Baltimore: Riots, Racism & the Power of Prayer

As I watch the events unfold in Baltimore, I feel a multitude of emotions. It’s sad and painful to see the violence and rioting that is taking place. Buildings have been set ablaze, property has been destroyed and innocent people have been harmed.

In writing this, I don’t intend to pick a side… draw a line… point a finger… or pretend like I know all the answers.

I don’t believe that anyone knows all the answers.

I believe what we are seeing take place is much bigger and more complex than what can be discussed in a blog post, Facebook comment, Fox News interview or Presidential address. However, I do believe Christians are commissioned to bring light into otherwise dark situations.

As we seek to make sense of what we are witnessing, here a few things I have felt stirring in my heart amidst the complexities of the Baltimore riots.

  • Sin is the enemy; not people (not even rioters)

One thing I have noticed is how easy it is to place blame in the circumstances like Baltimore or Ferguson. We want to blame the police, or the rioters, or the accused. We want to throw guilt and condemnation on a particular person or group of people. We naturally fall into an “us” versus “them” mentality.

The truth is, however, that our battle isn’t against flesh and blood enemies (Ephesians 6:12). The battle is against sin. Whether it’s a police officer abusing his power or a rioter who is committing heinous acts of crime “in demonstration” – the enemy and root of each crime is still sin.

Making all police officers the enemy or an entire race of people the enemy helps no one. We must seek to do battle against the author of destruction and bring justice to the instruments used.

  • No President, politician or program will fix the brokenness we have witnessed in Baltimore and Fergusson

Despite what you may hear on the radio or see on TV, the brokenness we are witnessing will not be resolved by simply electing a new President or supporting a particular agenda. Unfortunately, just about everything of national importance eventually becomes a talking point or political wing to choose from.

If we’re not careful, we will start to care more about arguing the politics than we do loving the people involved.

When discussing difficult subjects like racism, injustice and tragedy our intentions must be about showing love and mercy – not simply trying to prove someone wrong. When we make it all about being right – no one wins. Everyone one has an opinion, but opinions are not what change the hearts of men – love is.

  • Prayer IS powerful enough to change things

While the issues of racism and injustice are large and complex I do believe there is hope. I firmly believe that prayer IS powerful enough to change things. I believe that prayer can turn rioters into peaceful protestors and crooked policemen into noble public servants. Some may say that prayer is too intangible and not a solid solution – but I firmly disagree.

God has split the sea (Exodus 14:21), made the sun stand still (Joshua 10:12) and caused the earth to shake in response to man crying out for Him to move (Acts 16:25-26).

We may not have a clear-cut answer for resolving the tensions of racism and injustice, but we do have a path. And I believe that path begins with prayer.

Martin Luther King Jr. realized the power of prayer to cut through racism as he gave his first national speech in Washington D.C. at a prayer meeting on May 17, 1957. The event was called the “Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom” and was one of the earliest non-violent demonstrations of the Civil Rights movement. It laid the groundwork for bringing equal rights to African-Americans in the United States.

Decades have passed, but I still believe in the reconciling power of prayer. Reconciliation may seem impossible in light of the recent tragedies, but God’s Word promises that He is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever imagine asking.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” Ephesians 3:20

So I think we should ask.

Regardless of where you stand, every Christian is equally capable and responsible for seeking God’s heart on this matter. For real change to occur we must pray that hearts are changed, not just minds.

Prayer may not instantly change things, but it’s a starting point with promised results.

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