Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. – Romans 13:1-2 (ESV)
Much has been said about the recent events surrounding the tragic deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men who lost their lives during altercations with white law-enforcement officers Darren Wilson and Daniel Pentaleo, respectively.
I have found myself publicly quiet on these events while privately harboring my personal opinion. I’ve decided to express my view publicly because I feel divinely inspired to offer an analysis on these tragic events from a biblical perspective.
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Rome, in chapter 13:1-5, he outlined the role, value and importance that governing authorities had in and on the lives of God’s people. I believe Paul wanted believers and non-believers to have a clear understanding that law enforcement was a governing institution of authority given to humanity by God.
In an essence, Paul’s view was that law-enforcement officers were appointed by God as his authoritative representatives for peace to protect the citizens of a particular community. Therefore, as a society, we must accept the fact that when citizens transgress the laws of that society, regardless of the color of their skin, they must be held accountable for their actions by the God-appointed authority of that community.
So when I examine these series of recent tragic events, I don’t believe they should be interpreted as a black or white issue, but they should be seen as a “right or wrong issue.” Not “who is right or who is wrong,” but “what is right and what is wrong.”
When we, particularly the church, begin siding with who’s right (based on race) and not what’s right (based on facts), then we further exacerbate the situation with the fuel of our emotional, personal opinions. I don’t believe God has called us to stand or speak from our personal, unrestrained opinions. The Bible encourages us to take a stand for righteousness and speak the truth in love.
However, I must admit that there have been times when my desire to express my own opinion has been overwhelming. I’m a black man who has had a fair share of discriminatory treatment launched his way from those who did not like me simply because of the color of my skin.
I’m a black man connected to a people with a horrifying history filled with years of slavery, segregation and oppression. Each time I think I have successfully erased the epidemic of those pictures of the suffering engrained in my mind, another tragic event occurs with racial overtones that only reminds me, yes we’ve come a long way, but it is apparent that we’ve got such a long way to go.
While I certainly have the right to my emotional opinion as a black man, I’ve learned that before I express that opinion, perhaps I need to cross-check it with the word of God. Because when I open my mouth and express my opinion, I realize I am doing so not as a black man, but I speak as one who represents the principles of Jesus Christ.
The fact is, humanity has lost two more lives at the hands of law-enforcement officers who were assigned to protect and serve. But the fact also remains that these tragedies may have never happened had those victims decided to be “law-abiding citizens.” The systemic problem in our country is not one rooted in racism or classism; it seems to be a problem rooted in the sinful nature of mankind — a problem that continues to go unaddressed and unresolved.
Only an authentic, life-changing encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ contains the power to change mankind’s sinful nature. Until then, I agree with the Bible: Men shall become lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers who are disobedient to parents and despisers of those who are good.
Pray for our citizens and our law enforcement.
Betton is the senior pastor of Cathedral of Praise Church and a member of the United Ministerial Alliance.