How Do We Respond?

Judgement or Love?By now, countless millions of tweets, posts, blogs and articles have been written about the outcome of the George Zimmerman / Trayvon Martin case. Chances are you’ve read, and perhaps even written, more than a few yourself. Almost everyone has picked a side; some have been very outspoken about their position while others have remained more subdued. Many have cast blame in the direction they deem appropriate, and more than a few seem to have somehow miraculously passed the bar exam overnight.

From the time of the incident, through every minute of the trial and continuing until today, emotions and rhetoric have run high. Television talking heads and social media pundits have battled back and forth on issues of race, equality, gun rights and the fairness (or lack thereof) of the U.S. justice system.

Loud and proud
I have watched wincingly as many of the Christians I know jumped headlong into the fray, voicing their opinions for all the world to hear. It’s times like these that I find myself wishing for some obscure verse in Revelation that would tie social media to the mark of the beast, scaring a lot of my Christian friends off it for good. Why? Because, in most cases, most of what I have seen and heard from my fellow believers surrounding the Zimmerman / Martin tragedy has sounded a whole lot more like politics, pride and, at times, racism than anything even remotely close the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Consider this. In John 13:35, Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (ESV). Jesus is saying here that the defining mark of a Christian – what makes a Christian stand out from the world – is love. Not being right. Not voicing their strong opinions. Not condemnation or judgment. Love.

Does not rejoice in wrongdoing
How do we define love in a biblical sense? 1 Corinthians 13 gives the answer: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (v. 4-8).

Kind. Not rude. Not irritable or resentful. Does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

Regardless of your personal opinion about the guilt or innocence of George Zimmermann, there were no winners here. Not one. Trayvon Martin lost his life. Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton lost a son. George Zimmerman will look over his shoulder until the day he dies, and our nation appears to be more divided than ever.

And yet here we sit, as Christians, with the only real answer to it all. The question is this: are we showing the world the love that Jesus said would set us apart from the rest, or are we – just like the unbelieving world around us – dropping bombs of opinion on anyone and everyone who will listen?

I have my own opinion about the case. It’s one I have shared with very few people and one I’m certainly not going to share with you here. But here’s the thing; my opinion on the matter, as well as yours, is completely irrelevant and insignificant. Do I really think that someone’s going to change their mind because of some witty tweet or cutting Facebook post I write? I mean, since I was there on that fateful April morning as an eyewitness and all, everyone should certainly listen to what I have to say about the right and wrong of all parties involved, right?

Love is the mandate
Perhaps we, as Christians, would do better to keep our ill-informed opinions to ourselves and, instead, strive to love like Jesus. When Jesus saw people hurting, he hurt with them. When he saw mankind in desperate need of love, comfort and rescue, he shed his divinity and willingly descended into the sewer of depravity, ugliness and pain that is mankind. And he spent his earthly ministry among the desperate, poor, needy and broken – among those who were undone and weren’t afraid to admit it.

You see, I’m about as white as the cream filling inside the recently-resurrected Twinkie. I’ve never spent any significant time entrenched in black culture, and I certainly have no idea what it feels like to be black. Whether right or wrong, I see my black Christian brothers and sisters hurting and burdened as a result of this verdict. And I believe that a taking posture of disinterest and disdain and entertaining any attitude along the lines of of “they’re just playing the race card and turning this into a black thing” would align me a whole lot more closely with a judgmental, self-righteous Pharisee than it would with my savior who literally climbed into people’s pain and hurt with them.

In time, the emotion surrounding this tragedy will pass. A new controversy will arise and, in our time of ever growing interconnectedness, the minutemen will arise to fire off their canons of opinion. When that time comes, will those of us who belong to Christ be quick to light a fuse ourselves, our will we allow the love that transcends race, law, courtrooms and opinions to be that which defines us?

Justin Young is a Writer/Editor for the Good News. He can be reached via email at [email protected] or on Twitter at @thejustinyoung.

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