By Joel A. Hess –
Rodney King famously exclaimed in the 1990s, “Why can’t we all just get along?” Recently, after witnessing the horrific shootings of the past week, a number of people have asked me the same question. Seems simple, right?
However, what we really mean when we ask that question is, “Why can’t everyone be like me? I can get along with everyone!” Most of us cannot imagine having blood on our hands. Therefore, we assume we would never go beyond a mumbled slander toward our adversary. And surely everyone likes us, right?! But does that mean we can get along with everyone? While watching people do the unthinkable on TV, the vast majority of Americans believe they would make the right choices in every situation. Yet, I promise that, if you follow any given person throughout her life, you would hear and see words and deeds that betray her ability and even predisposition to not only “not get along” but even kill. I assure you that even the thoughts of your white-haired grandma would scare you if you could know them!
While the rest of the world stunningly stares at the TV as they watch a man gun down another man, Christians should remain unalarmed. Oh, we weep for sure. However, we know why bad people do bad things because we know why good people do bad things: sin. We actually don’t want to get along.
The heart of the racist, the pervert, the rioter, and the murderer brazenly beats in all our chests. We are all capable of the worst deeds. Actually, the question should not be “why can’t everyone just get along” but “why do people get along… ever?”
Therefore, while the Christian reply to villainy is certainly a call for justice, it also demands self-reflection and repentance. We are all guilty. Then, as we look at victim and villain with the eyes of Jesus, who died for both, we pray for both. Yet, most importantly, as our neighbors are paralyzed with fear, we have been given words of hope and peace: the words of our enemy’s Savior, Jesus Christ. We not only know why people don’t get along but also that humanity is not simply stuck in some anatomical destiny of extinction. There is deliverance for free for all in Jesus Christ!
Jesus came not only to save us from sin, death and Satan but also from ourselves. We are the problem, after all, not simply “those” people.
Jesus has reconciled us, we who were once His enemies, to God! He didn’t do this by providing a path to peace, but by literally pronouncing us forgiven! It is finished! The power of knowing and trusting Christ’s gifts overflows to reconciliation with those around us. By God’s Spirit, we are enabled to turn the other cheek, to look upon our enemy with compassion and forgive them.
Dear Christians, your neighbors need you because of what you know and who you know. You are called to be the calm voice in the midst of the storm. Christians are not shocked by what man can do. Though it continues to amaze us, we know what God can do, has done, and will do! For He is the one who turned the other cheek and transformed our violent blows into wounds that still flow with forgiveness and life! So instead of running around like Chicken Little crying, “The sky is falling,” hug your neighbor and tell them “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” Hang on brothers and sisters. We will all get along in the resurrection.