By: Jared Smith
As the new year has rolled in and I reflect on the past year, I’ve come to the realization that 2015 may be one of the most saddening years in my short lifetime. The drive behind my despair is the dying relationship between the police force and the citizens within their constituency. I look back on the number of Black brothers and sisters killed in the presence, custody, or at the hands of police and I find nothing but despair. Despair for the communities that have lost trust in those that are supposed to protect and serve. Despair in how the media has taken each case and used it for their own advantage and not for truth and justice. Despair for the continuing onslaught of black, white relations in this country. I'm sure there are many friendships lost over this time period due to the differing opinions on each case. And I have fear for my son, who will one day be a Black teenager, yet cynically thankful that his German and Irish roots show through in his appearance (sadly, a line that should be taken jovially is a reality for myself and many, hoping our sons can pass the “threatening negro” test). Yet, I find despair most in the fact that many who were on the wrong side of these tragedies were probably raised in a home where the Scriptures or at least the Golden Rule was emphasized, and yet many seem to forget both.
Many forget not only the Golden Rule, but the very first chapter in Holy Scripture. Right in the beginning of Scripture we are informed that the entire universe was created by the Sovereign hand of a good God. And this good God, in love, created human beings in His very image.[i] Once God was finished with His creation, He blessed the entire world declaring it good and calling his human representatives on earth “very good.”[ii] Now the reality is, many of us do not have a hard time believing this goodness about ourselves or about those we love. The difficulty comes when we have to believe this about those we do not know, or those we quickly judge. In those we find undeserving of the claim of goodness, we generally go straight for Genesis 3 in which we see humanity is fallen, sinful, and out of sync with God's purposes. We begin to make our own declarations about them: untrustworthy, violent, liars, despicable, and not worthy of respect and love. I once heard Dr. Mark Futato of Reformed Theological Seminary-Orlando ask in a lecture, “How do you view people? Is it primarily from the lens of Genesis 1 or Genesis 3? Do you see people for their beauty and goodness, or for their fallen-ness?” How you answer this determines whether you see people as innocent until proven guilty or guilty until proven innocent.
And here is where the problems lies. Our mirrors are focused on Genesis 1, while our glasses zoom on Genesis 3. Yet it is not just the police who view black and brown citizens with their glasses on. How do we as non-whites now view the police: authoritarians, violent, despicable, and untrustworthy. Many of us who were not even allowed to listen to rap in our younger years (thankfully my wife is bringing me up to speed), mentally throw up single fingers to the police and believe that 911 is simply a joke in our respective neighborhoods. Yet, as believers in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I'm urging that we all – black or white, police and citizen alike – sing a different song. Though we deeply know the sinfulness of humanity, we are called to see the best in people, when everyone else around sees thugs – with or without a badge – we see those created in the marvelous image of God. Only then will we serve our cities with love and wisdom, and respect those whom God has placed in these positions. My prayer is that I won't have to copy and paste this article come 2017.
Jared Smith was born and raised in New Jersey. He is married to his beautiful wife Adia and they are blessed with three children. Jared received his Bachelor's in Bible and Pastoral Ministry from Philadelphia Biblical University (presently Cairn University) and a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL . Jared has previously served as a Youth Minister, Associate Minister, and Assistant Director of an inner city mentoring program. He currently works as a longshoreman at the Port of NY/NJ and fellowships at Covenant Presbyterian Church of Milburn, NJ.