Ferguson, truth and empathy

“Well, he did rob that store…”

“The facts of the case say…”

Over the past few months, I’ve both heard and said, sadly, the above.

Our church, Worthington Christian Church, just completed a 6 week message series entitled “Acts of God.” Primarily it dealt with “the problem of pain”- how do Christians reconcile the concept of a good God in the midst of suffering. I feel that there were 2 components- 1) how do we, as Christians, reconcile God and pain, and 2) how do we, as Christians, serve, love and minister to those in pain.

In the midst of the study, I found the following question: “Can a message to a grieving person be both true and unhelpful?” The answer, clearly, is “Yes.”

Going back to my early years, I remember being told “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Frankly, I’ve been a miserable failure at this. Throughout the Proverbs, there is admonishment after admonishment about keeping our tongues (18:21 and 21:23 among others). In Matthew 12:34, Jesus is quoted, “For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Jesus’s own brother James compares the power of the tongue to a bit in the mouth of a horse, the rudder of a ship and a small spark. Then, he says this,

The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell…It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

To all of this, I would add Paul’s challenge from Ephesians to “speak the truth in love.”

How do we do this? What might truth-telling in love look like?

James 1:19 says, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.”

Is this the time for, “Well, he did rob that store…”?

Is this the time for, “The facts of the case are…”?

So, today, before you post that tweet, that Facebook status or that blogpost, stop and think:

T – is it true?
H – is it helpful?
I – is it inspiring?
N – is it necessary?
K – is it kind?

Note: No doubt, this post falls a little short in what I was hoping to express. In that spirit, I’d love your insights and thoughts.



Filed under #Ferguson

2 responses to “Ferguson, truth and empathy

  1. To the point, John. I appreciate your heart and honesty. To me, James 1:19 is an underrated principle we, as Christians, fail to put into daily practice.

    • Shawn,

      Thanks for the comment. It’s easy to be outside of this (as I am, sitting here in my office in Minnesota) and spout platitudes. And yet, we are called as Christians to be as Jesus was. One of the things that’s I’ve been working on personally over the past year is that it’s ok that my voice is not always heard. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, yet the lesson is long overdue.

      I pray that we all find the peace of Christ in this situation.

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