Protesters, Police, and A Third Way

This is what the Church should look like.

This is what the Church should look like.

There are more than a few different things pulling the tears from my eyes tonight…. More than just watching Macklemore and Ryan Lewis sing “Same Love” tonight on the Grammys while 33 couples got married by Queen Latifah (I know how it sounds, but it was actually really cool). More than some other stuff that is weighing on my heart that I don’t really feel free to share about. This morning at Church, I listened to an amazing man challenge a mostly white congregation in a mostly white county to open our eyes to the continuing reality of injustice concerning issues of race and prejudice, and his message still has me reeling. But it’s more than that too. I have felt like I have spent this entire day fighting back the tears. And then I looked at the picture above (you can see more pictures HERE), and I stopped trying to not cry. It was a mess….

I don’t have a whole lot to say. I really just want you, whoever you are, to spend a little while looking at this picture. I don’t know all that much about what is going on in Ukraine that has led to these violent protests and this civil uprising, but I want you to look at this picture. And SEE it…. See the grays of the wall. See the shell of the bus that has been set on fire and burned down to the metal. See the guns and shields of the militarized riot police. See the rocks in the hands of the protestors. See the two sides–Both of them so sure that they are the side who has got it right.

And then see the man standing in-between them. See him clutching a cross in his hand. See the look on his face. See the swath of color on the stole in the middle of all that darkness. See the prayer on his lips. And see his other hand raised in the air–I’m not sure whether he is extending his hand in prayer or using it to call for calm and an end to the violence, and I don’t really care. Because when I see this man standing between these opposing sides–In the middle of the fight–I see Jesus. I see The Kingdom of God. I see a picture of what the Church has been called to be in the world. I see a third way. I see a different way of doing things, and I can barely see the picture through the tears.

And this third way does not “stay out of it.” The third way is in the middle of the fight, but it stands up tall, and cries out for peace. It calls for an end to the fighting, to the bullets, and to the war of words on the issues that continue to divide the world and this country and this city and even our families into “us” and “them.” And so, when the world splits into left and right, democrat and republican, liberal and conservative–both sides so sure that THEY are the ones who have got it right…. We stand bravely in the middle of that fight, clutching a cross, and we declare to the world that there is a third way.

But it’s not that the third way doesn’t take sides–It’s just that it always takes the side of LOVE. And it follows the example of Jesus, who, when given the choice between siding with the law and siding with love, ALWAYS CHOSE LOVE. It naturally roots for the underdog and works for the rights of the powerless and the vulnerable, but NOT by demonizing the opposition. And not through more hatred or violence either, but through the powerful weapon of loving even those who hate you. The third way stands with the powerless and the vulnerable because it recognizes the truth that we are here to take care of each other. And it understands that the folks who don’t get this yet just need a little more help.

So when the internet blows up with people throwing stones of hate and shooting bullets of self-righteousness over an issue like same-sex marriage, the third way stands up and calls for peace and an end to the fighting, and then it stands with the vulnerable and declares love to the broken. When someone in your family has been hurt, and a fight starts over who’s right and who’s wrong, the third way asks for forgiveness and loves mercy. And when the world finds new synonyms for the word “nigger” and starts calling people “thugs,” the third way speaks the truth and doesn’t run from dialog. It takes no joy in more segregation, but rejoices in reconciliation–All while meeting ignorance with compassion, and hatred with love. Oh Church, let us be brave enough to stand in the middle of the fighting, clutching the cross, calling for peace, working towards justice, declaring hope and love and reconciliation to a world that desperately needs a third way!

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16 Responses to Protesters, Police, and A Third Way

  1. Joy Cuadrante says:

    What a beautiful article. Yes there are days when I also have to hold back tears and those days are when Jesus’ presence is so strong in the people around me.

  2. Barry Hoff says:

    Blessed are the Peace makers! I have friends in the Ukraine working for this peace. We must be “wise as serpents and gentle as doves”.Jesus promises us a peace that is different than what the world gives. We must protect the innocent and individual God -Given liberty for all. At the same time value human life and dignity. Always remember, our Sovereign God has a plan and He is at the center. He said “I am the Way , the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father but by Me”. The State will not be a substitute for that. It has proven throughout history to resort to murder and mayhem. The man with the cross in the picture is bravely pointing to the Way. His focus is in the right place. He is doing that because God is alive within him. The state has stifled that still small voice in others. Buildings in the Ukraine that were once beautiful monuments to the worship of God are now ‘state run symbols of oppression and death”. However, the Church is alive in the hearts and souls of many of its people!

  3. Yes. This. Thanks for putting it into words.

  4. Barry Hoff says:

    Have a couple questions about the opening paragraph and subsequent post….
    First off, is the writer elated that same sex couples now participate in the time honored institution called marriage?
    Second question. If it were not for the Word of God, how would any of us know about this man called Jesus who declared Himself to be “from God” and died as a result of that claim?
    Thirdly, what did Jesus Himself and His Word say about this “new” definition of marriage that represents the relationship of Christ and His Church?
    I think I know how this will be answered, and it will skirt around the actual teachings that Christ taught….but I would like to leave readers with one thought that an Apostle of my Lord left us with. It is a sad prediction from the same Word that revealed Jesus to us.
    “Many will be godlike in form, but they will deny the power thereof”

    If we are going to claim Christ as our model, and if we truly call Him Lord, we need to be completely honest about it. I say this in a peaceful way and it only reflects the Truth.

    ….

    • cici says:

      The answer to the same sex marraige Monogamy. Promised faithfullness…
      Yes I’m pretty sure that what the author was thrilled about.

      • Barry Hoff says:

        Thrilled about the power of one mans stand to instill peace through the power of Christ on the one hand, then denying the sanctity of marriage as defined by His teachings on the other. It could be called by another name, but for Christians…..it’s not marriage.

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  6. artsifrtsy says:

    Beautiful. How often we are tempted to take a side and forget that our job is to be like Jesus. I saw this photo online a few days ago and it hit me – the quiet bravery of standing literally in the gap. Your post challenges me to follow him and not necessarily his followers. Nicely done.

  7. Lolita says:

    Thank you for sharing your raw emotion with us. We need more of this. Words can heal and they can cut I have found. I made a choice long ago to use my “powers” for good and leave behind weapons of ugly words. Keep on sharing your stories.

  8. Pingback: The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear. | rhondaisgrateful

  9. Peggy F says:

    Chris; this is beautiful and outstanding. I would echo the questions asked by Barry Hoff, as I also find myself troubled by the dichotomy he refers to, but as a call to find a third way when hatred and violence dominate, you have issued an all-too-rare appeal for the way of Christ. Thank you for keeping a tender heart.

  10. Chris Shaffer says:

    Sounds like God has spoken to you. That is truly the most amazing experience ever. Good word, Chris. Thanks for putting it out there.

  11. Jan toraason says:

    Thank you for your open heart.

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  13. Pingback: “Lord, make us instruments…” | MennoNerds

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