Standing as a shield


During the slowdown of the last few months, I, like many others, have found myself perusing the treasure trove/landfill of videos on the internet.

For some reason, Facebook has been recommending UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) videos from past fights. To be completely honest, I have found them incredibly interesting and have watched more than I can count.

I, myself, lack the requisite skill, strength or courage to stand toe to toe with another human being and throw hands (not to mention feet, knees, elbows and foreheads) until one of us quits, can’t fight anymore or time runs out.

On multiple occasions, I have asked aloud, “What’s wrong with these people?” To which my wife, Robyn, asks, “What’s wrong with you? You’re watching it.” As the saying goes, it’s like a car wreck, I just can’t look away.

As I was watching videos highlighting some of the greatest knockouts of all time, something caught my attention. In each of the highlights, one fighter gains an unquestionable advantage over the other. Not only that, their opponent is rendered defenseless as they fall with questionable consciousness to the floor.

Seeing the weakness, the stronger fighter pounces on them seeking to further assert their dominance and do as much damage as possible. In that moment, something amazing happens. The referee, who has danced around the octagon as a passive observer for most of the engagement, throws himself between the two fighters, pushing one fighter away while protecting the defenseless fighter from incoming blows.

The referee doesn’t act with aggression. Rather, he acts with self-sacrificing compassion. In the moment, the dominant fighter doesn’t distinguish between the downed opponent and the official. As the referee shields the fighter on the ground, he generally takes numerous shots from a highly trained fighting machine.

My heart was inspired as I watched the actions of these individuals. In light of recent events, they provide an example for us as followers of Christ and humanity in general to follow. We can no longer pretend that our society doesn’t have a problem. The death of George Floyd is yet another tragic example of a portion of our culture being mistreated and abused, specifically brothers and sisters of color.

Much like the referee in the fight, we often serve as passive observers. We dance around the fray, chirping observations, opinions and instructions to actual participants without ever getting in the middle of it. At some point, however, we can no longer stand on the fringes.

I submit that we are long past the point where our engagement is necessary. When guns are drawn and used on a defenseless young man out for an afternoon run, it’s time to act. When a handcuffed man lies on the ground crying for help with a knee to his neck, it’s time to act.

These are our neighbors. These are our brothers and sisters. It is our problem. It is our responsibility. It is time for us, much like a referee, to throw ourselves between those who would do harm and those who are unable to defend themselves. We’ve seen this at work very recently as a group of African American men stepped in to protect a lone police officer from angry protesters.

Yes, we very well could take some hits in the process. I understand I very well could take some shots for writing this piece, but I cannot and will not be silent. I cannot and will not stand passively to the side.

Justice is a central feature in the kingdom of God. Isaiah 9:7 reads, “He will reign on David’s throne and over his lingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this.”

Jesus made justice and righteousness available to the world not through force but by offering his life. He selflessly placed himself in harm’s way to save us. This is the heart of the Gospel.

The passion that beat in his heart should beat in ours, as well. Those of us who call ourselves by his name, Christians, should be particularly motivated to protect the oppressed, the marginalized and the weak. And like Christ, we should be willing to sacrifice of ourselves to that end.

May our hearts be broken by the injustice and oppression in our world. And may the brokenness of our hearts mobilize our bodies.

The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at Send comments to [email protected].

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