Sunday, July 17, 2016

Minnesota Not-So-Nice

In the state where I’ve lived most of my life, you sometimes hear the phrase “Minnesota nice.” Wikipedia defines it as “…the stereotypical behavior of people born and raised in Minnesota to be courteous, reserved, and mild-mannered.” That certainly wasn’t the case last weekend in the capital city of St. Paul. A protest on Interstate 94 turned violent resulting in 102 people being arrested and 21 police officers injured.

What triggered the protest was a police shooting the previous Wednesday in a St. Paul suburb. A black man named Philando Castile got pulled over for a busted taillight. Accordingly to fiancée Diamond Reynolds (who rode in the passenger seat), Philando was reaching for his wallet when a Latino officer fired four shots at him. Diamond then used her cell phone to live-stream the aftermath on Facebook. A ten minute video of Philando bleeding to death and Diamond’s subsequent arrest quickly went viral.

Claims of police targeting African-Americans resulted in the formation of the activist group Black Lives Matter. Personally I’m turned off by the BLM movement because of their practice of blocking highways. I would be furious if I found myself caught in a traffic jam caused by one of their protests. It certainly doesn’t earn sympathy from people trying to get to work (or worse delaying emergency vehicles). All lives matter...not just theirs.

It’s unfortunate the United States has a history of racism. Sadly some African-Americans respond with violence such as the one who shot and killed five police officers in Dallas, Texas on July 7th. In response to this and other recent shootings, Dallas-based African-American pastor T. D. Jakes said, “At the end of the day the blood that is shed on the streets is not black, it is not white, it is not brown – It is red.” Acts 17:26 says, “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth…” There is no Scriptural basis for discrimination based on race.

Five decades ago a Baptist minister named Martin Luther King, Jr. experienced discrimination much worse than what most African-Americans face today. Yet Dr. King never used violence to take a stand for his civil rights. As a result, many streets and places are named after him today plus a federal holiday honoring his birthday.

So how should Christians respond to police shootings that are purportedly race-related? First we need to pray for our nation’s leaders especially those in law enforcement. Policemen are not perfect but still deserve our respect. Romans 13:1 says, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.”

We must also reach out to hurting people with the gospel. Jesus called us to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) and as His ambassadors we can be ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). A Facebook friend went with a friend of hers to minister and pray with BLM protesters standing outside the Minnesota Governor's Residence. She and her friend were well received after asking for forgiveness for the church’s past mistakes regarding racism.

One of my neighbors has a bumper sticker that says, “Just be nice.” There’s more we can do than telling people to do random acts of kindness. Changed hearts will result when we obey the Great Commission and people become born again.

“But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” - 1 Corinthians 6:17

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