Friday, December 26, 2014

an eye for an eye ?

Is an eye for an eye really the answer, especially when the eye you take is the one who took (somebody else's - not even your) an eye?
              In the aftermath of  the recent shootings of police by civilians after the recent shootings of                   civilians by police, the conversation needs to happen, and it needs to be bathed in prayer. A                few days ago I sent out an email to a lot of people suggesting that prayer was needed. A                      person who received that email is a reporter, and she responded by saying that she had been                thinking about an article on reactions of faith leaders to some of those shootings. I sent a                      rambling response, much of which she quoted in the article. What follows is my original                      ramblings: 
Yes, there probably are some cops who simply have a job, who do the minimal required to get a paycheck, and are counting down the days to retirement. There are others who make mistakes, who might act without thinking things through, even in the split second they have to think-decide-act. There are also the 'dirty' cops that use their position for their own personal advantage or gain. And there are those who let their personal experiences with and opinions of, people of racial or ethnic backgrounds, or sexual orientation or socio-economic status cloud their judgment and influence their decisions on how to treat the people they encounter in the line of duty. And then there are the good cops, the ones who do their best on a daily basis to treat everyone with respect and dignity as they go to work each day, willingly putting themselves in harm’s way to uphold the law, and to protect the neighborhoods in which they serve. 
 Sounds like any other group of people that is defined by the career they have chosen. (Well, maybe except for the part of regularly, willingly putting themselves in harm’s way.)  There are good cops and bad cops, or firemen, or teachers, or pastors. There are good and bad members of the press, lawyers, bakers, or actors, or electricians, or barbers or garbage collectors. 
 Members of every group protected under anti-discrimination laws are made up of similar categories - those who try to do their best, those who do the minimum to get by, those who make mistakes, those who take advantage of the situation, and those who allow their personal beliefs, feelings, or worldview to influence their decisions.
 So we look at the recent shootings of on-duty police officers and ask if they really deserved to die. Death like taxes, is inevitable, but they didn’t deserve to die like that. As individuals, none of us have been given the responsibility, or the authority to serve as judge, jury and executioner.
Not agreeing with the outcome of an investigation, of a grand jury, or a trial does not give us the right to take the law into our own hands, and because we don’t like the fact that a grand jury chose not to indict one police officer definitely does not mean that we should exact revenge by shooting another police officer.
Our quest for justice should be seeking to make the world a better place for everyone, not just trying to ensure that the “bad guy” gets what he deserves. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10, NIV) so in a sense we’re all bad guys. We’re the bad guys, and Jesus got what we deserve, so that we can share in what only he deserves.
The conversation needs to happen nationwide about how to deal with disappointment when the system doesn’t work the way we want it to work. Revenge is not the answer, nor is hatred. Looting, burning, random shootings and killings are not the basis for the conversation that needs to happen. The conversation needs to be based on biblical principles of love and forgiveness.
The 10 Commandments used to be posted in public places. The commandments are at a basic level, guidelines for a life in community with God, and with others. Maybe it’s time to start posting them again.

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