FIRST-PERSON: It starts at home

by Todd E. Brady, posted Monday, June 08, 2020 (one month ago)

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP) -- The atrocious killing of George Floyd and subsequent events throughout the last two weeks have produced three primary emotions in my wife and me -- grief, outrage and angst.

First, we are grieving. The senseless loss of life in Minneapolis evidences tension and injustice which is a reminder of the fact that we live in a broken world standing in need of reconciliation.

Second, we are outraged. Death is always sad. Murder is heinous. Watching the video of former officer Derek Chauvin and George Floyd caused our blood to boil -- an immediate reaction of anger, shock, and indignation.

Third, we are filled with angst. As parents of boys -- three with white skin (Jack, William and Isaac) and two with black skin (Benjamin and Miller) -- we wonder about what our nation has in store for our kids. We especially wonder about that for our boys with darker skin. I write as a middle-aged white man whose black sons, even though they don't presently realize it, are teaching me to think more deeply about issues of race.

Many are saying that now is not the time just for words, but action. They are right. I would add that it's always the time for action. I can't draft national policies to alter the nation's course or write enough columns to change anybody's mind, but I can use this awful time in the life of our country to teach what is right and good to the boys in my house.

There is much talk of a financial depression. My friend told me that he thinks we are in a cultural depression. I think he's on to something. We are by no means doing it all right, but in this midst of our nation's shameful cultural depression, my wife and I are seeking to teach the boys in our home a few things:

-- There is right, and there is wrong. Preferences, desires, and opinions are OK, but regardless of what others or we may think, right is right, and wrong is wrong. Right is determined by God. The people of Judges 21:25 show us that what some think is right is not really right -- "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." That knee on George's neck was not just concerning; it was wrong. "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death" (Proverbs 14:12).

-- People have dignity. Regardless of one's country or culture or philosophies or actions, a person is a person. Each has been made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). This dignity demands that we treat one another ñ everyone -- well. We treat others with respect. Jesus said, "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them" (Matthew 7:12).

-- Murder is sin. This sixth commandment is "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13). But murder is more than taking the life of another person. Jesus expanded the commandment and told us that he who has anger with a brother is guilty of murder (Matthew 5:21). He also told us that murder is a matter of the heart (Matthew 15:19).

-- Angry people are not safe people. Men who yell at their wives are not safe people. Those with short tempers should be avoided. People who destroy others' property are unwise and hurtful. Violence is not the answer. There is a difference between initial outrage and unchecked anger. Outrage is a reaction. Anger is an ever-present, latent bubbling emotion. We want to model Galatians 6:9-10: "And let us not grow weary of doing good. ... So then, as you have opportunity, let us do good to everyone. ..."

-- Words matter. They are incendiary or consolatory. They give, or they take away. They calm, or they stir. They encourage, or they discourage. They uplift, or they oppress. They heal, or they hurt. In light of teasing and bullying, we may like to say "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," but it's just not true. Words are powerful, and they can hurt. "Death and life are in the power of the tongue ..." (Proverbs 18:21).

-- Love wins. It may not seem like it now. Violence seems to run unchecked in the street. In light of all we have recently experienced, many Christians I know are saying, "How long, O Lord?" I understand. However, because of the crucifixion of Christ, we are now reconciled to God. When Christ returns, our reconciliation will be complete; we will experience ultimate justice. Until then, we pursue reconciliation and justice with one another (2 Corinthians 5:18).

There is reason for lament. We should lament. In addition, what else can we do? Sometimes we are so overwhelmed by thinking about what we can't do that we don't do what we can do. We need to realize that the best thing we can do may be to go home and keep teaching our kids about doing what is right.

Todd E. Brady is vice president for university ministries at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.
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