I hate the news. As soon as it pops onto my TV, you can be assured that I quickly change the channel, but not before the words “ugh, I hate the news” escape my mouth. Overloaded with despair as the headlines proclaim the latest act of terrorism or hatred, I choose not to watch. I always end up hearing what I need to know either through good ole social media or simple word of mouth, so I figure, why bother tuning in. But this weekend was different. Obsessed with the Olympics, I turned on our local channel expecting to hear the nightly wrap up, see the medal count, and maybe catch an interview with Michael Phelps. Instead, I was greeted with live breaking coverage of a fire broken out in a neighborhood ten minutes from me. Confused and quickly catching up on what was happening, I was shocked when I realized that a riot had broken out in Milwaukee. Businesses were burned down, bricks were thrown, and countless shots were fired. The vicious cycle of violence upon violence had found its way into my city.
That kind of evil isn’t supposed to come here. This isn’t supposed to happen in my city; that’s just something that happens far away on the news. I have friends who live in that neighborhood. I attended church just steps away from Sherman Park. That burning gas station is on my way to physical therapy. The cops that are in riot gear as if in a war torn land respond to my calls. The people affected by the fires and the chaos, are parents of the students where my sister teaches. This time, I couldn’t shut off the TV. With an open mouth and a heavy heart I watched as the riot progressed and the fires multiplied.
I awoke Sunday with a heavy heart. I struggled to join in with worship at church because it felt too joyful. It didn’t feel right to be happy and praising when people’s businesses had been destroyed and fear instilled the hearts of an entire community. Feeling angry and torn, I mouthed the words and sang lightly without passion. But then it hit me, I can praise because there is hope. God did not intend for life to look like this. He created the world perfect, without sadness, without pain, without death – but when sin came into the world that perfection was broken. Sin entered in, and with it came terrorism, racism, hatred, and destruction. When this happened, God’s heart was broken – and continues to break every time a tear falls. But, God found a way to restore the brokenness, to defeat the power of sin by sacrificing His son to the cross. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, this darkness that we see, that we experience day in and day out is not the end. Colossians 2:15 says, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” Evil will not win.
For a moment, put yourself in the shoes of the families who live in the area where the riots took place. Imagine nonstop sirens and chaos filling your streets. Take a deep breath and envision your lungs filled with smoke from one of the five fires surrounding your neighborhood. Consider the anger you’d feel towards the violence happening in your backyard. Towards the people causing your children fear more real than monsters under their beds. Think about the challenge to raise your children, confident and kind, when the world is commonly raised to answer hate with more hate. Now consider this – what if you thought that’s all there was? What if you didn’t know that there’s a God who loves you no matter what? What if you didn’t know that Christ conquered the power of sin and death and that this violence will end? What if you didn’t know that there was hope?
Without hope, I would be terrified. I would have a terrible time encouraging my children that there’s good people left in the world. I would be angry. And let’s be honest, I’d probably be throwing bricks too.
When this world is a hot mess, when the news is screaming bloody murder, we have to cling to the hope we have in Christ and we have to proclaim it. As followers of Christ, who know that there is such a thing as perfect love that drives out all fear, we have to play a role in making that known. Instead of joining the argument, trying to explain away what happened or justify from our own knowledge, we need to speak truth about our God who saves.
I don’t have all the answers. And I am most definitely not claiming to know what it felt like to be on either side of this destruction. But I do know that our response must be love. 1 Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
When we are tempted to join in the anger of our city, let’s stand firm in the love of our savior Jesus Christ. Let’s pray for the angry, for the scared, for the police, for the Sherman Park community, for the innocent children, for the youth needing courage to stand up against peer pressure, for those choosing violence instead of peace, and above all else, let’s pray for Jesus’ name to be known.
My heart continues to break for Milwaukee – for my city, for my people, for my neighbors. But I know that there is hope. Tonight I’m praying and proclaiming these lyrics by Rend Collective over our city, and my prayer is that you might join me.
We are Your church
We are the hope on earth
Build Your kingdom here
Let the darkness fear
Show Your mighty hand
Heal our streets and land
Set Your church on fire
Win this nation back
Change the atmosphere
Build Your kingdom here