position ourselves to actually call people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. We should always be active evangelists, but these life-and-death, edge-of-your-seat times of conflict should heighten our pleading with the world: Be reconciled to God.
3. Avoid the Condemnation of Others
The angel instructed Mary to name the Savior “Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Ours is not a message of condemnation but of clemency. That’s why any talk of the just judgment of victims, while true in some very general sense, cannot be mistaken for a “gospel-centered perspective.” If we say, “Brown got what he deserved,” or “Garner died because he was overweight and asthmatic,” or “The officer ought to be _____,” we are not speaking the language of the gospel. We have reverted back to our native tongue: law. We have begun to require eyes and teeth in recompense for eyes and teeth. That, beloved, is decidedly not the gospel. That is not grace. That is not the forgiveness and redemption our Lord offers.
So the last people who should write and speak to finally condemn others are Christians. Of all people, we should be the ones who genuinely weep at life cut short because we know mercy is new every morning and a sinner just might be saved the next day! After the loss of life itself, the most lamentable thing I’ve seen in these times is the significant number of Christians who feel perfectly justified in reductively totalizing a person with a label like “thug,” proclaiming their death “just desert,” and who do so in the name of “the gospel.” Their condemning words and attitudes betray the most essential element of the gospel—grace. Though judgment, wrath and hell are necessary aspects of the gospel—the bad news the good news answers—if we stop there then we have actually stopped short of the gospel itself.
4. Commit Ourselves to Act
A justified people must act justly. I realize that there’s difficult work to be done in defining “justice” in individual cases. But that’s work we must do if we claim to be gospel people. For Christ was crucified and resurrected as an act of righteousness. God was vindicating himself at the same time He was justifying sinners (Rom. 3:24-25).
What might doing justice look like? Any number of things is possible. Not all Christians are called to the same actions. But here’s a sample: Join an area protest, write to your elected officials, support an advocacy organization, get involved in the political process, join a discussion group on these issues, do evangelism in a “Ferguson” and a gated community. Let us commit ourselves to act not just where Fergusons are concerned but everywhere there’s injustice.
5. Develop a Special Regard for the Fatherless and Poor
As I’ve engaged various persons in discussions, the frequent theme is the fact that Michael Brown’s parents were not married. People pointed with great zeal to the breakdown of African-American families and the absence of fathers as an explanation for the behavior they thought they saw in Brown and justification (even if sad justification) for the officer’s actions. In so many words, they were saying, “We wouldn’t have had this problem if Black families were intact.” And that they offered as a “gospel perspective.”