Baton Rouge

Hatred and violence must not get the last word

By Stephen K. Reeves

Another week, another shooting.

More anger, grief and division. An eye for an eye, for an eye — it seems there is no end. How long, oh Lord must we wait for justice and peace? The times feel heavy with grief, mourning and protest. Yet, maybe a better question for us is, how long until we get busy working for justice and peace?

Stephen K. Reeves

Stephen K. Reeves

From Orlando, to Baton Rouge, to Falcon Heights, to Dallas, to Nice and now again in Baton Rouge, it seems like we’re in a never ending downward spiral of violence and hatred.

Following yet another violent act, the call to prayer comes quickly and from all corners. This is right and powerful, but prayers alone are an incomplete response. I’m convinced and convicted that more is required of the church in this current moment of moral crisis. I’m also convinced that this world needs the church to be the church. For those of us who not only believe in Jesus, but claim to follow the Prince of Peace, we have work to do.

How does the Church, how does your church act as a peacemaker whom our Lord called blessed? We need not have all the answers, but neither should we be paralyzed by fear. While the proper response to injustice is never violence, neither is it silence.

Part of the emphasis of CBF Advocacy is to encourage pastors and church members go beyond the walls of the church and actively engage the community around them. What might that mean?

Your church could open its doors for a conversation between law enforcement personnel and community members. Host a free meal for local police officers. Show up to a protest, march or prayer vigil wearing shirts that identify themselves as church members.

Sunday school classes could write letters and send cards to elected officials, mayors and city council members letting them know they are being prayed for. Send similar cards to the chief of police and to families who have lost a loved one at the hands of police. Church members could start attending meetings of local coalitions calling for changes in public policy. Join organizations concerned about police conduct or gun violence and join local coalitions working to improve mental health services.

In many cases we should not seek to lead, control or direct the agenda, but merely join efforts already underway in our communities. People of faith should show up, listen and learn. We should be willing to find common purpose with, and work alongside folks who believe very differently than we.

I believe the church of Jesus Christ has something to offer the wounded, fearful, neglected and marginalized people in our communities. We can work to cultivate a positive, civil public witness for the cause of biblical justice.

While we may not have all the answers and sometimes don’t know what to do, we should act like people who know how the story ends — like people who in the face of our reality still boldly claim that love wins and that hatred and violence do not get the last word.

Our world needs more people like that right now.

Stephen Reeves is associate coordinator of partnerships and advocacy for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

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