Not again…that’s what I thought when Amanda told me there had been another officer involved deadly shooting of an African-American. Sadness was my primary reaction. And then my mind started to churn…was it justified? Were the circumstances out of control? Why does this happen so often? Has it always been happening? How will the neighbors react? How will the staff react? Will this be a tipping point? And just hours after I hear that news, a shooter in Dallas murders 5 police officers and wounds others. When will this stop? Are we about to have large scale rioting? So many thoughts, but before we can even process those events from Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, and Dallas, another shooting happens much closer to home. Just blocks from our house and ministry center, Alva Braziel was shot and killed by police. Tragic.
Months before any of these shootings, Agape Development had a planned a training for summer staff about racial reconciliation. My friend and pastor, David Hill and I do a workshop called “Conversations that Heal”. Over the years, we’ve had many significant conversations about race, injustice, and old wounds. Through these years of friendship, we’ve drawn out principles that have led to healing for both of us. We’ve given the workshop many times over the past 3 years, but never so soon after a police shooting, much less one in our neighborhood.
I am always a little anxious before giving this particular workshop, but this time even more so. Would I say the wrong thing? How was it going to be received after the intensity of the week? These kinds of fears easily keep us from addressing the subject at all. It’s uncomfortable. But as followers of Jesus, we simply cannot say nothing. Monday night, the workshop was packed and we had time afterwards to join in prayer for the families and communities affected by the recent violence. David relayed his journey of coming to a place where he was able to share vulnerably with me, stories of old pain from racism. That he would share vulnerably with me as a white man, in light of our nation’s history, is an undeserved gift of tremendous courage that I can never repay. I shared some things I have learned over the years about how to listen to the painful stories of racism without rushing to fix, explain, or try to defend my own race. We both shared mistakes we’ve made along the way like making assumptions, generalizations, or seeking quick fixes to guilt.
Am I naïve enough to think that something as small as my relationship with my brother in Christ will make a dent in the massive problems we have as a nation? Do I think it changes the reality that blacks are policed differently than whites? Or that the violent crime in our community is far greater than in other communities, drawing more police here in the first place and putting them more on guard? Yes. We will certainly be called to more, but healed relationships between individuals must be the bedrock.
Regardless of what you think about the recent news, as believers we must agree that God’s Shalom will not come by deciding that the problem and the responsibility for change rests completely with “them.” Shalom will cost us all, but the gospel offer remains a treasure worth all we have. Lord grant us the courage to seek that Shalom. Come Holy Spirit.
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