One of the largest aspects of faith and religion is not our assurance of salvation or whether we will experience paradise in the afterlife, but our ethic of empathy and compassion here on earth. As we turn our attentions to current events and form our various viewpoints, we have to examine our lens and fit it to our ethic. As we form our thoughts and opinions on the issues of today, where is our empathy in the process?
One of the most controversial issues in America today is race relations. Though we have made tremendous strides from the 1800s and even 1960s, we still have miles to go. With that notion, we find the activist group Black Lives Matter (BLM). Many people across the country have taken issue with the group purely out of misunderstanding. With that misunderstanding we were introduced to the All Lives and subsequently Blue Lives Matter as alternatives to the BLM movement as if these terms were mutually exclusive. The function of the Black Lives Matter movement was to bring attention to the disproportionate killings and use of excessive force on African Americans and people of color by police. This was not to say all police were bad or that intra-racial violence, like all other races, was not an issue. It was simply to say, African Americans feel that some police are gunning them down in the streets like animals and the numbers prove it. They felt like recent events have shown that animals have more sacred worth in America than African Americans. Dog lives have found justice when they are killed and Black Lives matter also. In recent state history, we saw a person receive jail time for their part in dog fighting, but unarmed African Americans have been being killed by bad officers and no one has been convicted as if to say they did it to themselves. This is the cry of the movement.
The Christ of scripture did all that he could to change the condition of the marginalized and empathized with those who did not share his same views of economic status to the point that the Apostle Paul would later write out of his understanding of Christ that we should "rejoice with them that rejoice and weep with those who weep... and as much as possible live in harmony with all humankind." (Romans 12:15,18)
In our current cultural context the question comes, where is the person of faith? Who cries for the mothers and family members that bury their loved ones in these sad instances? Who comforts and offers genuine prayers of concern for these families and communities during their time of hurt? Not just African Americans, but anyone we may find a differing opinion with. In turbulent times, are we able to lay aside differences to care for and about one another? Jesus found himself in conversation with a woman in John 14 who was of a different race. In his interaction, he puts aside the many differences they had to offer her what she needed. What he offered would change her life and perspective. At the turbulent point in her life the differences didn't matter, he understood her need and stepped in to fulfill it. He was empathetic to her situation and compassionate in how he responded to her needs and her situation. Given Paul's theme, he put himself where she was in order to help bring about a change in her life.
To that end we must ask ourselves, what if it were our son, nephew, or husband that was killed in a routine traffic stop? what if it were our son or daughter that was murdered while enjoying their night out with friends? What if it was our family member that was slaughtered for wearing a uniform? What if it were our property taxes or well-being is effected by trash sites or poisoned water?
If our faith truly guides our decision making, then our ethic of empathy and compassion would be top priority. We would in the words of Steven Covey, "seek first to understand, then to be understood." Show your faith with your empathy and compassion. Don't allow yourself to be guided by misunderstanding. Allow empathy and love to be your guide. Do no harm, Do good, and stay in love with God. "Do justice, Love Mercy and Walk humbly with your God."(Micah 6:8)