Sometimes upon hearing the news all you can do is sit down and stare.
That’s how I’ve felt these past few days as the headlines of the killing of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the five Dallas Police officers rolled through my newsfeed.
Quite honestly, I’m not really sure what I want to say about all of this. What is there to say that hasn’t already been offered?
I’m angry that yet again black men have been killed by the people that are supposed to serve and protect them. I’m angry that upon their deaths, attempts were made to justify this injustice by slandering the name and character of the victim in an attempt to make them seem criminal, and therefore worthy of immediate execution.
I’m angry that my black brothers and sisters continue to be ridiculed as divisive whenever they cry out for the murdered members of their communities. I’m angry at my white brothers and sisters who refuse to acknowledge that we live in a different reality than our black neighbors; a reality that is much safer, more comfortable, and – yes – more privileged.
I’m angry that this keeps happening. This keeps happening. This. Keeps. Happening.
And yet I must not let my anger turn to violence. That is what happened in Dallas. Anger – rightful anger, righteous anger – was perverted and gave way to hate and violence, and five more people died.
Because that is how violence works. Violence leads to more violence, like a cancer moving through a body. Violence and injustice and oppression cannot be defeated with more of the same. It simply cannot.
Genesis 6 begins the story of God flooding the whole Earth with water in an attempt to wipe out the evil of humanity. Genesis 6:13 says, “God said to Noah, ‘The end has come for all creatures, since they have filled the earth with violence. I am now about to destroy them along with the earth.'”
God sets out to destroy violence with violence, but as we all know, it didn’t work. Violence cannot be destroyed by violence. Which is why God promised to never flood the world again. There is another way. A better way. That is the way of love, the way of life.
After all, violence is the antithesis of life. It is the destruction and denial of life. Violence says that there is no meaning in your life, so it is justifiable to harm it – even to end it.
And this propensity towards violence comes from fear. Fear that my life doesn’t matter. Fear that I am in some way inferior to my brother or sister or neighbor; so I must prove to the world – to myself – that no, my life isn’t meaningless, THAT person’s life is meaningless…and we commit violence.
The fear of insignificance. The fear of meaninglessness. The fear that I don’t matter.
This leads to violence.
So we hear that #BlackLivesMatter. We hear that #PoliceLivesMatter. We hear that #AllLivesMatter.
Because that is the cry at the heart of all of this.
And so God clothed himself with flesh and blood – God took on humanity – and faced this fear.
Jesus insisted that the poor are blessed, that the sinner is beloved, that the enemy is a neighbor. Jesus insisted that the lives that have been oppressed and abused and beaten and killed do matter. Jesus insisted that the lives that have oppressed and abused and beaten and killed others do matter. Jesus insisted that you matter. You matter.
No matter what, you matter.
And in the clearest display of our sickness, humanity unjustly murdered this truth-teller; because the truth has a way of disturbing our lives. We did violence to the one that insisted there was no reason to fear.
On the cross, we declare that Jesus’ life doesn’t matter, yet in the resurrection Jesus assures us that ours still does.
Violence cannot be defeated by violence. Fear cannot be undone by fear. The only way forward is to trust that my life matters. To believe so strongly in my own worth that I do not fear any violence that could ever be done to me. To have such faith that I am a beloved child of God that I cannot help but see everyone else – Black, Police, Gay, Transgender, Terrorist – as the same; a beloved child of God. And when someone’s fear causes them to do violence to me, I am free to forgive; because they simply do not know what they’re doing.
Violence cannot be defeated by violence. Only love can do that.