Back in January, I posted a Facebook message containing a wish and a prayer for the New Year from New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson, who’s also a husband and father of five (number five, a daughter, is due in August).
Near the end of his message, he wrote:
I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind.
Watson represents what a lot of Christians wish we had more of — a public figure who speaks out clearly, in charity and without fear or rancor, of how faith in Christ can transform our lives and the world (and wouldn’t it be great if this Saint one day became Catholic? One can hope and pray.)
Watson’s FB musings first went viral when he commented on the rioting in Ferguson, Missouri, and on Monday, he weighed in on the staggering destruction wrought by rioters and looters in Baltimore, in the wake of the a young African-American man’s death in police custody.
Again, Watson took to Facebook to examine the situation and point the way to Christ as the inspiration, the model and the solution. Here’s what he had to say:
We have major problems as a nation. Yesterday Ferguson burned. Tonight?#?Baltimore? burns. Tomorrow it will be another city in our homeland. Watching the coverage I’m hearing yet another version of a nauseatingly familiar narrative. Violence by police reciprocated by violence by the community, reciprocated by violence by police reciprocated by….
It seems fruitless to continue to analyze, condemn, and respond to these dreadful episodes. “Frustration, anger, tension boiling over, upset and unfortunate” are words we hear from Baltimore residents. When it comes to law enforcement, race, poverty, education, immigration we always talk about fixing “broken” systems. We resolve to legislate for education, job creation, and systemic overhaul. These are helpful and definitely needed BUT we have done all of these things ad nauseum and look at us!! Without a change of heart these attempts fail us. So what can we say? What can we do?
Systems are broken because people are broken and if systems are fixed without hearts being changed the result will be a legalistic attempt that will lack long-term results. Our problems are wholistic and common to the human heart. Hatred, prejudice, exploitation, pride, self righteousness, secrecy, and rebellion, manifest itself in the explosions we’ve seen over the last year, the last century, and the last millennia.
Tonight I see so much entrenched pain without remedy. Most are handling it without violence while a few are committing the unacceptable.
Tonight I see young children, asking like my daughter did earlier, “What’s happening daddy”, in desperate need of parents to walk them through these disturbing scenes.
Tonight I see “smoke,” but we must address the fire. The response that we are watching is just “smoke” from years of hopelessness.
After each situation the more I am convinced that the love of God for our fellow brothers and sisters who were created in His image, is our only hope for reconciliation. But the only way we can even see him that way is if God illuminates our view and changes our thought process. I’m not talking about holding hands and singing. Love is an action that compels one to treat another with dignity and respect even if they don’t deserve it. It pushes for education and opportunities for those in poverty. It gives identity and self worth. It administers justice without abuse. It honors authority and promotes peace. It is not weak, but strong for what is right!
Tonight I see a brokenness that only Christ can give us the wisdom and power to mend.
We pray for every disaster that happens to us. Bombings, natural disasters, cancer and outbreaks. What we’ve seen in our country lately deserves that same attention. Our attempts to fix this have fallen short.
We, and most importantly, the body of Christ, must stand for justice in all areas, for all people. We must set the standard for the correct way to treat people.
Tonight I pray for the pastors, leaders, police and community of Baltimore.
Tonight I ?#?PrayForAmerica?.
I’ll end on more wise words from the man who raised me — “IT’S NOT A BLACK AND WHITE WORLD, IT’S A GOOD OR BAD WORLD. AND IF YOU KEEP GOD IN YOUR HEART, YOU WILL MAKE IT.”
Image: Benjamin Watson Official Facebook Page