I see burning cars and smashed windows accompanied by the words “dirty animals.” I see peaceful protesters holding up signs that read, “Black Lives Matter.” Thanks to the age of social media, this is a time for everyone to say what we really think…to see who we really are. Camps are formed, and wagons are circled. The name Freddie Gray is on our lips, and Baltimore is moving to the steps of the same dance that we watched in Ferguson, Missouri when we spoke of Michael Brown. Steps that we practiced again in New York when we spoke of Eric Garner. The rhythm of this dance has been beating in the heart of our nation for the decades since the Civil Rights movement, and since the age of slavery before that. It has been beating in the heart of humanity for the centuries and millennia during which differences in race and ideology have given us cause to fear each other.
How can we make this dance our own?
Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” He also said, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” Who are our enemies? Who is our brother?
If you see the protesters and rioters in Baltimore as dirty animals, they are your enemies, and Jesus calls you to love them. If you see the police as murderers or mindless drones, they are your enemies, and Jesus calls you to love them. What better way to love them, than to hear them? Slip into their shoes and learn the steps to their dance. Understand what they need and what they fear. Until you can empathize with them, any criticism you have will fall on deaf ears.
If you support the protesters, then they are your brothers. Tell them that we can do better. Peaceful protests were the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and the many men and women before and after him who have worked tirelessly and nonviolently for civil rights. Their cause is our heritage, and we will not forsake that cause by resorting to violence. We will step up when lines are crossed, and we will overcome evil with good.
If you support the police, then they are your brothers. Tell them that we can do better. The legacy of our forefathers is this: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The poor, huddled masses that fled dictators and totalitarian states are our heritage. We will not trample on the rights of our citizens, and we will not let fear be an impediment to due process.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” -1 Peter 4:8