Friends, unless you’re living in a cave, you have heard, and more than likely seen on the news, about the upheaval in our country these last few weeks, particularly a week ago with the murders of five Dallas police officers at a Black Lives Matter protest. The senseless violence, the anger, the contempt, the fear, the uncertainty, the belittling of others, the calls for deaths of the “opposition”, and the misrepresentation of those on both sides are driving wedges between many in our communities and throughout our nation. They divide us and control us. They grip our lives and harden our hearts.
There are calls for reform, calls for overhauls, calls for heads to roll and jobs to be eliminated, calls for civil disobedience, calls for arrests, and calls for stricter enforcement of laws. And there are many who call for peace.
But how can we find peace in such a divided world? How can we repair what seems to be so broken? Where do we start? Is it even possible?
To find peace, we must get to the heart of the matter at hand.
When we stop seeing people for who they truly are- children of God- we lose sight of their inherent worth and dignity. We begin to see them only based on their color, their financial status, where they live, what job they hold, if they hold a job, their nationality, their immigration status, their sexual preferences, their tattoos and piercings, their education level, their politics, their disabilities, their faith or lack thereof, their gender, or any other number of characteristics. We judge their worth on criteria that we have made up in our own minds based on our upbringing, our biases, our prejudices, and our personal experiences. Instead of seeing people through God’s eyes we see them through the dirty lenses of the societal glasses we have affixed in front of our eyes. These lenses cloud our vision and keep us from seeing a person for who they truly are.
We must begin seeing people for their true worth. We must begin seeing the beauty and the importance of our diversity. We are all different; thankfully so! We each bring something to our society that no other person can bring. Our differences are our strengths! However, as we are celebrating our differences, we must also begin to see how and why we are the same.
We are each made in God’s likeness. (Gen 1:27) He didn’t just make some of us in His image; He made all of us in His image. We are each fearfully and wonderfully made. (Ps 139:14) This means that He loves us each so much that He carefully thought out and molded together every single aspect of our being. We are so special to God that He created our bodies, our minds, and our souls in such a way that we are able to reflect His love back to others. Talk about wonderfully made!
While we are different for many, many reasons, we are more alike than we are different. We only have to look to Scripture to know this is true!
If we wish to change our society and the moral wrongs that are griping our nation, we first must change our own hearts. We have to honestly look at our own lives to see where hidden prejudices or judgments might be. This means everyone must do this because every person harbors some sort of preconceived notion or prejudice whether they’d like to admit it or not. We each must actively seek to eliminate these thoughts or actions from our lives. We must see others through God’s eyes instead of our own. We have to open our hearts and allow God to transform us in a way that only He can.
It is easy to say that our society can be “fixed” through protests, debates, enacting laws, reading books or blog posts, or through affirmative action and other programs designed to help “level the field”. But the truth of the matter is that unless we begin by changing our own hearts and seeing all people through God’s eyes, no program, no debate, no protest, and no vigil will ever help.
Until we are willing to admit that every person has worth, we will continue to see violence and inequality. We will see division and unrest. We will each feel it is dangerous to simply be who we are. This isn’t confined to black men and women nor is it confined to police officers and their families. Instead it includes all people.
Our hearts must be the first to change.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” If we wish to see an end to racism, violence, retaliation, and hate, we must begin by changing ourselves. However, we can’t change on our own. We need God to help us transform our hearts.
Before you look at everyone else and judge their sins, look first at your own life. How are you perpetuating hate? How are you instigating discord? How are you contributing to the problem instead of helping?
It’s easy to take sides at times like these. It’s easy to see how “wrong” others are and how “right” we are. But we aren’t called to be pitted against one another. We are called to be on God’s side… a side that espouses love of neighbor; that sees the beauty in every person despite the sinful nature that we each have; that calls us to forgive those who trespass against us; that clings to hope and never forgets Christ’s sacrifice and the redemption it brings for each and every one of us.
I choose to belong on God’s side. I choose to look long and hard at my life and work to change my own heart first. I choose to love those who look at me as if I am the enemy. I choose to forgive those who harm me and I beg for the forgiveness of those whom I’ve harmed. I choose to love.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Help me to change my heart so that I can see each and every person through your eyes. Let me be a beacon of your light and your love. Guide me, inspire me, and change me O Lord.