I have always enjoyed visiting family in Baltimore. I remember taking a solo road trip up there. I visited the Frederick Douglass Maritime Museum, checked out a few local shops, ate a really good steak and cheese somewhere in the Fells Point area. I had the opportunity to eulogize one of my relatives in the city. I was warmly received the times I preached there. Baltimore is really a nice town check out.
What about the rioting? That is a case of the invisible ugliness becoming visible. Now, the whole world has seen what happens when a power structure has kept people powerless for decades. Now we see how some powerless people respond when they feel threatened and vulnerable. Yes, I am saddened, angered, disappointed, and deeply wounded that yet another black man died in the hands of a few policemen and that some blacks took to rioting. But, I am also aware that something like this could happen anywhere where there is invisible ugliness. All it takes is one trigger and a seaside city that is the home of generations of strong, black families can be the home of a violent outbreak in the struggle between the haves and have-nots. Who knows, tomorrow, we could hear something about Hampton, VA (where I am typing from).
Many will disagree with my point of view. But, I don’t believe that race nor racism is the ultimate source of the invisible ugliness. The root of the problem goes back to the very roots of human history. In an attempt to be like God without direction from God, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Immediately after their eyes were open, they couldn’t be vulnerable to each other and hid themselves from the God they wanted to be like without Him. Cain killed his brother, Abel, rather than to listen to God’s instructions to overcome sin. In both situations, people sought to obtain the heavenly and earthly power on their own terms and the results have been spectacular failures.
The Europeans who came to these shores only wanted more land and opportunity than they had in their homelands. But, rather than to do so in compassion and humility, they made their gains by inflicting a selfish and narrow-minded judgement on the Native Americans and (by purchase and theft) obtain African slaves to generate the wealth for the new nation. Many of their descendants feel that they are in their right to do whatever they wish to maintain dominance in a kingdom that they obtained by wrong instead of right. The Africans, for many years, held a moral high ground as they found the Gospel truth hidden in the wrong-headed doctrines of their slave masters. But, over too much time and too many broken promises, too many of us descendants have succumbed to having a heart and mind as mindlessly cruel as any oppressor. Rather than leave vengeance the Lord, too many of us want a justice that punishes rather than a justice that restores the flesh and blood that is not our real enemy. Like Adam & Eve, the racist and the rioter are too impatient to enjoy the good things they have and wait for something better. Like Cain, the racist and the rioter would rather kill his own kind than to admit that he is wrong and live a life of repentance.
To be fair, not every white policeman is hunting Negroes. Not every African American is running around with a stolen TV set. But, too many of us replay the ancient failure in our hearts and minds. We all want more and greater things and positions rather than patience and spiritual correction. We want the world to revolve around us rather than for us to follow God. Until this changes, your city and mine have the potential to be a Baltimore.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on Us, Sinners.