Betty Shelby killed Terence Crutcher. That is not in doubt. It is an undisputed fact.
None of us were there that day. We didn’t get a look in the eyes of each of the persons involved in this tragedy. We didn’t witness it first hand, on the ground in real time. But thanks to the miracle of media we were given a video replay of the events.
Each of us drew our own conclusions about what happened that day. For most, that meant we took a side. But our side didn’t matter, in the end. The only conclusion that did was that of the jury in the case. And Wednesday night, they drew their conclusion: not guilty.
We all came to Wednesday night from different backgrounds, different jobs, different upbringings and belief systems and baggage. We came from different sides of the issue and different sides of the city. And we leave going in different directions.
As a community, theChurchat is very diverse. Though you may not see it at your campus, when you look at all of our campuses together, when you view all of our people at once, you can see the diversity. We are white and black and brown. We are American and Egyptian and Hispanic and Arab. We speak several different languages, like different foods, root for different teams, and have different political opinions.
As the pastor of such a diverse group of people, I have a joy and responsibility. I must continually evaluate and reevaluate where I stand on a given topic. I must make sure that I never say anything, do anything, or believe anything that may spoil this great diversity. But most of the time, I get to joy in it. I get to meet so many amazing people and hear their incredible stories.
This is all about stories. And sometimes we choose to only pay attention to the stories – or the side of the stories – that we like. They say “every story has two sides.” They’re wrong. Every story has multiple sides. Sometimes, it’s dozens! And we do a great disservice to ourselves, our church, and our God when we think that our side is always the right side.
We may glorify God in the same church, but we can't walk in the same skin. It would be irresponsible to think that our individual ideas about the outcome of this trial are relevant to all individuals in all situations. When the verdict came down, there were those who were happy and those who were sad. Some rejoiced and others mourned. But all of them are our neighbors and our fellow brothers and sisters. At the end of the day, we live together.
Here’s what I think needs to happen to protect and respect the diversity among us after something like this:
And I mean really listen. Not just hear and walk away. But sit down with someone you disagree with, ask the tough questions, and then give them time to respond.
Slapping a post on social media where you’re “Yes it is!” is the only response you give to their “No it’s not!” is not listening. It’s merely tracing the same old lines where rhetoric overtakes reason and communication fails.
In order to listen, it’s going to take humility. It’s about believing this other person, though they are different than you, has as much right to their opinions as you do. Put yourself second and listen to their story.
There’s so much you can learn from someone different than you. Real listening will always lead to learning. It may mean that you change your opinion. But even if you don’t, it’s more informed, more reasoned, and better educated.
What’s it take to learn? First of all, it takes patience. You can’t jump to the end and mass produce a conclusion. When you microwave learning, you end up with a half-baked relationship. It takes time and patience. But it also takes gentleness. You need to believe in the other person and give them the honor of their insight and opinion.
Most of our differences of opinions stem from disagreement about how to tackle a problem. Instead of allowing these differences to divide, use action as a bridge. We can both agree that there were multiple issues involved in the Shelby/Crutcher case. And these issues all involve us in one way or another. Let’s lean in together to find solutions.
It will take being compassionate – really feeling what others are going through, to the point of action – and kindness – acting out of a sense of value for the other person, not just pity. When compassion and kindness have their end result, you see the whole church rise up in the city and Jesus is glorified.
There are so many ways that theChurchat is working with others and in itself to help solve problems. There are so many ways that you can lean in together to help us. Don’t miss out!
Looking over that list. Those words may sound familiar to you. If they do, it’s because they’re found in scripture:
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let these words guide as us we unity through our differences and diversity over the coming days and weeks. May God bless us as a church and a community, may Jesus forgive us for our impatience and lack of compassion, and may the Spirit guide us to something better. Amen.