My favorite college professor tells the story about Edward Gibbon, the famous Roman historian. When Gibbon served in British Parliament, he never once gave an address or speech. When asked why, he said the examples of the good speeches and bad speeches deterred him from doing so.
As I watch the national dialogue, relating to the tragic deaths—of police and African American men—in recent weeks, I frankly have not spoken out very much publicly. The examples of the good things I have heard, as well as the bad things I’ve heard, have deterred me.
While I have not said much, I have thought about these issues and prayed about them more than any time in my life. After some discussions with some African American pastors, I can see that I have been blind to the plight and fears of many in the black community. After discussions with law enforcement personnel, I can see that I have been blind to the risks and pressures they face every day.
Here are three things I have learned during this time:
1. I need to listen even more
I am grieved that people on all sides of the issue are largely talking past one another. I think if each one of us listened more than we spoke, we would all be better off. A famous prayer says, in part, “O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love…” This kind of understanding only can come with a listening heart.
2. There’s so much I don’t understand
I once interviewed a pastor and asked, “What blind spots do Southern Baptists have in the culture today?” He replied, in a humorous and pointed way, “By definition, we don’t know our blind spots.” He went on to say that we can prayerfully work on the ones we just found out we had. This issue of racial reconciliation is a blind spot to many. May God give us more understanding.
3. Pursue justice, pray more
There’s a popular retail store whose motto is “expect more, pay less.” When events unfold as they have in recent weeks, there is a tendency to start to expect less from society, to lower our standards. There is also a tendency to give up, to pray less, not more. As Christians, we must be first in line to recognize the worth and dignity of every person of every race, and to bathe social problems and calamities in prayer.
I will continue to listen, long for and pray for a way forward through this crisis, believing that God can bring beauty and peace out of hard times. Lord, help us…