I saw an advertisement recently which drew reference to the silence of Christian leaders in the tragic killing of Treyvon Martin and how deafening it was. In the midst of the media frenzy and the racial battlefield that has sprung once more, what is there to be said? Does the church pick sides – should we? Do we, through brilliant words of eloquence, inspire people to burn effigies of this man or condemn him to death or the far greater punishment of life imprisonment? Certainly not, yet the expectation seems to be quite the opposite.
The information we have indicates that Treyvon was targeted for simply appearing suspicious and, to make matters worse, emphasis was placed on the fact that black people “always get away”. In my review of the countless news stories and the inflammatory comments of the readers, I cannot count how many times I have read how white people are merely part of the problem by virtue of the fact of the color of their skin and I have relatively little interest in involving myself in a matter that has made me and will likely continue to make me the enemy or a part of the problem because of factors outside of my control. While word has it that I am partly descended from the Blackfoot tribe, I identify with my European ancestry and, as such, these words have no other choice but to sting. Before this event, though, we were taught as children that the only difference between us is the color of our skin and, as we grow up, the media and comedians teach us that this is untrue and our worth or position in life is defined by our very color. When combined by the influence of centuries’ worth of expectations and stereotypes, it is no wonder that we cannot seem to get past the intellectual and emotional segregation to unity and equality. Dare I say that Dr. King would be saddened by the superficial changes in the culture only to belie the overarching and growing racism in everyone’s heart and, much more than this, how rotten we must look indeed to the Lord Jesus Christ?
What is the response of the church to any event, much less the killing of this young man; indeed, what should be the response? It is written that “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female”, for we are all one in Christ (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). Paul is bringing us into conflict with the very human trait, which misjudges and castigates others for perceived weaknesses, statuses, and characteristics which are less than what the judges perceive in their own hearts. He offers and teaches the way to true freedom and equality through Christ, but there is more. What do we say, then, of those who are not in Christ Jesus? Is there only equality to be found in Christ? Absolutely not, for, while there are those whose sins have not been forgiven we all are equally sinners, worthy of the worst kind of wrath which could be poured out from our just God. It is not merely that there is solely equality in Christ, but there is equality among all mankind in their need for Christ’s redemptive blood.
There is the sinner alone. We are neither white nor black, neither American nor foreigner, nor are we rich or poor; instead, we are sinners, depraved and in desperate need. To all, equally so, forgiveness through Jesus is offered, whether black or white or brown or pink or blue or red. Is human life so worthless that one can freely assail it with weapons with the intent to ravage it? Is a human being’s worth based on color alone? We trivialize the senseless death of a young man by ignoring the senselessness of it to argue about race and to segregate one another because one person or group of people will “never” understand. There is not one person who has not had one moment in their life where a loved one was taken from them. Though we reflect different shades, pain unites us all. How dare we make ourselves so shallow to not mourn the loss of a young man who will never have the opportunity to celebrate another Thanksgiving or Christmas with his family or to discover and work at his dream because of the actions of another, whether malicious or just careless.
The Scripture teaches us that in God is comfort and relief for our pain, that His name is a refuge to all who run to Him, and that we are neither greater nor lesser than one another for we are unified by sin and the offer of forgiveness alone. I close this by offering that I know what it means to lose someone whom I loved and cared for far more than myself and crying myself to sleep for months – to be stuck on the memories of that person because another decided to end her life when I spoke to her just before. Treyvon deserves to be remembered and mourned as much as his parents need to mourn and, being unified by our sin and understanding of pain and discouraging ignorance and hatred for one another, we should mourn also, seeking wisdom and guidance from our Counselor. To the mother and father of this young man, I will pray for comfort and justice, for Mr. Zimmerman, the truth and repentance, and for us all, forgiving and loving hearts towards one another that our Creator God would be glorified through the praise given to His only begotten Son.