“Police gonna shoot me?” My daughter asked.
“No, baby, police are nice. They are here to help us,” we answered.
I saw two years of helping our African American daughter overcome her fear of policemen fly out the window.
I thought she was asleep, but her little ears had heard every word of our conversation about the shooting, protesting, and rioting in Charlotte. She pieced together that police shoot black people. Uh oh. This is not good.
In her birth country of Uganda, the policeman walked around with large AK-47’s outside of every public business. They maintained order through fear. Everyone saw their weapons and knew they best obey the law. It is an impression that has held her in unhealthy fear of policeman since she has come home to live in America. Last year in Kindergarten, we worked on this so much. My husband and I would require her to speak to police officers when we were out and about. A sheriff came with his patrol car to visit our homeschool co-op. We talked about it a lot. I slowly saw her walk more freely by officers as the fear was replaced with trust.
And then, she started seeing and hearing bits and pieces on the news of the racial tension between law enforcement and African Americans. The work we had been putting in starting coming undone. The questions started to surface. I was really at a loss of how to explain all of this. I decided to tell her what she needed to know to understand. She has a lot to learn about black history, and I look forward to teaching her. But I can’t give her the history of the slave trade, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., and present day racial tension all in one day, or one week for that matter. She is a six year old adopted child from a third world country, and English is her second language. I’m pretty sure that would get all jumbled up into her mind and cause some terrible nightmares.
What I can do is teach her what the Word says about people in authority, which includes police officers:
Respect for Authority
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. 2 So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. 3 For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. 4 The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. 5 So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience. Romans 13:1-5
The apostle Paul is not saying here that civil rulers will always do what is right. They are fallible humans, just like you and I. They become fearful when they believe a civilian has a firearm, and they make decisions in the blink of an eye to try to save their own lives. And some law enforcement, because they are human, may be racist. They may see my daughter or grandchild one day and make judgement of them based on their skin color. (And of course, this hurts my heart but it is the reality of a fallen world that we live in).
What I do desire to do is to impart a legacy of love instead of hate in all my children; my black and white ones.
When they hear a human life has been lost,
I want their hearts to be moved to compassion instead of judgement.
We jump right over loving people in hard places when we rush to determine whether a police officer should have pulled the trigger. All the people in this situation are hurting. A family member is being grieved. A police officer is having to face the fact that they took a life, whether it was necessary to save their own or not. They will have to live with the reality that their hand took another person’s life for the rest of their own life.
Should we hurry up and post our opinion of the situation on social media? Should we run out on the streets of the city in the dark of night in protest? NO.
We should pray.
“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14
We should listen to the hurting.
” Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” James 1:19
We should love.
“and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.” 2 Peter 1:7
The last verse means love for ALL PEOPLE; including the people you don’t agree with. This is hard. This is the difficult love that is challenging and takes the transformation that only Jesus can bring.
This is the gospel simplified: to love God and love people. This is where we turn and default to in complicated situations when we don’t have all the answers.
This is what we tell our kids about racial tension. We don’t have all the answers. We aren’t perfect. We aren’t holding hands and singing “Kumbaya”on the streets of downtown Charlotte. What we are doing is showing them what God’s Word says about situations like this one, and praying He fills in the gaps with His Love. I encourage you to do the same, sweet Mama or Papa. Whatever we say to our kids about this is going to be shaping and molding their hearts. We don’t have to walk in perfection. Let’s walk with them under grace and answer hard questions through the lens of His Word.
Under Grace With You,