The week of July 4, 2016, was a very dark week in America. It began with my wife and me celebrating Independence Day with our family and watching the local fireworks display. But there would be a different type of fireworks in the days to come.
On July 5, a Baton Rouge police officer pinned down Alton Sterling and shot him several times while he was on the ground, killing him in front of witnesses.
The very next day in Minnesota, Philando Castile was pulled over in a routine traffic stop and shot multiple times by a police officer. Castile’s girlfriend videotaped the aftermath of the shooting and broadcast it live on Facebook for the world to see.
If those incidents weren’t enough, on July 7, at the end of a peaceful protest of these killings, an armed gunman ambushed Dallas police officers, killing five and wounding seven others.
It truly was a dark week in America. As I sat at my desk praying about how to process these events and address these issues with my congregation, God led me to Matthew 5:13-16.
We live in a dark and decaying world, and the darker the world gets, the more it needs the church to be salt and light. Light shines brightest in darkness, and God has providentially placed the local church in the community to shine the light of the gospel to a world that desperately needs that light.
The killings of African Americans at the hands of police officers, and the denial of justice to the families of those slain, reveal the high level of personal and institutional racism in America.
The truth of the matter is that an encounter with the police is a life or death matter for many people of color in America. We pull over praying. Praying that the officer who stops us will uphold the law and not manipulate it to cover up his own racial prejudice. Praying that we will be treated the same way every other citizen of this country is treated. But most of all, we are praying that we are not killed by the very people our taxes pay to serve and protect us.
This is not the experience of my non-minority brothers and sisters. And it should not be the experience of anyone created in the image of God.
My question is, how can the church remain silent, when the sin of racism is screaming so loudly? How can we stand by as injustice continues against those we say are our brothers and sisters in Christ?
We cannot remain silent. In order for there to be change in our culture, the church must stop being silent and step up and be the church. In Matthew 5:13-16, Jesus calls us to be counter-cultural Christians. This means the church is called to influence our culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Christians and only Christians are the salt of the earth. Christians and only Christians are the light of the world. Christians and Christians alone are responsible for stopping corruption and slowing down the decay of this world.
Notice Jesus did not say “you and the government,” “you and the police department,” or “you and the Supreme Court.” There is only one hope for this world, and that hope is in people of God preventing decay and penetrating darkness.
We need to stop making excuses, stop being divided, stop being deceived by the darkness of this culture, and begin shining the light of righteousness and loving our neighbor as ourselves. We will never overcome a hateful world unless we learn to love one another.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” If we love our neighbor as ourselves, we cannot remain silent as our neighbors are being slain in the streets. And we must address the racism in our world, even if it is in our own hearts.
In Acts 10:34, Peter says, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality.”
I pray that soon and very soon, the church would do the same.
Adron Robinson is senior pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills and vice president of IBSA.