This past week has been a tragic one for our nation. On Tuesday a black man named Alton Sterling was shot and killed by police officers outside of a convenient store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. On Wednesday a black man named Philando Castile was shot and killed by police officers inside of a car in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. These shootings sparked protests in many city streets.
Then on Thursday night in Dallas, Texas a sniper killed five police officers and wounded seven others, saying that he wanted to “kill white people” and “especially white police officers” because of how black people have been treated. The names of the five officers who were killed are: Brent Thompson, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa, Mike Smith, and Lorne Aherns.
Right now our nation is full of fear, hate, and disunity. What we need in this moment is the gospel of Jesus Christ. What we need in this moment is the kind of love and unity that can only be found in Jesus.
And as the church we must lead out in promoting the kind of love and unity we know is possible through Jesus, who loves us with an everlasting, sacrificial love, and who has united in himself people from every tribe, tongue, nation, and race on this earth.
As the church, we must be the people who know how to weep with all of those who weep. As the church, we must be the people who understand that there are black members of our society and black brothers and sisters in Christ today who are terrified of what might happen to them if they are pulled over for a minor offense. As the church, we must also be the people who sympathize with the fact that there are police officers and their families who are worried that they might be targeted next as they put their life on the line to keep our cities safe. We must recognize that these are all very real and legitimate concerns. We must seek to understand people who are different from us, and we must seek to love every member of society as a person made in the image of God.
We must reject racism.
We must reject unlawful retaliation.
We must seek unity.
And in all of this we must cry out to God, our only true source of help.
O God, in the words of the Psalmist we lament:
“You have made the land to quake; you have torn it open; repair its breaches, for it totters. You have made your people see hard things; you have given us wine to drink that made us stagger. You have set up a banner for those who fear you, that they may flee to it from the bow. That your beloved ones may be delivered, give salvation by your right hand and answer us!” (Psalm 60:2-5).
“O, Lord teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us” (Psalm 90:12-17).
Father, we confess to you that we are sinners; and we confess to you the sins of our nation: sins of racism, sins of hatred, sins of murder. We ask for your mercy on us and on our land. Father, help us to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19).
O God, help us to love all people as those who are made in your image. Help us to love and care for all of our neighbors regardless of their race, social status, or cultural background. Father, we pray that no one in our nation would ever be mistreated because of the color of their skin or because of the badge they wear on their uniform. We thank you that in Christ Jesus “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
Father we pray for those servants of the state that you have given us who protect us from harm on a daily basis. We pray that you would fill our precincts with just and righteous officers who wield the sword with justice and humility. We pray that you would help our police officers to be servants of peace and preservers of life. We pray that you would put a hedge of protection around every police officer in our city, and that none of them would become the targets of hate-filled murderers. Oh God, preserve the lives of those who daily protect us, serve us, and facilitate our safety.
Father, we thank you that the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sins and hope of eternal life we have in him is powerful enough to change our city, our state, our nation, and our world. We thank you that we don’t have to fear death because in Christ we have the hope of resurrection and enteral life. We thank you that here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come (Hebrews 13:14). We thank you that Jesus, the Savior of the whole world, died, rose again, and is coming back one day so that we might live with him in a place where “He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall their mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things will have passed away. And he who is seated on the throne will say, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’” (Revelation 21:4-5).
So, Father, help us as your church to be a people of peace. Help us to be a beacon of hope. Help us to be the bearers of the good news of salvation that is found only in Jesus Christ.
It’s in the name of Jesus we pray all these things. Amen.