Ladies and gentlemen, we have a problem.
Actually, the truth is we have had a problem for quite some time.
I would say about 200 years to exact
The problem is the contrast between the ideals that founded the United States of America,
And the way we have decided to live (or not to live) those ideals out.
For the rich, white, male this land has been the land of abounding opportunity.
For everyone else, it is has been a struggle just to glimpse opportunity.
Some have come from the bottom to the top.
But many more remain entrenched in the bottom.
We say we do not have a caste system.
We say we do not have an aristocracy.
We say that our laws were made for the benefit and protection of everyone, that we have “inalienable rights.”
But perhaps we are deluding ourselves.
Perhaps it is time to wake up to reality.
The American Dream is wonderful or insipid based upon the perspective of the dreamer.
If the dreamer is one who knows how to use the society to his benefit, then the American Dream is almost reality.
If the dreamer is one who has no clue as to how society works, or if for some reason society is against them, then the American Dream is also a reality.
But it is a reality that is an unending, unwaking nightmare.
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are supposed to be the rights of all who live here.
But it seems more and more clear that they are ideals that are reserved for those who already have, rather than those who wish they had.
As one U.S. Senator stupidly remarked:
“The United States is not a nation of haves and have-nots; it is a nation of haves and soon-to-haves.”
This is true, except for the fact that the “soon-to-haves” are those who will be receiving it from the “haves.”
Everyone else is increasingly locked out.
So when we see black men (and children) killed en mass by white police officers.
We should not be surprised.
You see, unless you have lived in a survivalist fall-out shelter (or taken the sweet pill of blissful ignorance) for last two-hundred years, you know that America struggles with an inequality problem.
Inequality is an accepted practice of American society.
There are “haves” and “have-nots” in race, education, socio-economic status, religion, power, influence, sexual orientation, etc.
We are a civilization that loves to point out that we have ours; even at the expense of someone else.
I had a customer come into work the other day and say that she was now “more afraid of black people” because of the Ferguson, Missouri riots.
As if she had seemed to come to peace with them, as long as they did not upset her too much.
I told her that the reason those people were protesting and rioting (not the looters, they are just taking advantage of a bad situation) is that they no longer believe that their laws and justice system looks out for them.
As human beings, when our laws and governments do not work for us, what do we tend to do?
We do what our founding fathers did: we tell our government to stick their heads in a toilet and flush, we stand up for our rights.
Now, I am not condoning rioting or any sort of violence, but like ISIL back against the wall in the Middle East, these people seem to believe they have no other options.
Oh and by the way, as you can tell from the picture, not everyone protesting was an “angry black person.”
My customer was shaken out of her comfort zone, and her response was not to address the issue, but to become more afraid of “black people.”
When police have such broad powers, it calls into question the laws and policies that are meant to protect us.
Whether you believe Officer Wilson was justified in shooting Michael Brown or not, this is not the only incidence of this happening.
It happens to other African Americans.
It happens to Hispanics.
And occasionally it even happens to poor Caucasians or one of the “favored” minorities.
People are getting shot across the country every year by police officers who are using excessive force and poor judgment.
But all we can do is see those “angry black people.”
What many want to say is something else, but that is no longer polite or appropriate.
But they are still thinking it.
You see our nation has a problem; its had a problem since its beginning.
When the issue here is the abuse of power, all we see are the racial components.
We have not done the hard work of reconciliation; we have not made amends for the crimes we have inflicted on one another.
We have not fessed up to, repented of, and distanced ourselves from our sin.
We want to forget and move on, without having to do the hard work.
When I sin against my wife, I do not want to sit there and listen to her cry or vent.
I want to admit my sin, clean the slate, and move on.
But there is something incredibly selfish and inhumane about such a desire.
The only way to heal is to the let other person rage out their anger, disappointment, and sometimes hatred.
The same is true in our dealings with race:
We have to have a conversation that allows all parties to vent and get it out.
It has to happen in Washington D.C.
It has to happen in the State of Arkansas.
It has to happen in our neighborhoods.
Or their can be no reconciliation.
And do you know what is worst part of this problem?
The Church has not made the effort, for the most part, to spearhead the process of this healing.
Sunday is still the most segregated day of the week; we are still planting “white” churches and “black” churches (as well as other “minority” churches).
This issue is a gaping wound in the heart and soul of this nation, and we have chosen to do blood transfusions and hold on bandages…
Rather than get the wound disinfected, stitched up, and restored.
In II Corinthians 5:18, Paul tells us that God has given us the “ministry of reconciliation.”
Some believe that he is saying that he means that we are to preach the reconciliation of man to God.
And that is true, gloriously true!
However, there is a second part of this reconciliation: the reconciliation of humanity in Christ.
That means that if wish to see the reconciliation of people with God, that we need to be models of reconciliation amongst ourselves.
It has happened before, remember in Galatians where Paul was addressing the fall of the dividing lines between Jew and Gentile?
Jew and Samaritan?
This is true even amongst ourselves.
We need reconciliation between whites and minorities.
Between minorities and other minorities
Between the rich and the poor.
Between men and women.
Between the simple and the well educated.
Between healthy and the sick.
Between the whole and the disabled.
Between the young and the elderly.
Between fathers and sons.
Between mothers and daughters.
Between brothers and sisters.
Our society is crying out for those who have the ministry of reconciliation to step forward.
The Gospel is the key to distributive justice (I wrote papers about that subject here: The Gospel as Distributive Justice and Justification: The Essential Doctrine of Christian Justice).
Without the Gospel, the world will always find ways to be unequal.
And exploit those inequalities for the benefit of the “haves” over the “have-nots.”
Might will always make right.
What a different nation we would live in, if God’s people would decide to take up the difficult ministry of reconciliation.
Yes there would be hurt.
Yes there would be pain.
Yes there could be violence and persecution.
But there could also be forgiveness.
There could also be understanding.
There could also be trust.
There could also be peace.
Most importantly, by showing the world that we can be reconciled with each other, we get the opportunity to show them why we are able to reconcile.
We get to show them that we were first reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.
This is a great opportunity, and I pray that we will not miss it.
Grace and Peace