rings true today.

One aspect of that spiritual freedom is that of freedom from enslavement to fear.

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!'” – Romans 8:15

Fear is a nasty slave master. It always takes and gives nothing but hopelessness and worry in return. Candace Johnson takes it a step further and says “Fear will always take more than we want to give.”

Fear makes us waste one of our most precious commodities: time. It does this by causing us to worry and fret over things we have no control over. Fear attempts to erode our faith by seeding doubt and unbelief. Fear also attacks our mind with confusion and unrest, which undermines peace. Fear challenges our authority in Christ as it causes us to care more about the opinions of others than the opinions of God.

Fear is bad and can be deadly. Which is why Jesus has set us free from its enslavement. It can really mess us up.

There’s another angle to this freedom from fear that you may not have considered. Fear can enslave us personally by messing with our own lives OR fear can also enslave us by using us as a tool to enslave others. Which means, we’re still enslaved.

Whenever we use fear to attempt to convince people to repent or we use fear to try to get people to live a certain way, we are enslaving them. Note there’s a huge difference between telling the truth and fear mongering.

Fear is often the tactic used in parenting, getting people to vote a certain way, or getting people to obey God. And the ones who use fear as a manipulative or controlling tool are they themselves enslaved to fear as well. They may not be afraid, but by using fear they show themselves to be subservient to it.

Jesus’ calling out of fear includes both us not being afraid of things as well as us not using fear as a tool on others. If we’re a believer, we’re called to bring life and hope and peace, not fear. Jesus clearly told us not to worry. And all throughout Scripture, we are told “do not fear”.

Let us not be agents of fear. But let us be agents of hope; of freedom.

We’ve been set free to bring freedom. Let’s do just that. Cause ain’t nobody got time for fear.