“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9 ESV).
The trouble in Baltimore has been difficult to watch, let alone comprehend from a distance. The tragic death of Freddie Gray, the rioting and continuing civil unrest has prompted many persons—family, friends, neighbors, bystanders, journalists, politicians, and public servants—to voice impassioned and heartfelt opinions about the disintegration of community we have witnessed. Passion is heard in voices, pain is seen in faces, but reconciliation and healing seems distant.
Is it reasonable to imagine problems like those in Baltimore can be solved by human reason or action? Against so much history, polarization, and entrenchment by all sides, can hope be found?
Do you remember the song “From a Distance,” recorded by Bette Midler and written by Julie Gold? In beautiful melody it reminds us that we are part of one world, one creation, and that “God is watching us from a distance.” And country music artist Ronnie Dunn recorded a similar song of hope and reconciliation entitled “Bleed Red” by Andrew M. Dorff. Songs and poetry display deep truths because they impact us in our quiet and personal space—a place of reflection and soul searching.
God does see all, and not just from a distance; He is close and personal to our lives. Jesus bled on a cross because of the “lost-ness” of the human race. And Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit to help us in our weakness as we strive to live lives that are righteous and holy as He is righteous and holy. Our part is to allow Him to shape us and mold us to become more like Him and less like who we are apart from Him.
The Bible has a lot to say about human interaction and transformation. Here are some passages for your consideration:
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8 ESV).
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil” (Psalm 37:7-8 ESV).
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (Romans 12:9-13 ESV).
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:14-18 ESV).
“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4:25-27 ESV).
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31- 32 ESV).
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12 ESV).
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15-16 NIV).
Once, a “religious” man asked Jesus the requirement to inherit eternal life. Jesus did not respond but instead asked the man’s opinion, and the man said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27 NIV). Jesus acknowledged the answer was good, but the man continued, asking “who” his neighbor was. In reply, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-35) and upon hearing it the man concluded rightly that the “neighbor” in the parable was the man who showed mercy. Jesus told the man to go and do likewise.
The first Thursday of every May is designated our National Day of Prayer; this year it fell on May 7th. Such a proclamation is symbolic, but at its core is the understanding that we need God, that in every real and true sense, apart from God we can do nothing—either individually or collectively. Through prayer, Christians can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:19 NIV).
Our world, viewed from a distance and hanging in the sky, is perfect. But the transformation we desire for our “up close” and “imperfect” world is personal, requiring our careful, specific, and heartfelt prayerful attention. Today and every day, pray for our country. Pray for peace and for peacemakers to step forward. Pray for our communities and leaders. Pray for those hurting and oppressed. Pray for our neighbors who are as broken and lost and helpless as we are, who want to do the right and good thing but cannot seem to do it. Above all, pray for wisdom; that out of diverse points of view Good Samaritans will emerge for injured Baltimore.
The truth is, apart from God we can do nothing; but mercy and grace in time of need is a promise worth pursuing.