“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” — Ida B. Wells
On February 26, 2012, a young man named Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by an armed neighborhood watch volunteer. Trayvon was not committing a crime at the time, nor was he armed.
The shooter, George Zimmerman, was told not to pursue him by 911 operators, but he ignored that instruction.
What exactly led to the shooting after that is unclear. The facts may suggest that the shooting itself and the way the case has been treated since were motivated by racial bias.
Our justice system is still investigating Trayvon’s case, both federally and locally. Anything that we could conclude about the case would be largely speculation, based on our own interpretations of what others report. Nothing is settled yet. That may trouble us, but it is also a key component of how we approach justice in this country — and it’s an aspect that I am grateful for, as we all should be. However, one thing is clear.
A young man is dead.
I can say, unequivocally, that he is my brother. His family is my kin. This tragedy belongs to them, but it doesn’t impact them alone. Shouldn’t it injure a part of all of us?
While I cannot speak for anyone else, when I chose to follow Jesus, I was committing to more than just a quiet, personal relationship hidden away as part of my inner self. I was committing to a community, and I was committing to a Kingdom. This Kingdom I’m chasing after values each of us as irreplaceable, and it seeks to bring us all together as one. Being a part of this community can be restorative, but it can also mean sharing in pain.
This case is painful. Regardless of who is ultimately found to be guilty, there is a deep wounding here. As Christians, our responsibility is to minister to those who are hurting.
Mourning with those who mourn is our responsibility.
Caring about the nobodies is our responsibility.
When tragedies occur, we have been designated to be the first responders. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus. This is more than trendy moral activism: It is meant to be a driving focus for our lives. But while the need in this case is obvious, where are the Christians? My hope for us is that we would step forward as a body to embrace the hurting, but the evangelical silence on this issue has been deafening. Even President Obama made a heartfelt, well-tempered statement expressing his sympathies to the Martin family. Where is our statement of compassion and support?
Furthermore, the Martins are not the only ones who need our prayers and blessings during this time.
I’m praying for George Zimmerman today. I’d be lying if I said it was easy for me, but I am commanded to do it, regardless. This is a time to spread radical grace, grace that extends not only to a grieving family who must listen daily as their dead son’s character is disputed, but also to the person who is behind his death. That kind of grace is the gift we are given, and it is our duty is give it to others in any circumstances.
Finally, we should be asking ourselves the difficult questions about the state of this nation. It is heartbreaking that our country has not progressed far enough to remove race from the equation. Our past is troubling, and we need to be willing to challenge the tendrils that reach into our present and could affect our future. Racism is our inheritance, but it doesn’t have to be our legacy.
Christians, confront that darkness.
If grace is radical, our love for each other needs to be just as radical. Embrace your brothers and sisters. Pray for a new baptism on our nation, one that will bring us together against racism and the circumstances that make racially motivated killings a very real possibility. To do so is to work to bring about the Kingdom on earth.
What do we all believe about our God? Do we believe that circumstances like these give us an opportunity to have an impact that glorifies His love, or should we be powerless and wordless when tragedy strikes? The Gospel that we are called to follow isn’t meant to shine only on cloudless days. This is the Word that glows brighter in the darkness and is illuminated in the face of injustice. It is this Word that leads us to reach out.
It moves us to love the family, to love the killer, and to love the nation that hasn’t yet healed from the sins of its fathers.