We stood in the middle of Times Square, warmed by the rush of subway trains passing underneath and prayed for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done on Earth as it is in heaven. In the wake of another grand jury deciding not to indict a white police officer for killing an unarmed and severely outnumbered black man, we are driven once again to anger, sadness, fear, pain, grief, confusion, hopelessness and crippling disillusionment. Or at least some of us are.
"No more racist police," I saw a young white woman shout in the face of a helmeted, dark-skinned police officer. She did not see him as a person but instead as a henchman of an unjust system. And he reached for his baton and one of his industrial size zip ties to restrain this problem if necessary. They saw one another not as sons or daughters with stories and families who love them dearly and just want to see them come home safely. They saw one another as combatants; and anger reduced them to less than human in one another's eyes.
Tourists trying to get through the crowd to shop or watch a show proclaimed, "I'm not with them, let me through!" And the glowing billboards reminded everyone involved that there are better things to do than look at the injustice in ourselves or in the world. Watch a comedy show, get on a big bus tour, come to a strip club, go to the tree lighting ceremony (but only if you're not with them). To see the pain of so many as an inconvenience to those who were sight-seeing was salt in a festering wound. But to see the collective of those in pain not acknowledge the humanity in the southern and international tourists was equally stinging. In response to the dehumanization that me and so many other non-white communities experience, to see us dehumanize those in power is profoundly distressing. It is this reality that guided our prayers.
Jesus died for Pontius Pilate, the soldier that pierced His side and the mob that spit and hurled insults at our suffering savior. Romans 5:8 proclaims that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. So, if God's response to an unjust system, rampant abuse of power, and exploitation was radical, sacrificial love and grace - then Lord help us to do likewise.
Would followers of Jesus, follow Jesus to the Cross so that we may share in the power of the resurrection. Would we pray for police and protesters alike. Would we enter into the pain and suffering of those who don't look, sound, act, or think like us. Would we consider for a moment what it might be like for Eric Garner's wife at Thanksgiving or the cold, empty bed she now finds her self in. Would we think about the wife who is praying for her husband as he puts on a badge and works overtime on the West Side Highway. God help us to pause for a moment and recognize the image of God in every person that we encounter, especially the powerless. And in doing so respond to the powerful with prayer, fasting, and obedient peacemaking worthy of the God who calls us His children. In Jesus' name, let it be so.