"You should be ashamed of yourself."
At one point or another, we've all heard those words. Typically not after accidents or making mistakes; an accident means we couldn't control the circumstances, and a mistake means we didn't know any better. No, these words are usually reserved precisely for that moment when we've done something dumb -- but could have controlled the circumstances. Or did know better.
So, America: You should be ashamed of yourself. Yes, you reading this. And me, writing it. We should be ashamed of ourselves.
We haven't made mistakes. We haven't caused accidents. We've done dumb things. White people have. Black people have. Police officers have. Friendly people who live quietly in the suburbs have. My ancestors have. Your ancestors have. Because that's what sinners do. No one is innocent. Maybe we've never shot anyone, but have we been angry? (Matthew 5.21-22) Maybe we're not out spewing hate at a protest, but have we loved our enemies and prayed for them? (Matthew 5.43-45) Maybe we haven't been obnoxious about why "they" are wrong, but are we sure we're not wrong, too? (Matthew 7.3-5)
We all think the whole world should experience what I do every day. If they did, everyone would chill out and we'd all get along. And if they don't -- they're wrong. It's a complex problem, but it's not only a problem of race (although that's a factor some of the time). It's not only a problem of abuse of power (although that's a factor some of the time). The bottom line is just simply not that black and white -- but somewhere at the bottom of it all, there is selfishness -- and selfishness comes in every color. My experience is the standard for the universe. No one understands things the way I do. You can't know what it's like to be me, so your opinion is invalid. I think you're overreacting, so you must be wrong. I, I, I, me, me, me. Maybe we haven't stopped thinking about ourselves long enough to actually treat other people the way we want to be treated. (Matthew 7.12)
I'm guilty of it and you are too. Reading through Facebook or Twitter, rolling our eyes at some comment that seems unspeakably ignorant. "What an idiot," we think to ourselves as we keep scrolling. "If they only knew what I know."
Then for a few, it goes beyond heart-level arrogance and selfishness. Regrettable actions take place. It turns into hate and murder. Pull the pin on that out-of-context statistic and lob it out there on the interwebs. Cops use more force than necessary. Then the protests and retaliation. Name calling. Accusations. And at the end of the day, all we've done is lost husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters -- while millions of iPhone judge-jury-executioners confidently pronounce their verdict, but only after examining all the evidence in the 23 seconds it took the event to transpire and the video get a #trendinghashtag.
We should be ashamed. Embarrassed. Red all over.
There is One Who Understands
There is One, though, who knows what it's like to have power and use it appropriately. There is One who understands what it's like to be falsely accused -- and not only accused, but beaten, tortured, ultimately murdered unjustly like many have over the past few days. He was red all over. Not from embarrassment; he had done nothing wrong. Not from shame; he volunteered. He was red all over because his blood was poured out to cover our selfishness, arrogance, prejudice, hate, anger, slander, all the dumb things we do, every reason we have to be ashamed of ourselves. (Isaiah 53)
Jesus came to cover our shame. And there is no healing, no reconciliation, no understanding until we seek him. Yes, we have a problem with racism. Yes, we have a problem with pride. But Jesus began his ministry with the word, "Repent" -- which is the first step when you have a sin problem. (Matthew 4.17) Turn away from ourselves and turn to him. We can't fix it with conversation, movements, protests, or laws.
We need Jesus. We need to repent.