Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, and Respectable Gossip
The incident of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman is indeed a tragedy. One young man lost his life and the other may lose what is left of his freedom. I am going to come at this subject from a purely Christian perspective. This blog is not about what happened that night. It is not about who was right or who was wrong. It is not a cry for justice. Instead, this article is about Christian conduct as it relates to this story and every other story that makes its way into the media. As far as I am concerned, I have no specific opinion about what happened that night or what should happen because of that night. You see, I was not there. I am not an eye witness. I do not know what happened, nor can
I. I do not know anything about the witnesses that were there and about those who are passing on their account. I know this: every story that involves the potential for racially-charged emotions always brings out those biases with it. My concern is entirely around Christian conduct. How should a Christian think about this incident? How should they conduct their speech toward the two young men involved? What does Scripture say? After all, it is Scripture that provides the norm for how we should relate to incidents like this one.
Those who are indicting Mr. Zimmerman without having been there to see for themselves what actually took place are committing the worse kind of slander. They do not know Mr. Zimmerman. They are better off not saying anything about his character or reputation. Maybe he is culpable. Maybe he killed Trayvon Martin in cold blood. Maybe it was legitimate self-defense. That is the job of the police department to determine. Someone might suggest that the police department is failing to do its job. Maybe it is. However, it is not the mission of the church or the society of Christ to impose its will on the police departments of the world so that they are acting in accordance with the law. That job belongs to someone else. Who? I cannot say who. What I can say is that Scripture nowhere lays this burden on the church.
Those who are now painting Trayvon Martin as a troubled young man just looking for a fight are no less guilty of slander than the ones painting Mr. Zimmerman as a racist and cold blooded killer. They do not know this young man. They do not know that he did anything to provoke Mr. Zimmerman. They were not there. The young man’s past has nothing to do with what happened that night. If you are engaged in slandering this young man for any reason, you are guilty of the worse kind of malicious gossip. You do not know Trayvon Martin and you certainly were not present the night of that terrible tragedy. Your words of disdain and attack are just as sinful as they would be if you were slandering someone you do know. Just because there are media reports about this incident, that is not justification to speculate about what actually took place. As a member of the Christian society, you have no right to comment about the character of men you know nothing about. Silence is the best response in this case.
The news media and "tell-all" publications provide an excellent vehicle by which Christians engage in malicious gossip without even thinking about it. I know, I have done it numerous times. It was not until recently that I began to think about this and wonder about my own behavior. A friend of mine and I were discussing Tiger Woods’ personal coach and the terrible things that have been said about Mr. Woods. This was as recent as last week. I cannot say what the catalyst was that has caused me to begin considering this behavior. All I know is that I realized that these people are real people whose lives are being affected by all kinds of stories. The truth is that we just don’t know anything about them. We don’t know if these stories are true, and even if some of them are, how shameful it is for believers to speak about them openly. Instead, we should commit these people to prayer. We should pray that God grants them the gift of repentance and the subsequent peace it produces. We should not waste time sinning by talking about matters that we really know nothing about. We should prayer for comfort for Trayvon’s parents and especially for their salvation if they are not believers. If they are believers, we should pray that God provide them the grace necessary to accept those things they cannot change along with the ability to respond to them in Christ-like manner.
Racism is an ugly behavior. It is unloving and sinful. We should certainly preach and teach against it just like we do other sin. But we do not teach and preach against it because it is the worse sin a person could commit. We condemn it because God condemns it. We refuse to engage in it because it displeases and dishonors God. The church needs to divorce the culture. For a long time now, she has been enamored and enchanted with the culture. It has been a love feast unlike anything you could read in a romance novel. The sad truth is that most American Christians are far more loyal to
and American ideology than they are to Scripture. If revival is ever to come to western culture, the church must divorce America . The truth is that America ’s influence on the church has been far more damning than most care to admit. Preach the gospel. Proclaim the truth. Evangelize the world and make disciples. That is the business of the church. What have we to do with marches and protests against social injustice and political causes? America
The very best way to influence these kinds of changes in the culture is to evangelize it! That kind of change is real and lasting change. So what! You end racism or abortion. If you don’t give people the gospel, still we have a number of people who are no longer racists or murderers, but nevertheless are on their way to certain eternal damnation. Nice job.
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