June 4, 2020
By Pastor Jason Duley
I was outdoors exercising the other day.
(Don’t quit reading yet. I know that many of my metaphors come from outdoor exercise. I guess that’s just where God finds me!)
While outside, I saw two neighbors walking their dogs. One dog was large, one dog was small. One dog was barking aggressively, the other was looking on curiously and seemed to be at peace. And it wasn’t the big dog that was barking.
It made me smile to see a little dog with such fight in him. But then it made me think about differences between people. It’s not simply that people are physically different. I thought about our responses to these differences.
I wonder about our choices, our attitudes. If someone speaks or behaves or looks in a way that challenges something in us—-there are alternatives to barking. There’s a different path than anger.
We’re not all the same, and we don’t all have to choose one path.
The murder of George Floyd and resulting protests around our nation plainly show that differences based on race and unequal justice continue to unsettle our society. We’re drawn into separate “sides” unfortunately, even if those sides are represented merely by the protesters expressing righteous indignation and the police entrusted with defending life and property.
That’s what I see on the news each night, two “sides” poised to bark at each other. Only, not always.
I reached out to a friend who serves in law enforcement in Washington, DC. He was on duty in front of the White House the other night, so I asked him what that was like.
He said, calmly, “I am blessed to serve the American people even when they are angry.”
That gave me pause. I let that settle on my mind. The contrast between this officer’s attitude and the Minnesota officers’ actions toward Mr Floyd is like night and day.
The heart that is determined to stand for justice “even when the people are angry” has chosen an alternative to anger. That heart has found a way to de-escalate violence, rather than adding fuel to a troublesome fire.
Are we being drawn into two sides?
There is wisdom in the Old Testament that teaches: “One given to anger stirs up strife, and the hothead causes much transgression. A person’s pride will bring humiliation, but one who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.”
I don’t know if my police friend, or everyone who sought to de-escalate conflict in recent days, has read Proverbs 29:22-23. But I see my friend, and other police who put down their shields, and protesters who hugged National Guardsmen, and they seem to know the lesson.
Thre’s actually a parable about this. A Native American father, teaching his young son how to deal with his anger, said “I am struggling with right and wrong, as if two dogs live within me, one good and one bad.” The young man asked, “Which one will win?” And the father replied, “The one I feed.”
Choosing an alternative to anger is not the same as surrendering. Do you think that the little yappy dog that I saw on my run “won” his fight with the calmer, larger dog?
Anger, bitterness, and blame are not the tools that are going to take us to a better place. And we know why! “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” A better pastor than I said that. A giant, and a fighter, who was defined by his calm and peaceful heart. It was Martin Luther King.
Email me to let me know what you’re doing with your anger or anxiety. It’s important to remain connected, we’re all in this together.
Praying for the Healing of the Nations