(James 1:19-21 NLT) “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. 21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.

Human anger doesn’t produce the righteousness God desires. In light of the recent grand jury decision and the subsequent looting, rioting, and vandalism that occurred in Ferguson two nights ago, I was reminded of this passage from the letter written by James in the Bible. He tells the church (the brothers and sisters) to do these things:

1. Be quick to listen.
2. Be slow to speak.
3. Be slow to get angry.

Why? Because anger doesn’t (often) lead to righteousness or right behavior. Often anger leads to sinful behavior that hurts us and our fellow brothers and sisters. No one really wins when anger is deployed.

I don’t want to begin to downplay the emotions that people are feeling about living in a city that is clearly segregated by racial lines. However, I thought I might offer a few steps forward, so that we can see our city healed and ultimately begin to love one another just like Christ loved us when he gave his life for us. We didn’t deserve it, but he did it anyway. He modeled for us what it means to truly love our fellow brothers and sisters. We are called to love just like that.

You may be asking the question, “What can I do?” Here are a few suggestions:

1. Pray

I believe nothing of lasting change happens without prayer. Spend time each day praying for the conflict in our city. Spend time praying for the “other side” and watch your heart be changed.

2. Take a walk.

In a similar vein, take a walk through the streets of Ferguson praying for the people and for God to bring peace to this city. Ask God to heal our lands. Pray the Lord’s Prayer over the city as you walk. Spend time praying, walking, and talking with the people of Ferguson.

3. Head towards the conflict.

The church must not retreat in the face of conflict. The church and individual followers of Christ must move towards conflict and be agents of peace. How can you move towards this conflict in our city? Where can you be a minister of reconciliation? How can you be an agent of peace?

4. Listen.

If we would spend less time talking, more time praying, and more time listening, then our city would be a better place. When there is conflict, the worse thing we can do is spend all our time talking. The best move is to listen. When we listen we get to hear people’s stories. We encounter their struggles, their fears, the most human parts of them are revealed when we listen. How could you listen better? Perhaps you turn on the radio commentators, center yourself on Christ, talk a walk, and listen to someone.

It is hard to build bridges alone. Make a commitment to be a part of the change. I hope this helps to stir action in all of us so that we can work towards peace, by offering grace and love to those who are different from us. May we be stirred up to pray, to walk, to head towards conflict, and finally listen. May anger not lead us to sin. May all of our acts be acts that breed righteousness.

Blessings,

Pastor Daniel