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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Micah 6:8 Part One- Act Justly

This is part one of a three part series on Micah 6:8.
He has shown you O mortal what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly before your God.

Act justly. Seek justice. Be JUST.

Many versions of Micah 6:8 use justice in various ways, but the root word never changes.


Webster’s defines the word justice like this:  the quality of being just, impartial, or fair.

Just, impartial, fair.

As a kid, some of my favorite words were “it’s not fair.” That particular phrase was thrown out any time I wasn’t getting my way, or when my brothers had more ice cream in their bowl than I did. Or when my dad made ME come home at midnight while all my friends got to stay out until 1:00 a.m. (Because my dad was smart.)  (Also, that may be the only inflexible rule he ever set.)

Fairness is something we concern ourselves with a lot as kids, because it is more easily measured when we’re young. We can look into ice cream bowls, or at the amount of chores we have to do compared to our siblings. But as we get older, fairness evolves. It looks different. It looks like justice.

Now that I’m (sort of) an adult, you would think that my worrying about what’s fair and what isn’t would kind of go away. Except, here’s the thing. It didn’t. It got worse.

You guys, I see injustice everywhere I look. Most of the time I’m thankful for my Justice Goggles (just go with it) because they help me see people and situations the way Jesus sees them.

Sometimes, I wish I could take them off.

Because nothing about this world is fair, and, as Christ followers, it is our job to point out injustice, and it is our job to fix it.

Yesterday, I viewed a video of an encounter between police and teenagers in McKinney, Texas, just a few hours from where I live.

Some of the details are still being worked out, as there are literally dozens of sides to the story.  What it boils down to are that teenagers from all backgrounds were at a pool party in a gated neighborhood (the host may or may not have had permission to be there), when police were called.

When the police arrived some of the kids scattered, and one officer in particular began to act in an erratic fashion, berating most of the teenagers there, but specifically minorities.

The officer, throughout the video, swears at black children, threatens them, and finally pulls a fourteen year old girl wearing a bikini to the ground by her hair before pinning her down with his knees while she cries for her mother. Her mouth is literally in the grass. The girl never made an attempt to assault the officer. The worst she did was say something snotty.

As the officer drags her to the ground, two other boys rush in that direction, most likely because they saw a young girl in a bathing suit being pulled to the ground. The officer draws his weapon on those teens, before being stopped by other officers. They later return with one of the boys in handcuffs.

Throughout the video, black children are screamed at to “get their asses home,” and to “get your ass on the ground.”  Meanwhile, the videographer, also a teenage partygoer, moves freely, walks near officers, and gets shots of most of the action. Eventually, the officer, who has shouted profanity at everyone on camera tells the videographer to “get your butt out of here.” The videographer is white.

Now, I’m not saying that these teenagers are completely innocent. They may have been in a place they weren’t supposed to be. They may have even been mouthy.

But when has it ever, EVER been okay to pull a teenage girl to the ground by her hair, simply because she mouthed off?  If I did this to my teenager for being bratty, that same officer could arrest me for abuse.

When is it okay to scream profanity at kids standing in the street? What responsible adult, charged with protecting our families, does this?

But wait! Before you start getting super mad at me, and calling me Cop Hater, let me tell you what else I saw.

In the beginning of the video, there is another officer on film. The officer speaks politely with some kids, obviously doing his best to calm what seemed to be a stressful situation. He showed kindness and respect, and was receiving the same in return.  I believe if every officer called that day had handled himself with the same care and grace, we wouldn’t have heard a thing out of McKinney. Everyone would have just gone home.

Sadly, the actions of one officer affected the public’s impression of the rest.

So, when I look at that video, I don’t see justice for anyone. I see kids being assaulted, and the work of an entire community of law enforcement officers being diminished because of the actions of one.  I see kids lose their dignity along with any sense that the police are there to protect them.  None of what happened in this is just. It’s not fair.

A lot of people will say this is or isn’t a black and white issue. That the officer was or wasn’t justified in his actions.  I just know what I saw, and what I saw wasn’t justice.

So, how do we fix it?

We listen to each other.  We listen to people who feel as though they have been wronged by a flawed criminal justice system. We hear their stories. We empathize. We share our misconceptions.

We also listen to the law enforcement community. We listen to the struggle and pressure that a job like that has to put on a person. We thank them for their bravery. We ask how we can help.

We can’t have real conversations if nobody is listening. So, we Christ followers need to take the lead in shutting up. It’s hard to hear others over the sound of our own voices.

Let’s take a minute to look at this from where Jesus sits. He doesn’t just see us as black and white people, He sees us as His brothers and sisters. You guys, we have to turn “Us” and “Them” into “We.” This isn’t just a black problem or just a white problem is this OUR PROBLEM. And it’s up to us to have the hard and necessary conversations it takes to understand where everyone is coming from.

Conversations where we’re less concerned with being “right” than we are about being like Jesus.

That’s where justice begins, friends. It begins when we, those of us who love Jesus and His people, take the time to understand one another, to care about one another, and to refuse to allow injustice to happen to any of our brothers and sisters in Christ. This isn’t just opinion, friends. It’s right there in the book.  We belong to each other, and we need to seek justice for one another. 

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