Here we are, again.
The cycle of police violence and public outrage are once again filling our lives. Or I should say that these conflicts are burdening some with the weight of history of oppression, silencing, and violence while others of us have the luxury to see these events as yet another piece of breaking news, here today but gone tomorrow when some other bit of sensationalism will draw our eyes?
Here we are, again.
And perhaps we are here again because we do not really listen. We gaze at each other’s pain and lament, but we don’t really see in a way that will shift our vision, clarify our perspective. We hear each other’s stories but don’t really listen in a way that will change us in a profound way, lead us to question our deepest held assumptions. We post a hashtag but don’t embody these digital signatures in our everyday lives.
This week, many Christians will be hearing one of my favorite texts in the Bible: Acts 8:26-40. It is a vibrant, powerful story. But one detail has drawn my attention most recently.
Imagine that you are this wealthy, powerful, educated Ethiopian official. You are riding in a glorious chariot and reading Isaiah off a delicately copied manuscript. You are pondering the mysteries of God when some stranger appears out of nowhere. This stranger is running alongside your chariot struggling to keep up, barely panting the words, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
This question is audacious, ridiculous. The Ethiopian should ask his driver to speed up and leave this breathless stranger in the wilderness. Instead, this powerful, wealthy, educated official asks a critical question of faith: “How can I unless someone guides me?”
Indeed, how can I understand the plight of my neighbor unless I sit at their feet, walk their streets, hear their pain, participate in their deepest joys? How can I unless someone guides me? How can I understand unless God brings the neighbor into my life? How can I understand unless God gives me ears to hear and eyes to see? How can I unless God gives me the grace and patience and humility to heed the witness of those the world tramples?
So, preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, how do you speak about Baltimore this week? Listen to the witness of our neighbors. Listen and learn and love.
How else will we understand? How else will God speak to us? How else will we avoid being here once again in a few months time?
Rev. Dr. Eric D. Barreto is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul. Via ON Scripture.