I didn’t sleep last night. My native state is in turmoil. Minneapolis and St. Paul are burning. My friend Andy messaged at 3:00AM, “Police sirens all night, but at least the chopper isn't near my house anymore.” My brother and sister-in-law live in downtown Minneapolis. I worry.
I’m having flashbacks to my own experience in St. Louis after the shooting of Michael Brown in 2014. Black Lives Matter was born. Six years later, we are still struggling with which lives matter most.
The unrest of Ferguson stretched my understanding of Jesus’ Great Commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It’s easier to label than to love. Unrest has a way of polarizing existing opposites.
Political tweets and criminal activity distract from underlying injustice. The fact remains: An entire group of people in our country is treated differently. The lives of Black neighbors are too often ignored.
Christian martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer once called Jesus “a man for others.” He took up the cause of “the other,” even when “the other” was his opposite or enemy. He took no one’s side and everyone’s side at the same time. He loved his neighbor as himself, even to death.
You cannot define your neighbor; you can only be a neighbor.”
I am a white, middle class male in America looking for ways to “be a neighbor” to my African American brothers and sisters. I often fail and feel helpless. But the work is not as heroic as we think it is. To be a man or woman “for others” is “a long obedience in the same direction.” Daily, unseen, and persistent. “The other” is placed above self in quiet but sacrificial ways.
The work ahead is not only in Minneapolis. The Great Commandment is before each of us. Our neighbors are next door.