Tamir Rice & Lessons from Isaiah
It is with a heavy heart that I write. Yet again, we find ourselves mourning the death of another African-American at the hands of police. We are angered with the reality of a system that refuses to allow us to even hold them accountable. When a 12 year old child can be shot in under 2 seconds of interaction with police officers, and we can deem those actions not even worthy of judicial inspection, we have reached a place where justice is far from our grasp. We have reached a point where something must give.
My purpose in writing this is not to demean law-enforcement, nor is it to criticize a judicial system worthy of much criticism. I am not attempting to argue the details of a case (despite the fact that the death of Tamir Rice screams injustice). My sole purpose is to challenge people, specifically Christians, to take a hard look at how we respond to such tragedies. The truth we often miss is that our faithfulness to Christ depends much on our response to the injustices of the world.
In Isaiah 1, after highlighting the rebellion and sin of Judah, Isaiah issues this call, which resonates from the very mouth of God:
“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.” (Isaiah 1:16-17)
What is so important about these verses is the truth that God attributes the pursuit of good, justice, and mercy to righteousness. God highlights injustices in their day, and holds the people’s response as evidence of their faithfulness.
Think about that for a moment. If the measure by which God evaluates our faithfulness is the measure to which the truth of His love, mercy, and grace have flowed through us and out of us towards others, specifically the oppressed, how many of us are indeed seen as faithful? I agree, this is not the sole measure of our faithfulness, but it clearly is an indicator worthy of God’s attention. He does not call His people to pursue better theology, nor go to a better place of worship, nor get more involved with a small group. God calls His people to pursue good and justice, and thus prove their faithfulness.
To understand how serious God takes this issue you need only look at His judgment. A few verses later in Isaiah God calls His people “whores” (1:21), and God proceeds to give the reasons. One reason is found in verse 23:
“Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not bring justice to the fatherless, and the widow's cause does not come to them.”
God’s people are condemned because their leaders are unjust and the people refuse to bring justice and fight for the oppressed. It is not a call to merely pray for them, it is not a call to feel sorry for them, it is a call to fight for them.
It breaks my heart to read the responses by many who claim the name of Christ regarding the death of Tamir Rice and the decision to not even indict the officers involved. It is so easy for many to justify the death of a twelve year old boy at the hands of police, who clearly made mistakes in how they handled the situation. (For a helpful article about the mistakes made, read HERE) Remember, our justification of an event may not be accurate. God reminds his people to be very cautious of this in Isaiah 5:20.
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”
There is a temptation for us to sweep injustice under the rug and allow evil to present itself as good. We must fight against this temptation with all that is in us. We must think with a gospel mindset. This will require us to lay aside pride and preference, and seek first the welfare of others; specifically those who are being oppressed.
I pray that Christians across this country will lead the fight for justice. Not out of our own strength, but as a result of the grace and mercy that has been revealed to us through the cross of Christ. I pray the gospel will lead us to love righteousness, hate evil, and pursue justice. This very well may require many of us to actually pull the blinders off our eyes, and learn what is good. At the end of the day it is a worthy fight because our faithfulness is at stake.