A Prayer for Ferguson

There’s a verdict about to be delivered.

Probably this week, the grand jury will deliver a verdict on Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, MO police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown back in August. In preparation for the announcement, the state of Missouri has declared a State of Emergency and activated the State National Guard. Everyone knows things could get ugly at any moment.

This morning I spent some time with the Hebrew Prophet Micah. In chapter six, Micah is reminding the people what God is really into: not religious ritual, but a life that demonstrates love for God in tangible ways. Micah 6:8 is a concise summary: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” (ESV)

Justice. Kindness. Humility.

Would you join me in praying?

Pray for justice. Not bloodlust, angry, vengeful kind of justice. Justice, as in: the ability to see clearly and wisely, and administer consequences that will make Ferguson—and by extension, all of our cities—places where people of every color can live with a sense of dignity and mutual respect. Justice, as in: the ability to see more broadly than this specific instance, taking into consideration patterns of systemic injustice in the history of our nation. I don’t envy the people on that jury, but I’m grateful for their service and I’m praying they’ll have Solomon-like wisdom.

Pray for kindness. It sounds like such a soft, weak word…but it isn’t. It’s the commitment to view another person—even one with whom you disagree—as a fellow human being, bearing the image of the same Creator. And then to treat that person accordingly. It means giving someone the benefit of the doubt, instead of labeling them as a villain or writing them off. It means refusing the easy path of fear, suspicion, and talking past one another. It means actually taking the time to consider the other person’s story, and how the wounds of their past affect who they are today. I’m shaped by a man whose dying words were breathtakingly kind: a prayer for the forgiveness of his enemies. I’m praying for that spirit to gain the upper hand in Ferguson, and around here.

And pray for humility. Maybe the clearest way to grasp humility is to consider its opposite: arrogant, self-righteous confidence that I am right. Are we willing to admit that the way we’ve thought about Ferguson could be wrong? That we could have a significant blind spot that affects the way we’ve looked at this situation, and others like it? The thing about blinds spots is that we’re blind to them. And then, when we try to remove the speck of wrong from someone else’s eye, we look ridiculous because of the board lodged in our own eye. It can be hard to define humility, but we know it when we see it…and I’m praying for it to be seen this week.

One more thing, and this is a challenge to people like me, who live in a primarily white, upper-middle class suburb. When I read the Hebrew prophets, I am reminded of the words from Jesus’ first sermon: “Blessed are those who mourn…blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Too often, when I am confronted with the obvious disparity between races in the cities of my country, I don’t mourn at all. I shrug it off; I lock the doors and drive quickly through that neighborhood toward the airport. When I’m reminded how racial inequalities affect the children born into inner-city communities, I don’t hunger and thirst for a more just world for them; I have enough stress raising my own kids.

And Ferguson is reminding me to mourn, and to hunger and thirst for something better—for the same kind of world the prophets ached for and ranted about; the same kind of world that Jesus died for. This all matters so much for the future of our kids, and our country, and for the integrity of those of us who claim to follow Jesus.

And it’s worth stopping everything else so we can pray for Ferguson today. Will you join me?