Trayvon and Zimmerman: Crosshairs or the Cross?

As people rally around Trayvon’s family, I am moved by all the support.

Support I love.  Support in grief is invaluable.

But part of me is deeply, deeply concerned.

As I hear so many things espoused in this intense situation, I can’t help but think of Philippians 4:8 – to think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.

Now whether or not Zimmerman did that is one issue.

But that’s not the issue we answer for.

We answer for our thoughts.  We answer for whether or not we are thinking things that are true – actually, factually true.  Noble.  And pure.

All of our thoughts.  Including our thoughts about George.

Now I know this may sound extreme.  But negatively defining a person by telling them what they are, what they think, and what their motives are is a pretty intense thing.  It’s actually called verbal abuse.

Now what Zimmerman did or did not do, again, is his.  But what we do is ours before the Lord.

So should we be negatively defining his motives as racism?

Now I’m not trying to defend the guy.  I’m not saying he’s for sure not a racist.  As far as I am aware, the actual, factual truths include this: George is a Hispanic man who has black family members, black friends, and tutors students of all races, including blacks.   He may indeed, in the midst of all of that, have some sort of racist something in him.  Anything is possible.  But given his life – given the actual, factual truths (and not my emotions) – it seems like there could at least be a sliver of a possibility that he is not racist.

If I stand before the Lord and call this man a racist, and the Lord instead finds a man who reached out to people of other races, what does that make me?  Yikes.  I’m more than wrong.  At best I am an abuser.  A sinning abuser.  And at worst?  Well, there is a bounty on his head.

We may never be sure exactly what happened and exactly what the motives were.  But what is for sure is our Lord.  And what is for sure is His command to us.  He tells us to think things that are true – actually, factually true.  And he tells us to think things that are noble – what is a possible noble explanation?

Not thinking so is sin.

What is ours to answer is not whether Zimmerman had pure thoughts.  What is ours to answer before the Lord is whether we have pure, noble thoughts.

Will our reasoning be correct?

Never violate the principles of God in order to gain or maintain the blessing of God. ~ Charles Stanley

We mustn’t circumvent God’s principles in order to arrive at our conclusion.  Is racism wrong?  Absolutely.  I believe racism so saddens the One who created every person on this planet – including both Trayvon and George.  Is George Zimmerman a racist?  Our job is to follow God’s principles as we consider this man He created.  Our job is to view others through the cross – not crosshairs!  We must be careful not to violate the principles of God to get to a blessed conclusion.

I am so saddened about Trayvon’s death and for his family.

But I also have great concern that in our emotion, we still honor our Lord and His desires for every step of our hearts and minds.

Vitally Right

I was going through some old seminary notes on ‘righteous’ and was impacted… and humbled… and blessed… by the power of righteousness.  The heart of the gospel and the centrality of the cross focus us on the gravity of thinking things that are right.

This is what I mean…

Righteousness is so significant that God nailed His only Son to a cross for it. 

In and of itself, righteousness is powerful.  And as we talk about thinking things that are ‘righteous,’ it’s downright sobering.  In a good way – being sobered in the Lord is always a blessing… maybe combined with a grand dose of humility and an initial bit of jostle… but a powerful blessing nonetheless.  You won’t want to miss it.

So we’re perched in this thought:

Righteousness is so significant that God nailed His only Son to a cross for it.

After all, if righteousness could come through any other means, Christ died needlessly (Galatians 2:21).  Now hopefully no one would ever let anyone die needlessly… and especially not an all-wise, all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful, purposeful God!

So the cross is a picture of the value of righteousness.  It conveys righteousness’s importance, significance, and magnitude.  It is a picture of righteousness’s worth.

For as powerfully as the cross portrays the significant worth of righteousness, it also conveys the extreme gravity of sin:

“Our sin must be extremely horrible… If there was no way by which the righteous God could righteously forgive our unrighteousness, except that he should bear it himself in Christ, [our sin] must be serious indeed.”  ~ John Stott in The Cross of Christ

God bore our unrighteousness in Christ.  Sinless Christ became our ‘extremely horrible’ sin.

Sometimes when I start to feel tiredness…or laziness… or entitlement because others are doing it… or whatever creeps in, I find it helpful to ponder this.  Now I hope you’ll take the illustration I’m about to give as a helpful image in application ~ I hope you won’t go theologically crazy on me here on all the nuances of this!  But sometimes when my tiredness or justification or seeming patterns of others or whatever tempts me to veer ‘slightly’ off course – ‘oh, one little un-right thought is ok!’ or ‘they’re thinking ignoble thoughts, why shouldn’t I?’ or whatever other silliness my sinful self may consider, I find it helpful to reflect on the image of the cross.  On the selfless sacrifice of Christ.  And on the nails.

So when we consider thinking a thought that is not righteous – a thought that God tells us not to do – so sin – {deep breath} – is that worth Christ’s being nailed to the cross for?  If we feel entitled to think certain things – and those things are not true, noble, and righteous – are they worth nailing Christ to the cross for?  The Son of God, the Messiah, the Holy One, the Christ ~ it is our unrighteousness that He bore.  And all He’s asking here in Philippians 4:8 – all the one who became unrighteousness for us so that we may live in righteousness is asking – is that we live in righteousness by thinking things that are righteous.

Sobering it is.  But it also brings great vitality.  The gravity of sin is triumphed by righteousness:

[God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21

[Christ] Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.  ~1 Peter 2:24

Indeed, righteous Christ became unrighteousness for us, that we might become the righteousness of God!  He died that we may live in righteousness.  Here, in Philippians 4:8, that is simply by thinking things that are righteous.