Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:17)
Sunday afternoon the mayor of Rochester, New York, gave a news conference to address the protests in her city after a black man was killed by police officers who suffocated him. The mayor responded by affirming the police chief, while denouncing the incident and the officers who acted illegally. Yet, she still had a crisis: How to respond to riots without heightening the potential for violence? Here was her response.
After the police chief spoke, she introduced the pastor of a local church congregation. The mayor and the pastor outlined the plan for this evening’s protest response. The protestors were to organize at the church. Then as they marched to the destination, the church elders would stand between the police and the protestors. Placing an innocent party between two angry groups can create an environment where peace can be retained.
I was impressed with this mayor’s response. She understood the power of the church and the church understood its power to heal. Healing sometimes takes sacrificial love. The elders sacrificed their time and comfort to provide healing to their community. At its best, the church is uniquely qualified to bring divine healing and wholeness to society. The Rochester mayor understood and allowed the elders to witness to the compassionate love of God.
Today, pray for the Church universal and your congregation. In the midst of uncertain times, the Church is the hope of the world. Pray that each of our congregations find ways to step into the gap between anger and violence. When we have the courage to provide intelligent, planned responses to life’s injustices, the church remains relevant, and the community finds its healing. Keep praying God can continue to find new ways to use us to stand in the gap.