As I write this, the Governor of Maryland has called out the National Guard, parts of Baltimore are on fire, the rubble grows, and violence is sweeping the city.
I think there are partisan points to make, but I prefer not to make them here. I think there are political points to make, but I prefer in this not to make them. My heart just breaks for those people — for the people who feel the need to riot, for those who would cheer them on, and for the actual victims whose property and, in some cases, lives are destroyed. My heart breaks for the loss of trust, the loss of life, the loss of property, and the loss of community. My heart breaks knowing that in some cases there never was trust or life or community.
People are going to offer political solutions. People are going to offer partisan solutions. Campaign 2016 is upon us, the former Governor of Maryland is a contender. What is happening in Baltimore could potentially be just another useful tool in a partisan cog for a political machine somewhere. Regardless, checks will be written. Large sums of money will be paid. And the fact of the matter is that nothing will really improve. People will talk about improving things. Some people will even try to improve things. But I don’t think things will really, actually improve much.
There are partisan points and there are political points. But ultimately this is an issue of culture. Culture is an issue politics does not shape. Culture, instead, shapes politics. Culture flows downstream and, like a river, carves and erodes. Our culture continues to erode things and we now have politicians and activists who surf the rapids of that cultural river as it courses through politics and they seek to make names for themselves over the eroded society.
Further downstream we are just left with mud and silt. That mud and silt can be fertile ground for seeds. And there is one seed that can be planted that no storm or flood or drought or fire can uproot or destroy. That seed’s name is Jesus. And His blood is the only thing that can save Baltimore from itself and us from ourselves.
Politicians will come and go and profit and lose. The Church should make the many Baltimores of this world its mission field.
When we reach the point of death and destruction and riots in our streets, we have moved beyond the political. No political salve can ever fully calm or heal. Politicians will talk and promise and blame, but they fall short. They, like you and I, are sinners. Baltimore needs more than another bunch of sinners talking promises.
To quote Dr. King:
You may not be able to define God in philosophical terms. Men through the ages have tried to talk about him. Plato said that he was the Architectonic Good. Aristotle called him the Unmoved Mover. Hegel called him the Absolute Whole. Then there was a man named Paul Tillich who called him Being-Itself. We don’t need to know all of these high-sounding terms. Maybe we have to know him and discover him another way.
One day you ought to rise up and say, “I know him because he’s a lily of the valley.” He’s a bright and morning star. He’s a rose of Sharon. He’s a battle-axe in the time of Babylon. And then somewhere you ought to just reach out and say, “He’s my everything. He’s my mother and my father. He’s my sister and my brother. He’s a friend to the friendless.” This is the God of the universe. And if you believe in him and worship him, something will happen in your life. You will smile when others around you are crying. This is the power of God.
Go out this morning. Love yourself, and that means rational and healthy self-interest. You are commanded to do that. That’s the length of life. Then follow that: Love your neighbor as you love yourself. You are commanded to do that. That’s the breadth of life. And I’m going to take my seat now by letting you know that there’s a first and even greater commandment: “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy strength.” I think the psychologist would just say with all thy personality. And when you do that, you’ve got the breadth of life.
And when you get all three of these together, you can walk and never get weary. You can look up and see the morning stars singing together, and the sons of God shouting for joy. When you get all of these working together in your very life, judgement will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.
When you get all the three of these together, the lamb will lie down with the lion.
When you get all three of these together, you look up and every valley will be exalted, and every hill and mountain will be made low; the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places straight; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh will see it together.
When you get all three of these working together, you will do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.
When you get all three of these together, you will recognize that out of one blood God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth.