Authors: Peace JV and Derrick M.
On the evening of Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, we, the co-leaders of Peacemakers Discussion Group, attended a protest/memorial service in front of the Conway Police Department, and sponsored by the organization, Reinvest in Conway, as part of the “National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality.”
We attended this event in the role of observers and peacemakers. We attended to observe, to learn, to listen, and to connect with individuals on different “sides” of matters related to policing, in the hopes of being able to serve in a later capacity of helping to mediate between different parties and perspectives on these issues.
In that capacity, we spoke to various individuals, including the Conway Chief of Police, the leader of a local militia group, a legal observer, and the spokesperson for the organization, Reinvest in Conway.
The next morning, one of us was greeted on social media by a demand from an individual who had been in attendance at the protest to explain “why you were talking with the thugs and terrorists who call themselves patriots?” We responded with an invitation to sit down with this individual and discuss the matters in person. The response we received was a “No, thank you.”
So, for anyone else who witnesses us or any other representatives of Peacemakers Discussion Group talking to anyone that they might consider one of “those people,” (depending on one’s perspective, “those people” could be a person in a militia, a protestor, a person with Anti-fa, a police officer, a homeless person, a Democratic voter, a Republican voter, a Trump supporter, a Biden supporter, a Muslim person, a Jewish person, an atheist or agnostic, a white supremacist, a prostitute, a rich person, a person who lives in a trailer park, an LGBT person, a white person, a black person, a Hispanic person, an Asian person, a Libertarian, a Green, or any other category of “those people” that one might belong), here is our answer:
Why do we talk to “those people?”
- Because they are human beings made in the image of God.
- Because we are people who seek and strive to follow Jesus and his example and commands.
- Because we seek to be peacemakers, reconcilers, and ambassadors for Christ.
- Because Jesus talked to both Sadducees and Pharisees. (conflicting religious factions)
- Because Jesus not only talked with, but ate with persons who collected taxes on behalf of the oppressive, occupying, Roman army and government.
- Because Jesus not only talked to Roman soldiers and officials, he healed their loved ones.
- Because Jesus talked to prostitutes and women, who were considered adultresses.
- Because Jesus called both a tax-collector (aka: collaborator with Rome) and a zealot (a revolutionary who believed in assassinating tax collectors) to follow him and be his disciples.
- Because Jesus talked to and healed lepers.
- Because Jesus talked to religious leaders who criticized him.
- Because Jesus talked to Pilate and Herod, rulers who were part of an oppressive system.
- Because Jesus healed the ear of a man sent to arrest him.
- Because Jesus talked to both people who supported him as well as those who criticized him and eventually sentenced him to death.
- Because Jesus knowingly talked to the man who was going to betray him to his death.
- Because Jesus talked to a convicted murderer/thief crucified beside him.
- Because Jesus forgave all, who participated in sending him to his death and crucifying him.
- Because Jesus never turned away anyone regardless of who they were.
- Because…….Jesus loved and gave his life for all of “those people,” regardless of the category they fell into, regardless of their sins or their crimes.
- Because…… Jesus commanded those, then and now, who follow Him to “love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34-35; 15:12)
So, if you see us talking with, eating with, or otherwise interacting with someone that you or someone else might consider one of “those people,” please remember that Jesus loved and died for that person just like he died for you and me. And if Jesus could die for them, who are we to dismiss, reject, and revile them? For, after all, we need salvation and forgiveness as much as they do.
And we will talk with you, whoever you may be, and regardless of what group or category you might belong to or been assigned to by others, regardless of what others think of you or who condemns you. And more importantly….we will listen. We will seek to understand who you are, what you believe and why, what is important to you, and what experiences have shaped both your perspectives and you as a person.
It is our prayer that in the days ahead, as the election is upon us, and regardless of the outcome or how contentious the aftermath….that we consider the above thoughts when we interact with those who differ from us, whose views or beliefs may be not only contrary to our own, but actually repulse us, may we remember we are all made in the image of God, and that His Son, Jesus Christ bled and died for each of us.