Jesus, Ferguson, Scandals, and Headline News
“Police Officers shot in Ferguson,” the headlines declared. The mainstream media was scrambling to determine how badly the officers were injured and to provide as many details as possible, adding to the already palpable tension.
Living in the narcissistic age that we do, we often detach the Bible from such headline news, thinking that it would have nothing to say about situations like Ferguson. After all, they didn’t have 24-hour news channels back during the time of Jesus. Sure, we may offer up some generalities, like “love your neighbor as yourself,” but oftentimes we read headlines without giving much thought as to how Jesus dealt with major news stories.
Jesus’ response to breaking headline stories would probably astound most Americans today. In fact, many would not heed His admonishment. Why? Because His response is not what our human ears wants to hear.
In Luke 13, we find Jesus being confronted with major headline news—bigger than what we find in Ferguson, MO. It was around 30 A.D. and Pilate had proposed building a new water conduit system. While the Jews had agreed to the construction of this new system, they were not aware that Pilate had assumed he would get some of the money from the temple—since it would benefit from the new water system. When the Jews learned Pilate was planning on using money that they considered to be consecrated to God they were outraged. There was a group of Galileans who were quick-tempered and easily inflamed in political fights. They were quick to rush the palace and protest. Pilate, predicting the hot-headed Galileans would demonstrate, had staged guards—dressed as Jews—all over the area. When the Galileans rose up in protest, the soldiers rose up against them. As the blood from those killed or wounded flowed down the streets, some of it mingled with the blood of the animals that were being offered as sacrifices. This situation infuriated many Jews, but had others asking if the Galileans should have stormed the palace in protest. Were this to have happened in modern times, it would have been wall-to-wall coverage on channels like Fox News and CNN.
So, what was Jesus’ response? Did He immediately take a side? Did He grab a sign and march in the streets? Did He write a stinging blog post or post His feelings on Facebook? No, He didn’t do any of the things we see going on with situations like Ferguson. Instead, He refused to judge—something we have trouble with. Second, he told those with Him that they should repent.
Consider that for just a moment. Those with Him were questioning Him, wanting Him to weigh in on the scandal of the day, and yet He refused to judge. These individuals were wanting to know: “Were the Galileans justified or not for their actions?” Instead of focusing on those involved in the scandal Jesus focused on those around Him. Jesus said, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:2-3). Imagine for just a moment that you want Jesus to make His opinion known on something like the Ferguson case, or same-sex marriage trial, or the O.J. Simpson case and he turns the spotlight back on you.
Not only did He not judge, but He told these individuals to repent. They were the ones living when this scandal happened. It happened on their watch. Instead of people treating each other with love, respect, and humility they were causing strife and division.
Is this hard medicine to swallow? Absolutely. It’s so easy to get emotionally charged and take a side. It’s so easy to pronounce what we consider to be the right judgment. But the Master teacher gives us a different response—a response that causes us to look deeply at ourselves and realize we too have some more work to do.
As major headlines and scandals occur all around us, may we as Christians follow the words of Christ—refusing to cast judgment and repent. If we really want to see differences in our communities and nations then we need to start with ourselves!