Why haven’t I written about Ferguson?
I’ve been afraid of saying the wrong thing or maybe the not the-just-right-thing and sometimes there is wisdom in saying nothing—especially if you are ignorant or unqualified. Solomon says, “A fool utters all his mind: but a wise man keeps it in until afterwards” (Prov. 29:11).
However, Scripture thrives in tension—where we often falter. Think about other places in Proverbs: Solomon says to answer a fool then later don’t answer a fool. It takes maturity to know which situations require which wisdom.
So yes a fool speaks all his mind, but maybe speaking isn’t the only issue. Maybe we can disagree about the facts of a case like this, while still speaking in a way with our brothers who hurt. Paul says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight” (Rom. 12:15-16).
In one part of Scripture, God says don’t just throw up everything that comes across your mind. In another part, He says that we should weep with those who weep and associate with the lowly.
It hit me this weekend. While I may not understand, while I may not be qualified, while all the facts may not be present. I have brothers and sisters in Christ who are weeping, who are hurting. It doesn’t matter that all the facts of this particular incident aren’t in. I have heard many of their stories. I have heard how they have been hurt. How certain systems have oppressed them. How they have been targeted because they are black. How they don’t have the same opportunities I might have. How they have had guns to their heads.
I have seen a lot white Christians pointing to stories here and there. “See white people get killed. The justice system sometimes fails white’s too.” That’s certainly true, but it’s not about singular failures or clusters of failures. It’s about a history of failure. It’s about setting up systems which encourage failure. It’s not a slight to whites personally. Honestly, sometimes hearing people talk about white privilege makes me uncomfortable. But I sit and hear.
So let love triumph over wisdom, and really it’s not love triumphing. Love and wisdom go hand-in-hand. As family in Christ, we share the pain and suffering of our family when we listen. I was discouraged after reading Thabiti’s thoughtful and heartfelt “Why We Never Wait ‘For All the Facts’ Before We Speak.” Many Christians were even unwilling to hear Thabiti’s concerns, to hear his experience.
Many of us, white and black, are poor friends. We are Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. We are more concerned with being right or winning the race argument. As whites, we are more concerned with justifying our privilege (while many times denying it exists). When my brothers are weeping, I want to weep with them. I must speak with them in their weeping. I must hurt with them—and learn something about myself and others in the process. I’ve learned that may mean listening without gaming to win an argument, not finding reasons and excuses for not listening, and not speaking when we should be weeping. We are united in far more than we are divided. We are co-heirs in Christ. Therefore, we must stand together as one body with one Head—mourning with those who mourn.
Mathew B. Sims is the author of A Household Gospel: Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes and writes for CBMW Manual, Gospel-Centered Discipleship, Borrowed Light, and other publications. He also works as the managing editor at Gospel-Centered Discipleship and offers freelance editing and book formatting services. He is a member at Downtown Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC.