Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. Psalm 85
We don’t get to choose the scene of our own sacrifice. Oswald Chambers
Oswald Chambers spoke a hard truth in his classic devotional My Utmost for His Highest: “We don’t get to choose the scene of our own sacrifice.”
I’d like to venture an interpretation and application of Chambers’ claim as it relates to the issue of police reform and Black Lives Matter.
I know many white people are struggling to reconcile their growing commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement with their appreciation and concern for the police. Bear with me, and I will walk us to a piece of spiritual wisdom that might help with this tension.
First the meaning of Chambers’ statement: Chambers was suggesting that people enjoy laying down their lives for certain causes. Sometimes a person or group feels called to a hard task and is willing to suffer greatly to complete the task or succeed at some mission or noble vocation. And sometimes our sacrificial streak aligns perfectly with our opportunities to complete the mission we we have in mind; but, quite often it does not. Quite often, while we have a hankering to lay down our lives for one thing, Life/God lead us to a frightening scene of painful sacrifice, which is not of our own choosing and beyond imagination.
We see this dynamic in the life of Christ Jesus, during a conversation with the Father the night before his crucifixion. Jesus asked the Father to “let this cup pass from me.” Brutal lynching was not something Jesus was looking for—even to save the world. Rather, this type of death came to Jesus in a most unwelcome way. We don’t get to choose the scene of our own sacrifice.
There is a hard scene of sacrifice (or “cup”) which has come to the community of law enforcement in this nation. Few people want to see the whole law enforcement community drinking a “cup” of criticism, blame, defunding or dismantling. People care about the police. As a result, many people are afraid to stand on the rock of racial righteousness and proclaim “black lives matter” for fear of harming the institution of law enforcement and/or disheartening the officers who have chosen this sacrificial career.
But we don’t get to choose the scene of our own sacrifice—not even the police. Enslaved Africans didn’t get to choose then and the police force doesn’t get to choose now. There will be a dreadful swim through dark waters.
This is a strange moment for white America—one we have been avoiding for centuries.
The path to racial righteousness and societal wholeness will lead us into sacrifice beyond imagination. There are no rails of fairness within this ordeal to ensure that only racially violent officers are criticized. All officers will be part of this reckoning. All precincts will sacrifice. And Americans who stand up for black lives will suffer alongside. I’ve never met a person or group who wants to go through the valley of the shadow in order to be healed and whole.
Wholeness is not about being right. Wholeness is not perfection. Wholeness is process. We each must choose our own imperfect path to wholeness. If you choose to join an imperfect movement called Black Lives Matter, it does not mean you’ve chosen against the police. Anyone who tells you that is playing you.
Here are three spiritual practices that will be part of our journey to wholeness.
- Practice activism and enter the arena of racial justice— accepting that there will be pain for the police and everyone who has enjoyed police protection over the centuries. It’s not your job to spare everyone’s feelings. You can’t.
- Practice empathy. We’ve all be in a position where we were handed a “cup” of punishment for the sin of someone else. Jesus was. How can you draw on your painful experience and extend understanding and compassion to the police as they face the inevitable pain of reckoning and reform.
- Practice non-judgment. Show mercy to our black siblings who have been asking for our mercy for centuries. Show mercy to the police who are being led to an unwelcome scene of painful sacrifice.
And look up! Read Psalm 85 and anticipate the peace, love and righteousness that flow from the heart of God to God’s faithful children.
Rest well, Katie