If you’ve seen any news reports this week, you’ve heard about what’s going in on Ferguson, MO. We may never know all of the details about what happened when a police officer shot an unarmed man. Some claim he was complying; others say he was trying to take the officer’s weapon to use it against him. Some see racism; others say it was a split-second life-or-death decision made by an officer in the heat of the moment.
The aftermath is awful. It seems like everyone has gone crazy. The community hasn’t acted reasonably—looting, rioting, destroying private property, and threatening the lives of the officer and his family. The police haven’t acted reasonably—firing tear gas at the press who were reporting on the situation. Nobody seems to know who or what is in control. This unreasonable reaction has created a cycle: the crowds get agitated, the police intensify the situation, the crowd gets angrier, so police make threats, the crowd makes threats…and it just kept getting worse. There’s plenty of blame to pass around in this story. It seems like nobody has done right, and everybody has used the actions of the other side as their excuse to do wrong.
Did you notice something? This is the exact way that the world tends to operate. “If you treat me wrong, I’ll treat you wrong-er!” But what did Jesus say? If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to him the other. The world’s way clearly hasn’t worked! I like how Calvin Miller puts it. He said that “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is fair and just, but it’s the shortest, most direct route to an eye-less, tooth-less world. Maybe it’s time to try the Jesus way.
When I opened up the news on Friday morning, I saw a headline that said something like “First Peaceful Night in Ferguson.” I clicked on the story and what I saw could preach a sermon. On Thursday night, the Governor installed Captain Johnson, a Highway Patrol officer, to take control of the scene. Rather than showing up in riot gear and a Humvee (which sounds pretty reasonable to me!), he showed up in the standard traffic cop uniform—a dress shirt and badge. Rather than putting a shield between him and the crowd, he walked among the crowd, talked, listened, hugged, and even took selfies with protestors. He spoke with them, saying, “In our anger, we have to make sure that we don’t burn down our own house.” Did I mention that Captain Johnson grew up in the area?
Think about this: what calmed high tensions and brought peace to Ferguson was not weaponry that was so powerful that it could intimidate the crowd into silence. It took someone stepping from their realm of safety into a dangerous, different world. He left comfort and ease to go to the people who hated him and the people like him. He became like those people and loved those people despite the risk.
Does that sound like anybody you’ve ever heard of? John 1:14 says, “The word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The Message paraphrased it as, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”
I don’t know anything about Captain Johnson, but what he did on Thursday night sounds like what Jesus would do if he were in Ferguson, MO. I’m more convinced with each passing day that the Jesus way really works. Will you try it?