Heritage Foundation Jamie Jackson asked this question: “Is Ferguson Really About Race?” He interviewed two black leaders, but was not given much bandwidth to develop this highly relevant question. So I wrote the following to him:
Mr. Jackson, I believe you asked a highly relevant question when you posted “Is Ferguson really about race?” In fact, I believe it is not. I believe that Martin Luther King’s desire to have future generations judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character has largely been realized. The issue at hand is that a disproportionately large percentage of black children grow up without the kind of guidance from parents, churches and schools that would develop in them good character.
The reality is that in our country today the content of one’s character has nearly everything to do with the success one has in life. Skin color is a relative disadvantage only to the extent that one’s behavior reinforces the stereotype that many whites have of blacks. The minute a person shows himself to be of good character, skin color ceases to be relevant.
Ferguson is more about the ‘haves’ being angry at the ‘have-nots’, and having no idea how to go about getting what they want. There are many, many examples of black people who have succeeded in life while personifying good moral character. The have-nots would do well to figure out how they did it, and emulate them. The black leaders who do not encourage their brethren to do so are a big part of the problem.
Kudos for interviewing Bishop Harry Jackson. Men like him should be profiled, interviewed and promoted in black venues and publications, not only as a Christian Pastor, but as a teacher, a leader, and a man of high moral character. If we teach the people of Ferguson the things he knows, they will stop believing the race-baiters, and start seeing the USA as a land of opportunity for everyone, not just the white people or the ‘haves’. And along the way, I believe we will start to show them that faith in God pays big rewards – not only for the next life, but for this one as well. One thing we learn from scripture is how to get along.
That’s right, we can all get along. And the bible calls us not just to that, but to an even higher level, which it refers to as unity.
I have learned that living in unity requires that we give each other grace. I have learned that grace is something we all want to get, but that the giving of it sometimes requires us to put aside the deeply held principles by which we ourselves are guided. In other words, when we are on the receiving end of non-grace, we must learn to respond not in kind, but by giving what we didn’t get. That’s real tolerance. And it is a very good thing.
I have learned that while we are told in Ephesians 4 that we can be angry, and that anger itself is not sin, we are also told not to hold on to our anger. But even before that, we are told “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another.” So grace and tolerance, while good things, do not require us to agree on matters that are clearly settled by scripture. John Piper, in the short article Is It Possible to Be Angry and Not Sin? says this: “So we should get angry with sin, but that anger should be mingled with heart-sorrows for the people sinning.”
Refusing to deal – on any level – with our brother’s sin is a form of sloth, which is one of the 7 deadly sins. It’s the kind of politically correct form of tolerance that is itself sin. In other words, if you are not heart-sorry when you see a brother’s sin, you deny that he is ultimately hurting himself, those around him, and God. And you say to yourself “I can’t get along with him if I don’t accept him the way he is. It’s why we have such a problem with homosexuality these days. We are so tolerant of the sin in others that we refuse to call it sin. We conclude – to our shame – that confronting that particular sin is hateful. But scripture teaches us that we should love our brother, not be tolerant of his sin. This article says pretty well what I believe about the issue, especially this point:
It is not loving to allow a person to remain stuck in sin. It is not hateful to tell a person he or she is in sin. In fact, the exact opposites are true. Sin leads to death (James 1:15), and we love the sinner by speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We hate the sin by refusing to condone, ignore, or excuse it.
I’m praying that we can start to engage on these issues, rather than pretending they don’t exist, or that we don’t really need to deal with them. God is not tolerant of sin. We should not be either. If there is strife among us, we should recognize it as fruit of a poisoned tree, then find it, root it out, and kill it – all while loving our brother and hating all sin, including our own.