Monthly Archives: July 2016

Apologies, Acknowledgments and Answers

635863500410521737509662757_police_officersUPDATED 7/8/16 8:00 AM

(This post was originally posted just moments before the news broke in Dallas last night. I have edited the first paragraph to include this shooting as well)

This week I saw the news report about an African American man who was shot and killed  by a Minnesota Police Officer. This followed a similar shooting in Louisiana the night before.  Now we have a retaliation on Police in Dallas where several police officer have been shot and killed by those acting out of vengeance.

First, the apology.  In the instant that I heard the news from Minnesota and the seconds that followed I made a judgment that “another law-breaker was probably running from the police and was shot only after attempting to pull a gun on the officer.” My original feelings were cavalier.  My thoughts were undoubtedly driven by my love for law enforcement.  I believe we should have laws and that people should obey them.  I believe law-breakers should be punished.  I believe that law enforcement officers have a very difficult job and are both underpaid and under appreciated.  But I watched the video.  Although it doesn’t show what happened leading up to the shooting it appears evident that this man was shot and killed in front of his 4 year old daughter and his fiancé without merit.  I am so sorry about that.

I am sorry that I made a snap judgment when I didn’t know the facts.  That is wrong.  I am sorry that I am thankful to be white every time I get pulled over by the police.  That is wrong.  I am sorry that this man died in front of his family in such a brutal way.  Any way you cut it, That is wrong.   I am sorry that no one offered him medical help while he passed away right in front of an officer.  That is just plain wrong!  I am sorry that so many white conservatives, like me, have such a coarse view of this.  As a pastor, I am sorry that I didn’t instantly weep for his eternal soul.

Secondly, the acknowledgement.  Something is broken.  If you are a black man your chances of having a negative experience with the police are much higher!   Let’s face it, if the man in the car would have been wearing a white dress shirt and tie do you really think he would have been shot so quick?  The answer is NO. We have a problem and we must acknowledge it.  Why? I don’t know but that is a problem.  Actually there are lots of problems.  We have a problem in the minority community with broken families and absent fathers.  Most shootings in the African American community are not from Police Officers  they are  from other minority males.  Does this contribute to the original reason for this post?  I don’t know but we can never fix a problem until we admit we have one.  And we have problems on both sides.

Finally, Answers.  I wish I had an easy one.  But it is impossible to even attempt an answer r9vlzWLs_400x400without falling into one of the two extremes in these discussions.  Either we are pro-police or pro-thug.  If you question the actions of the law enforcement officers you are viewed as pro-crime.  If you challenge the moral deficiency in the inner-city, African American community you are a racist and don’t understand the plight of the oppressed.  Is it possible to embrace traditional values, love the rule of law and defend a black man who was shot during a traffic stop?  It should be, but it is difficult.

We have proven the answers are not within us.  When we lean on ourselves we divide, fight and drive both sides further into our own biased holes.  Each night we gather our best pundits and have them scream it out on TV News shows.  This is no answer, actually it is part of the problem.  There is no political answer.  Noble ambition that we will all wake up and come to our senses is futile. A problem this big needs supernatural help.

We need Jesus!  We need to fall on our face and repent of our arrogance, we need to cry out for mercy for our lack of concern for the dying.  We need to beg God for forgiveness for our lack of respect for authority, our bitterness and rebellion.  We need to earnestly seek divine intervention for our broken families and culture. This would open us to His grace that when extended melts heart, changes minds, restores lives and makes friends out of enemies. Without this kind of transformation we can only expect another protest, more name-calling, even greater polarization around faulty premises and most of all more senseless deaths.  God help us… God help me!




The Danger of Freedom

This past weekend we celebrated our 240th year of independence as a nation. America has been a shining light to the world for more than 2 centuries as we have pursued the experience of freedom. Although we haven’t always got it right we have steadily moved forward towards “liberty and justice for all”.

As we celebrate our freedom let me pose these questions. Is freedom without limits? If freedom has limits who gets to set them? If freedom has limits is that really freedom at all?

If you Google “freedom” we find the following…”the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.”  In this definition freedom is without “restraint”.   Everyone doing anything and everything they desire. This is defined as freedom. One blogger recently wrote, To me, freedom is not only being free, but feeling free; to do, to say, to be, to literally (anything) – whatsoever and however, wherever and whenever. Because I am myself, and only I own me.

As I have pondered that thought I began to question if this is at all a possibility. Although no one wants to be that person who restricts another’s rights somewhere freedom must have a limit. Freedom without “restraint” is potentially a very dangerous thing.

All freedom comes with the responsibility of restraint.

There is no such thing as healthy unbridled freedom. Even in the perfect world after creation, God gave Adam and Eve the gift of free moral agency —the freedom of choice—but even then God gave them limits to their freedom.

The danger of freedom is unrestrained behavior. True freedom must involve both liberty and limits because freedom without restraint always leads to bondage.

Food without restraint… creates major health issues, Driving without restraint…kills people, Pleasure without restraint… creates laziness, Spending without restraint creates debt, Morality without restraint… breeds corruption, accumulating without restraint creates selfishness, and on and on freedom without restraint goes further into bondage.

Our first parents learned this early. As soon as they exercise freedom without restraint and eat that which they were free but forbidden to do, We then find them hiding from God, accusing one another, being kicked out of the garden, and suffering the consequences of their actions by witnessing their son murder his brother. Actually through their unrestrained freedom they entered into and brought all humanity into the greatest bondage of all…. SIN.

When freedom is exchanged for a license to do whatever you want apart from God’s laws of life, it becomes sinful tyranny in your life and in the lives of others.

Our founding fathers envisioned this idea of self-government, that within every American there would be a sense of moral understanding that would guide our behavior. They knew without this God-given moral self-governance it would be impossible to maintain our freedom. In his writing on the American freedom experiment the Frenchman Tocquevville pondered the need for moral restraint when he said, “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” “When the taste for physical gratifications among them has grown more rapidly than their education . . . the time will come when men are carried away and lose all self-restraint. It is not necessary to do violence to such a people in order to strip them of the rights they enjoy; they themselves willingly loosen their hold.   They neglect their chief business which is to remain their own masters.” Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

In America we cannot continue to exercise liberty without limits without the consequence of enslaving ourselves. Many a society in history has “freedomed,” their way into bondage.

As a nation, let us never forget that freedom is a gift from God that was given to us at a great cost. Millions of men and women have paid a dear price for our national freedom, we owe it to them to live within the moral restraints of our Maker so that we ensure their sacrifice was not in vain.

As individuals true freedom is found in the garden of God’s grace, in abiding in God’s presence and living again in a right relationship with our creator. The only access to this kind of freedom is found through Jesus who is able to set us “free indeed”. (Jn. 8:36)

May God grant us the grace to know true freedom, the wisdom to know where the limits on our freedoms lie, and the courage to live within the lines.