KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (Nov. 25, 2014) -- Last night, I found myself incessantly screaming at the TV as my favorite NFL team, the New Orleans Saints, played yet another lackluster game. At 9 p.m. I flipped over to CNN to watch as they announced there would not be an indictment in the Michael Brown case.
As events unfolded, I found myself flooded with a wide array of emotions. I thought about Brown's family. I thought about the members of the grand jury. I thought about all the people gathered outside. I thought about Officer Darren Wilson and his family. I thought about the countless moms and dads who would be having conversations with their children. I thought about the pastors who would be dealing with this subject this weekend just as the world begins celebrating Christmas.
I can’t get one particular split-screen image out of my mind. On one side we saw the inside of the courtroom where the news was being delivered. On the other side of the screen was a crowd of people primed with disappointment, disbelief and anger. There they were, gathered under a lit sign that simply read, “Season's Greetings."
I found that image to be both surreal and heartbreaking. It reflected the brokenness of the world in which we live. As I watched, I found myself desperately wanting to do something. And then I came to this realization: Knoxville is 495 miles away from Ferguson, Missouri. It would seem there’s ultimately nothing any of us can do ... Or is there?
Here are a few practical things we can all do in response:
I know, that’s exactly what you would expect a preacher to say! It’s true, though. Way too often, we treat prayer like it’s a last resort. How many times have you heard someone say, “Well, we’ve done all we know to do ... (wait for it) All we can do now is pray.”
For those of us who follow Jesus, prayer is never intended to be a last resort. In fact, it’s the greatest weapon at our disposal! Philippians 4 says:
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
2. Maintain perspective.
One of the most difficult things for any of us to do is see the world through a Kingdom perspective. It’s easy to allow a circumstance or a situation to block our view. This is when cynicism and negativity begin to take hold. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world ..." What world? The world. All of it. The very best and the absolute worst. It’s all His. While there will be moments where many of us are left speechless, God is still in control.
3. Continue to love people.
Love is the highest standard. Paul defines what that looks like in 1 Corinthians 13. At the end of his description, Paul says this:
“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
As we strive to become the people God needs us to be, it will be our ability to love that will bring about change.
4. Find a way to give yourself away.
God has given us a powerful responsibility. Jesus made the directive very clear. In Matthew 28, Jesus says:
“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.”
So, one concrete way each of us can combat the darkness of the world is by choosing to be light. The only thing that can combat darkness is ... light. We have a fundamental belief that, “Saved people serve people. And served people get saved.”
My prayer is that, as a church, we will stay radically committed to doing whatever we can, wherever we can, as often as we can, to share Jesus. And if we are fortunate enough, we’ll have the opportunity to watch God change the world in our lifetimes!
Grace and Peace,
Reprinted with permission. This commentary originally appeared in a Nov. 25 email shared with Cokesbury United Methodist Church. The Rev. Stephen DeFur is senior pastor at Cokesbury.