“Man, did you hear about that story of a crooked White cop lying on this Black guy in Benton Harbor?” #crazy
“Hey, Pastor, here’s a heartwarming story in your neighborhood.”
“I’m not sure if you saw this already but I thought I might share it with you.”
Those were the posts on my Facebook timeline or in Messenger.
(You can watch the video here.)
I had already heard all about the story. I was having a conversation with a friend who told me about it. My initial response to it was anger. I literally got mad. Like, for real for real. You know, the kind of mad where something starts welling up inside your chest to the point where you want to punch an ant in the forehead as hard as you can. Breathe Taurus. Let me calm down.
What hit me was the thought of spending four years behind bars for something I KNOW I did not do. I don’t know about you but I value my time. Four years, that’s 1,460 days. Four years, that’s a college degree I could have earned. That’s four years of birthdays I would miss from my kids, four years of time away from my wife. Not to mention the fact that I would miss all the new iPhones that would come out :-). So believe me when I say I was mad when I heard about this man being locked up on the word of this crooked White cop. On top of that, the cop only got 18-months in prison. Smh...
And then I actually read the article. I admit that I was still in my feelings after reading it. But as the days went by I started reflecting on it more. What kept coming to my mind were their two encounters. I believe there are lessons to be learned in their first and second encounter. The first lesson is pretty obvious but the second one is what I believe has been left out of the story.
Their First Encounter Was Typical White Cop/Black Man In America
I would argue that not one Black man in America would say they are surprised by what happened the first time these two men met. We have seen the story and heard the story so many times for so many years. Too many times the Black man has ended up either lynched or shot and/or killed while the crooked White cop has ended up on paid leave and found not guilty, if there is a trial.
The lesson from the first encounter is more of a reminder to me that a Black man getting stopped by a White police officer can alter the course of your life even if you have done nothing wrong. America still has a long way to go. This is a big deal because we are talking about people who swore to serve and protect me. So what is a brother to do? That’s a question I would love for you to hear your thoughts on.
Their Second Encounter Was Providential Because A Church Was Intentional
Here is what most people don’t know. The place where these men met was Mosaic—a Christian Community Development Association that was founded by a local church in Benton Harbor called Overflow Church. I don’t attend Overflow Church but I certainly appreciate and respect what they do through Mosaic. They address issues of poverty, unemployment, lack of education, etc.
Here’s the lesson I think that has been left out: It was the Church that created the space for this powerful lesson of forgiveness to take place. And here is where I think the Church needs to be more intentional.
I could not help but think about my denomination, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, as I reflected on this story. We are structured around race/ethnicities rather than John 17 or even maximum stewardship efficiency, for that matter. How did it start? Well, “crooked White cop” (i.e misguided church leaders) failed to go against the racial current of 1940s. How shall it turn around?
I believe that if we are to experience the power of forgiveness as a denomination, we need more repenting “White cops” and forgiving “Black men” who find ways to work together so that the world may know we are His by the love we have for one another. This example that took place last year gives me hope within my denomination for better days to come.
Question: In your experience, what is the most difficult thing about forgiving people who have done you wrong and how have you dealt with it?