Lines in the sand

My heart has been so heavy lately. It feels like it breaks multiple times each week. The headlines this summer have been nothing short of tragic. It’s been said, and maybe rightly so, that our nation has never been more divided. Right vs left, Clinton vs Trump, Trump vs #nevertrump, religious liberty vs LGBT rights, pro-life vs pro-choice. Lines are being drawn all over the sand. Choose a side. There is no tolerance for middle ground. 

The most recent, and currently the loudest and most emotionally charged, debate has become blacks vs cops. Do black lives matter, or do blue lives matter? At first, I was under the mistaken notion that they all mattered, and that we could all agree on that. But this line in the sand is being more harshly defined with every shooting. And the shootings are becoming appallingly frequent. 

It’s really not that surprising to see lines being drawn in the sand among unbelievers. What’s truly heartbreaking is the amount of lines in the sand among those who claim the blood of Christ. We are all saved by grace, by the same blood, on the same Cross. But we have been drawing lines for centuries, haven’t we? Reformed vs Armenian, contemporary vs traditional, KJV vs any other translation, egalitarian vs complementarian. Homeschooling vs public school, organic vs conventional, moderation vs tee-totalers, skinny jeans vs suits. Most of the time, it seems that these controversies threaten to divide in small circles, but not really dividing the Christian community as a whole. We who disagree can still fellowship with one another. 

But blue lives vs black lives is threatening even Christian fellowship. Passions are high, emotions are big, and that leads to an underlying tension in relationships that once enjoyed free fellowship. We believe strongly in our chosen position, and sometimes that strong belief leads to a zeal that tricks us into thinking ours is the only right stand. In the midst of an already-tense atmosphere, come the headlines. Black man shot to death by cop. And then again. And then cops killed by black man. And then again. We are wild with grief and fear and in our panic, we have drawn a line where there absolutely should be no line. Suddenly, it has come down to a choice between supporting blacks or supporting cops. Suddenly, we can’t do both. Sharing thoughts or articles on social media that express our belief that there is indeed racism present in our society, and that there is much that needs to be done in terms of social justice and racial reconciliation leads to being misunderstood as not supporting our police officers. It’s baffling to me how that connection is made. Acknowledging racism in general, acknowledging that there is indeed evidence of racial profiling and mistreatment of blacks throughout the decades in our justice system should not equate with choosing blacks over cops, and it certainly doesn’t mean we’re calling all cops racist. But somehow, for some, it does. Expressing outrage over the murder of men in uniform should not equate with choosing cops over blacks, and it certainly doesn’t mean we’re saying all blacks are violent. But somehow, for some, it does. 

As I’m seeking out answers and learning more about racial injustices all through our history, including our present, my heart is being stirred like never before. Racism is still thriving, and my heart is breaking over that. My life has always been almost exclusively white, and I am no longer ok with that. I am slowly understanding more and more about what black people have been saying for all these decades, and I am crying out to the Lord for justice and to know what He would have me do in my own life. But that in no way means that I support the murder of policemen or any other sin in the name of #blacklivesmatter. I have friends and family members who wear the uniform, and I am grateful for them and absolutely support them as they put their lives on the line for my safety. But, in turn, that in no way means that I can ignore valid evidence of racism where it exists. There should be no line between black lives and police lives. To draw one, to try to force me to choose between blacks and cops, to twist my words into saying something I didn’t say, is wrong. 

Here’s the thing, Christian. There is only one real line in the sand. The line drawn in blood at the foot of the cross. Once we have been carried over that line into the safety of Christ’s embrace, we are all on the same side. There should be no lines drawn in the sand behind the cross. Differences of opinion are inevitable, and there is room for much diversity. But it should not break up the fellowship. Once the fellowship starts dissolving, we are in sin. 

We are all extremely passionate about the horrific murders, about lives being taken at the hands of other men. Many hurtful and careless words have been shared. Thankfully, many helpful and thoughtful words have been shared, as well. Russell Moore and Trillia Newbell are two who immediately come to mind as voices of truth and reason in a chaotic time. Let’s channel our heartbreak into something productive, something that helps reconcile instead of divide. Find a tangible way to show support to your local police station, and also find a tangible way to reach out to your black neighbors and let them know they matter to you. Do not be part of building walls, be part of tearing them down. Don’t force a choice where there shouldn’t be a choice. Don’t draw more lines in the sand.

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