On August 9, 2014, we had our third annual Freedom Arts Expo. We had over 50 kids show up and participate in music, dance, poetry, pottery, painting, drawing, jewelry making, and more. The rain stayed away, the sun shined, and our scholars learned, created, laughed, and smiled.
On August 9, 2014, young Michael Brown was dying after being shot by police officer Darren Wilson only 14 miles north of us in Ferguson. Whether you throw a tiny pebble or a huge rock into a pond, there will be ripples that will move across the water and hit the other sides. This tragic situation has created ripples. A young man is dead. His family will have to live without him. The city of Ferguson has been torn up. Issues of race have boiled over. Relationships between police officers and civilians are proving to be poor.
This matters to me. So I’ve prayed. I’ve cried. I’ve listened. I’ve vented. Prayed more. Cried more. Pondered. Stood with protestors. Prayed more. Pondered more. Went to meetings. Had conversations. Discussed solutions. Had arguments. Prayed more. Pondered more. Because this matters to me.
I think Michael Brown should still be alive. I think Darren Wilson screwed up big time. I think this tragedy is symptomatic of a much larger issue involving race and authority. I think all issues come down to being issues of the hearts of people. That’s what needs to be fixed first.
There were race and authority problems in Jesus’ time too. There was prejudice, corruption, crime, and hate. He was subjected to similar issues. He faced them. How? What did he do during his time?
He taught. He took a small group of people from all different walks of life and he taught them love and respect. He built them up. He healed people along the way. He walked away from the places and people that rejected him.
I discussed with my Freedom Arts staff what, if anything, we could or should do differently. My wise brother and Program Director Corey Williams reminded us that we are already doing something. We have been doing something. We’re teaching and building up the underserved and misunderstood. We’re teaching love and respect. We’re preaching faith, hope, and love. We’re preaching purpose, vision, and direction. We’re preaching God-given worth. We’re teaching that Jesus is the way, truth, and life.
So I challenged my team to do it more boldly, accurately, and often. I challenged them to consider their thoughts and feelings about this situation, and then share them with the community. I felt personally convicted to spread the message of Jesus that sometimes gets lost in church teachings: the message of true, sacrificial, unconditional love.
My friend, brother, and Freedom Arts Board member Kenny DeShields is an excellent songwriter who has several songs about love. One that comes to mind now says “when it’s tough, when it’s unfair, that’s when you love. When it’s uncomfortable, inconvenient, that’s when you love.” That’s the truth.
The Bible tells us to love each other and bear with each other (Ephesians 4, 1 Peter 4, the list goes on). It also tells us to weep with those who are weeping (Romans 12). That’s the truth.
We want justice. We want reconciliation. We want truth. All of those are found in love. It starts right there. Nothing changes without it. Start by loving. Start by lamenting, listening, and lifting up.
The truth is that there is no earthly solution for a spiritual problem. Situations are unfair, but there is justice in Christ. Relationships are broken, but there is restoration in Christ. Stories are skewed and biased, but there is truth in Christ. This truth is that he loves us, and this love produces hope.
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (Romans 5:3-5).
Follow Christ. Know the truth. Receive love. Get hope.
Andrew Gibson (Executive Director, Music Coordinator, Music/Academic Mentor)