Once again, I’m stunned at the video footage that confronts all of us:
- 49 patrons of an Orlando dance club are brutally slaughtered by a man who apparently hates gays, non-Muslims or both
- A black man in Louisiana shot twice in the chest as he’s wrestled to the ground by two officers
- A black man in Minnesota is shot four times after getting pulled over by an officer for a broken taillight, as his wife and 4 year-old daughter watch in horror
- A protest in Minneapolis turns into a virtual riot as firecrackers, Molotov Cocktails and bricks are thrown at police, who then respond with smoke and tear-gas. Dozens on both sides are injured
- A peaceful protest in Dallas, in response to these shootings, turns into a sniper attack where a black man kills five police officers and wounds several others
The development of live video footage anywhere at anytime has exposed us to shocking injustice as well as outright evil. Many of us experience the disorientation and overload of being exposed to more violence, mistreatment and bloodshed than our senses and thought processes were designed to manage.
Meanwhile extreme voices on either end of the political spectrum take advantage of the horror to press their own predictable agendas.
Groups like Black Lives Matter, whose name and motto I fully agree with, seem too often to become violent and abusive in how they express their anguish. Sometimes it sounds like: Black lives matter more than yours. No, they don’t matter more: but they DO matter more than the prejudiced treatment they’ve lived under for centuries. I think we can agree on this, even though we may disagree with how it’s communicated.
Those espousing that Blue Lives Matter, whose name and motto I fully agree with, seem too often to ignore the demeaning, soul-crushing reality of what it feels like, as a black man or woman, to live in a society where you are constantly suspect, feared, over-looked or attacked. But, folks, where would we be without the courageously self-sacrificial service the great majority of police provide their neighbors? Utter anarchy.
Where do we land? For starters, though it sounds ridiculously simplistic to say it, we need to live with the unalterable conviction that All Lives Matter. Regardless of ethnicity, race or gender, the truth is that we have all been made in the image of God. (Gen. 1:27) That matters, or at least it should. You have never looked into the eyes of a person who God does not love with all his heart.
We also need to live with the unalterable conviction that every one of us, regardless of race, gender, demographic, addiction or sexual lifestyle choice, is deeply wounded. The Creator designed every one of us with deep longings for love, significance, security and joy. All of those were lost as a consequence of sin, pride and, ultimately, through self-centered separation from God.
As a result, all of us live with deep loss, brokenness and longing. We try to fill those longings with a wide variety of selfish behavior that still leaves us thirsty…until we discover the true Source of living water. (Jer. 2:13) And even then we all still have the capacity to live selfishly.
To me, this means we live with the unalterable conviction that, while the outward evidence and consequences of our self-centered choices may vary widely, every one of us has the capacity for prejudice, anger, pride, addictive behavior, destructive pursuit of pleasure and self-protection.
I’m not invulnerable to these; neither are you; neither are those whose lives are very different from yours. We’re all broken. We’re all longing for what our hearts were designed for, and then, was lost when mankind’s relationship with God was broken.
So how do we respond?
- We live in humility. We recognize that deep inside we are all broken.
- We work to understand others. We all long for the transcendent relationship with God we were built for; we pursue different wounded paths.
- We forgive graciously. Because we have been forgiven so much.
- We speak with conviction. To remain silent in the face of sin or injustice we disagree with, is to allow it to continue.
- We act courageously. Action almost always requires courage.
- We love extravagantly. One of the most powerful stories Jesus told, commonly known as the Prodigal Son, is really about the Extravagantly Loving Father. Even as that son was rebellious and self-absorbed, his father watched the horizon for him every day. Our Father does the same: watching, waiting, embracing and forgiving every child who comes to him. We should reflect that same love.
Because all lives matter.
My greatest joy in life is my family. I know, that sounds like the comment you’re supposed to make as a man and father. All I can say is I literally shake my head in wonder at the family I have: my wife Beryl; my daughter Barclay and son-in-law Vince, their four daughters, Bella, Brynn, Brooke and Blake; my son Alec, my son Conor and daughter-in-law Bonnie, and their daughter Gemma. Every one of them is a genuine gift. Beyond that, I have a calling that I live out through Peregrine Ministries. It is to help men: Understand their identity in Christ, Embrace their role as men, and Live out their God-given calling in life. Bottom line is I’m convinced men matter and I want to help them live life on purpose.