I had an uncomfortable realization last week. As I was reading about another unarmed black man being killed by police, I got angry. Really, Lord? Why is this happening again? Why does justice feel so far away sometimes? Why? Why? Why?
It took me a long time to realize my own preconceptions: my experience with police officers and authority figures in general has always been positive. Frankly, my experience with people in general has been positive. My overwhelming tendency is to trust people and to take what they say at face value. Call me naive, but it’s really a reflection of my experiences in life. It didn’t occur to me that others’ experiences were different and therefore would lead them to alternate starting points, lenses to see the world far different from my own.
Many people get frustrated when people of color talk about discrimination. The voices they hear sound strident, harsh, angry to their ears. Honestly, it sounds that way to me, too. I back away. I don’t want to engage. But I shifted in my seat when I got upset. Because what I heard myself think was this: “If I start speaking out about these injustices, time and again, people will consider me a downer. I’ll sound angry all the time.” Gulp. I’m not an angry person, and anyone who knows me knows that. Could it be, I thought, that those “angry” people I’ve shirked in the past are actually just trying to speak truth into darkness? Could it be that they have seen too much, felt too much and really just want a better place for all of us?
I remember learning in one psychology class that anger is a secondary emotion. There’s a deeper emotion that presents as anger. I suspect that many times pain sounds an awful lot like anger. When sharing your heart gets shut down, it creates a scar. When we say we value justice, hear others questioning if a breach occurred, and blithely disregard their concerns without due process, hot coals sear people’s hearts and they cry out.
For those of you opening your mouths in protest, wait just a minute. I am still wary to jump to conclusions when there are altercations anywhere that I didn’t see. I do think that whatever lens we wear can lead us to first impressions that are wrong. But are any of us willing to step back from our own viewpoint long enough to say that the world is a wholly just place? That we are free from the brokenness of this world? Friends, in this week after our Easter celebrations let us be reminded that Jesus came because we are broken and in need of a Savior. Jesus redeemed us and is making all things new. But the world still groans. Sin is conquered but not removed.
I believe that God broke the dividing wall–between both us and him and each other. I believe that when we hear from others different from ourselves–be it race, gender, age, life experience, culture, etc.–that we see a fuller image of God. Let us listen, let us remove our lenses, let us cry out…even if it sounds angry to others.