150 years ago, almost to the day, our nation’s bloodiest war came to an end. On April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Courthouse. Within a few days, President Lincoln was assassinated; by May 9, his presidential replacement, Andrew Johnson, declared an end to all hostilities.
In the midst of this 150 year anniversary, our nation once again struggles to remember that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” In one of the largest riots in decades, violence broke out on the streets of one of America’s oldest cities – Baltimore, Maryland. According to reports, by the end of the night police had arrested 235 people while 20 officers required medical care from assaults by rioters. Reports also indicated one person was in critical condition due to a building fire. Rioters burned more than a dozen buildings and over 100 cars. Looters destroyed even more businesses as they busted through doors and windows, clearing shelves of food, alcohol, and anything else they wanted.
During it all, I sat securely in my home watching news coverage throughout the evening. I prayed for my cousin and her husband who live within blocks of the riots. I asked myself, “Has our nation come to this? Civilians throwing rocks and bottles at those assigned to serve and protect? City officials blatantly lying on television so those behind them may break in to another man’s business and take whatever they want? When did our society become this?”
Like the Civil War, the tensions were attributed to unequal treatment of black individuals. I’m not sure how rioters rationalize that burning a neighbor’s vehicle or place of business will bring peace and equality to race relations. Seems to me, those rioters are more interested in an opportunity than a civil rights issue.
Peace and Equality
However, not everyone is taking illegal and violent advantage of an opportunity. Many want their voices heard as they non-violently engage in dialogue and peaceful activity. They desire to bring peace and equality to their local community.
Where do we find peace and equality?
I attended my daughter’s spring choir concert last night at her high school. The school’s different choirs performed throughout the evening; at one point, I did a little mental math as I watched. I determined that over 40% of the choir was of a non-white ethnicity. Together, they represented multiple countries across Asia and Africa.
I listened to the voices sing last night and thought, “Our school has made this work.” Throughout the school, all is peaceful and all are equal. I have to believe that’s mainly due to their goal to inspire kids to realize their God-given potential through Christian training. Their goals don’t specify racial equality; however, inherent in the belief in God-given potential and a call to Christian training is the philosophy that all are equal. Racial equality is a natural outcome for those who honestly seek to live according to the Christian teachings of God’s Word.
I know. All kinds of racial groups have used God’s Word to justify all kinds of racial hatred through the centuries. I acknowledge that sad reality.
But what does the Bible really say?
We’re all made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). He made us all equal in His own creative image.
We’re all descended from Noah (Genesis 10:32).
The evil within us leads us to distinguish and discriminate between people groups (James 2:3-4).
All people need to be told the message of Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20).
God loves all of us – the entire world (John 3:16). His death makes salvation equally possible for every single person on the planet.
Jesus’ death united all ethnicities and brings them back to peace (Ephesians 2:13-15).
All are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).
God asks all of us to love others just as much as He loves them (John 13:34).
Those who harbor hatred toward anyone aren’t living as followers of Jesus (1 John 2:9-11).
God also calls us to be kind and compassionate with all people (Ephesians 4:32).
What I know and what I don’t
I don’t know how a black man living in downtown Baltimore is treated. I don’t know if racial discrimination is rampant throughout their city government. I don’t know how many people there are trying to find solutions to a serious issue and how many are taking advantage of a bad situation to spread violence and promote hatred.
I do know a few things, however. I know that we’re all messed up pieces of the human race. Our common ancestor, Adam, passed down to each of us a genetic bent to sin. And I know that regardless of how much we let that sin control our relationships with each other, Jesus still died to restore our relationships with each other and even more importantly, with Him.
I know that unity through Him is the only thing that will ever bring true peace and equality to the human race.