Craig Hicks shot and killed Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife, Yusor Mohammad, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. Deah and Yusor will never have the chance to grow old together or have and raise children; and Razan will never marry at all. Craig Hicks will likely spend the rest of his life in prison and never reconcile with his wife, contribute his gifts and talents to the world, or know that he was made for much more than rage and murder.
Romans 12 calls followers of Jesus to mourn with those who mourn, to weep with those who weep. So, it is my heart’s deepest hope that we would actually be able to do that. Before we debate the evidence of whether or not this was a hate crime and even before the vans pull up with microphones ready. Before the helicopters are hovering for overhead shots and anchors scramble for the right narrative angle, could we stop and cry for the mother-in-law who lost the son that just joined her family or the father who no longer has two of his children.
What does it say about us that instead of lamenting the horrible deaths of these three people made in the image of God, we stake out positions, withhold or extend the benefit of the doubt and speak out of our privilege and oppression without acknowledging either. Lord have mercy on the Christian mother and the atheist father who are not able to enter into the emotions of a Muslim Father and Mother whose children were snatched from them too soon. Father in Heaven, forgive us for the pride that blinds us from perceiving our own bias, prejudice and racism. Christ have mercy on the Jews and Hindus who do not feel the pain at the deaths of those made by God; and radically transform all of us who will celebrate this act or believe these three had it coming.
When acts like these occur, it is excruciatingly difficult not to run to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to release our anger and frustration and curse the other on social media. But, why do we spend our time on what does not satisfy and not exhaust ourselves seeking peace and reconciliation. Perhaps, it is because these are values that are desired but never practiced or modeled before us.
In theory we believe every person is of equal worth, hold innate dignity and is worthy of love and acceptance; but in practice we segregate our resources and ourselves declaring a personal and social “mine” over everything we claim to possess including compassion, love, grace and even grief. We dismiss the plight of Syrian children killed in playgrounds halfway around the world, so we will dismiss the deaths of these young people in their own homes. Because a life is a life and though we claim it would be different if it was closer, the answer via our actions is that actually it’s not.
My heart is aching for those who have lost their lives and the families that loved them. I am distressed that another white man may never have the chance to celebrate the beauty of every tribe, tongue and nation. Yes, my soul is grieved over these things.
But, oh I mourn also because there are others who will continue to crush the image of God in these three by raising up our defenses of the status quo. Their names will become sound bites and they will be deified or demonized and all of that is less than what they actually are – human beings. They are not the sum amount of what they’ve done or what was done to them. Deah, Yusor, Rasan and Craig are people deeply loved by God and Jesus died that they might have life and life abundant; and MSNBC, Fox News or those in between will never acknowledge the reality.
Like Paul continued in Romans 12, I long for the day when love will be without hypocrisy and we will hate what is evil and cling to what is good. Where we will be devoted to one another in brotherly love, where we give preference to one another in honor and don’t lag behind in diligence and fervent spirit in service to the Lord. One day, we will rejoice in hope, persevere in tribulation, devote ourselves to prayer, contribute to the needs of God’s people and practice hospitality to all. We will bless those who persecute and rejoice with those who rejoice. And, we will mourn with those who mourn. We will not pay back evil for evil. We will respect what is right and be at peace with all men and women. We will not take revenge, but leave room for the wrath of God because surely the Lord will repay. If our enemy is hungry, we will give them food and if thirsty, we will give them our drink. Because in so doing, we heap coals upon their heads, sanctifying those full of hatred, and prejudice with the transforming love of Jesus. One day, good will not be overcome by evil, but will overcome evil with good. One day, in Jesus’ name. Amen.