© 2020 Robert Osburn
Why do the nations rage, and the peoples plot in vain? (Psalm 2:1)
The horrid murder of a black man—a human being with full God-given dignity and responsibilities to glorify His Creator and to protect His world while also producing goods and services that serve his neighbor— by a white policeman on May 25 has unleashed what a neighbor called “demonic forces.” Thousands of youth (of all races, not just blacks) are rampaging and looting and burning and destroying at will as I write.
This unfolds in different regions of the Twin Cities, five to eight miles from our home, though concentrated tonight in South Minneapolis. It is a privilege to live in our secure suburbs, but hell for those living within blocks (like my campus minister friend Linda) of the unending anarchy. Last night alone, hundreds of businesses were destroyed, including the pharmacy owned by the godly son of an equally godly friend.
Reporters and news journalists openly ask tonight, “Where are the police and National Guard troops promised today?” They desperate plea for order to replace anarchy.
More than 30 years ago I learned about the importance of this when a Chinese PhD student jumped out of his chair as we read Galatians 5:13 together: You, my brothers, are called to be free. But, do not use your freedom to indulge your flesh. Rather, serve one another in love.
For most of human history, political leaders have understood one thing very clearly: Unless you minimize freedom while maximizing order (tyranny), then all hell will break loose. Because of this, great masses of the human race were called “slaves,” unworthy of the political freedom of a small favored minority (e.g., elites in ancient Rome and Greece).
This tiny minority of favored leaders throughout history would say, “Mayor Frey, you imagine yourself an enlightened progressive leader who feels the pain of racism against blacks. But, you, you dreamed a utopia while our bloody, reckless sinful nature surges underneath, waiting for an excuse to destroy your city! The past few nights you’ve seen what we can do!”
Maximize order, minimize freedom, and you will take back your city. Tyranny will save you, cry out leaders from the past (and many in the present).
But, the people rage in vain, destroying the very neighborhoods and hundreds of businesses where they live. In their fury against injustice, the rioting mob insists on maximizing freedom and minimizing order. And as I write this, they loot countless businesses that will never return because the cost of doing business in those neighborhoods will be too high.
Tonight, Minneapolis is on a seesaw between maximizing order while minimizing freedom (tyranny) and minimizing order while maximizing freedom (anarchy). The anarchs are winning tonight. But maybe tomorrow, order will finally be imposed, but at what loss to freedom?
The Apostle Paul offers a voice of wisdom from the Book of Galatians for communities of discipled followers of Christ: You can simultaneously maximize order and freedom! How? By teaching believers the discipline of refusing their own comforts while simultaneously blessing their neighbors and showing them respect.
My Chinese friend said of this idea: “This can change China!” Tonight, I wish that our churches had reckoned long ago to build deep interracial friendships while simultaneously teaching people how to discipline their flesh so that they seek to serve their neighbors in love. Thank God that local Wilberforce Academy mentee Waihon Liew envisions a program of racial reconciliation as his effort to dispel this darkness. A few others tonight in our distraught, disorganized, riotous city practice Paul’s teaching, sweeping up broken glass and the massive piles of detritus left behind by the mob that indulges its flesh by committing crimes that will forever haunt their souls.
Tragically, our schools, our media, and our leading institutions have delivered a radical message for the past half century that has produced these anarchs: “Be yourself! Be fulfilled! Your feelings are really what matters!” That way maximizes freedom and minimizes order.
And the most haunted of all are the four policeman, one of whom sits in jail for murder. Rather than loving their neighbor, these officers went to the other extreme and imposed maximum order while taking away George Floyd’s freedom to take another breath.
No, the problem is not systemic, unconscious, or structural racism, though I will never minimize the horrors of America’s Original Sin. It is, instead, wickedness that breeds the tyrant and the anarch in each of us.
We can only do better if we fall to our knees before our God and serve our neighbors in love.