“The Lord of Armies says this: ‘Though it may seem impossible to the remnant of this people in those days, should it also seem impossible to me?’ — this is the declaration of the Lord of Armies.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
We live in the midst of a culture in chaos. But, as hard as all of this is to see and hear about, the riots spawning from the murder of George Floyd have not brought to us anything that was not there before. They have simply revealed what was already planted in our hearts. The seeds of racism and wanton violence have been quietly germinating in the soil of many hearts for years. They just need a bit of the waters of injustice and the dark sun of greed and they explode in ugly growth. What are we to do with this?
The first thing we need to do is face some truth. What happened to George Floyd was murder. It may have been murder with a badge on it, but it was murder. Thankfully, about that fact there seems to be very little disagreement across the country.
A truth closely related to this one is the fact that police brutality, especially toward black men, is a real thing. It is too well documented to ignore. But, brutality isn’t the only problem. Police officers tend to be more suspicious and willing to unnecessarily harass black men and black or brown people generally than white people.
Talk to many non-white folks and you will discover that more than should have a story of a time when they were pulled over or singled out for needless suspicion in a way someone who was white would not have experienced. The conversations I will one day have with my boys about what to do if they ever get pulled over will be very different than a black man will have with his own sons. For some reasons I don’t have time to discuss here, there has been a police officer parked near my driveway almost around the clock for several days now. It hasn’t bothered my family in the slightest. For a family whose skin color was darker than my own that likely wouldn’t be the case. It isn’t right that this should be the case. It is a gross injustice and stinks of the sin of racism in a way that should bring shame to our culture.
But, this is not at all to say that every police officer or even nearly most police officers are racist or violent. They aren’t. The vast majority are selfless, courageous heroes who are serving their communities in a way that makes them better than they would be without them there. Most are like my friend, TJ, who is the chief of our local department. You won’t find someone more lovingly committed to his community—every color of it—than he is. I’m glad to say I know him and glad we get to call him ours. He works hard every day to cultivate relationships and to serve the most vulnerable in our community in ways that go way beyond what his badge requires. He’s the reason many little boys grow wanting to be a police officer.
Aside from needing to avoid harmful stereotypes about police officers just as we need to avoid them about anyone else, though, police work is difficult and dangerous on good days. The amount of pressure they are under to make split-second often life-and-death decisions is beyond what someone who hasn’t been there can understand. This is made exponentially worse with the knowledge that cell phone videos and social media (along with a mainstream media that is generally not supportive of them) can take one rough moment or wrong decision and instantly turn it into a career-ruining and even life-threatening national scandal.
And the real challenge here is that the bitter partisanship that divides our nation results in most conversations on this whole issue becoming little more than pointless exercises in shouting past each other. We are all self-righteously smug in our own positions and in the disdain and even hatred we have toward those who have come to differing conclusions about what is right, what is wrong, and even on where to put the most emphasis of our attention.
What hope do we have in any of this?
Are you ready for the tough truth: on our own, we don’t have any. The current worldviews most dominating our cultural conversations and imaginations don’t have the moral, social, political, or ethical resources to offer any meaningful solutions to any of this. Not a single one of them do. Secularism can’t solve this dilemma. Postmodernism certainly can’t. Marxism and its offshoots only encourage the chaos. Even the religiously considerate pluralism that has a hold on many mainline churches and their members can’t address it.
Only the Christian worldview has what it takes. Only the Christian faith outlines why racism is so wrong, why the rioting and looting are the worst possible responses, and why we should still honor those who endeavor to protect us even as we hold those who fail to do so justly accountable. Only the church can offer answers that get to the real roots of the issues and a vision of unity that transcends the differences that otherwise divide us. Only in the Scriptures do we find a God who has a vision of restoration that reaches to the very depths of our brokenness and brings light and life where there was only death and destruction. Only God can restore us in even the darkest of times.
That is what Zechariah was sharing with the people of Israel here. They were still broken beyond what many thought was repairable. But God knew different. He had other plans. His plans were for their good and through them the good of the rest of the world. They didn’t see how, but He could. He could see what they couldn’t. It may have seemed impossible to them, but it wasn’t impossible to Him.
We may not be Israel, and their promises aren’t for us, but we still have a vision of restoration that can drive us forward to the kingdom of God if we will embrace it. We have a vision of a day when all sin will be gone. Racism will be no more. Fear and violence will be little more than relics of the past. Death will be ended. Crying, mourning, and pain will fade away, replaced by joy and peace and love. We may not believe it can happen, but He does. In fact, our God is so committed to it that He sent His Son to die to make it possible. When we receive Him and pursue the life that He modeled, we will set ourselves down this path that ends in a restoration of all we know. Never has there been a time in recent years when doing so has been as important as it is now. Let’s get to it.