Strange as it may sound to those of us who are just downriver, that’s a direct quote from NBC News: Louisville is “a city under siege.” Personally, I find this very unsettling, as Louisville is as near to my heart as any place on earth. We lived in the area for several years. Close members of my family have lived there my entire life. Some of my closest friends in the world make their home in the Derby City.
The attention of the media is focused on Louisville because of the surging homicide rate there. The trend is so alarming that Louisville is giving Chicago a statistical run for its money. Deadly shootings are at record numbers in Louisville, and – this is hard to believe – nearly 70% of the shootings are unsolved crimes. This is unprecedented in Kentucky. Unfortunately, it mirrors some disturbing national trends. The COVID-19 pandemic has driven up rates of violent crime across the country. As the father of a son who has begun his senior year of college as a criminal justice major, I’m all ears.
I’m listening to the Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government. Police officers are suffering from low morale. The Chicago consulting firm, Hillard Heintze, reported to local government in Louisville that officers feel little support from upper management in the community.
I’m listening to the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police. Shawn Butler, their executive director, calls low morale among police officers “an occupational hazard … it doesn’t help when we’ve had the civil unrest that we’ve had.” I’m sure you remember that in 2020 the Breonna Taylor incident made Louisville the epicenter of police-related controversy.
I’m listening to the FBI. Just this week in their annual report, their stats are unnerving: 21,500 murders in America last year! And surprising places like Louisiana are leading the trend. So we have an issue in our major cities, and we have an issue nearly everywhere else. Gang activity is expanding exponentially. Quite tragically, at the same time, police forces in 20 major cities have been reduced or weakened (resignations up by 18%, and retirements up by 45%), and police departments across the U.S.A. have seen budget cuts at about $840 million.
So, yes, Louisville is under siege, sadly. But so is the nation.
How are we, as the body of Christ, to respond to such a crisis? I’ll offer four general categories in which I believe that the Scriptures call us to precise faithfulness right now, and I invite you to share more with me from your own heart. I’ll draw these out of the wisdom of the Apostle Paul found in Second Corinthians 5:16-21 …
- We must not join in on the national despair. From now on … we regard no one according to the flesh … if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come. We can survey the cultural landscape right now and get really angry, or we can survey the cultural landscape and get really excited about the unique gospel moment that is now. It’s obstacle vs. opportunity, and I’m advocating for the latter. Every person out there – even my polar political opposite – stands in need of the grace of Christ. This world has seen dark chapters of history before, but the Lord has never failed to keep the light of the gospel shining in the background. You and I have been called to reach across every barrier with gospel hope for every person.
- We must keep our ministry of reconciliation front and center. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. People are estranged from each other in America, right now, and the Bible speaks clearly to that dilemma. We need to be reconciled to God, first, and then we can be reconciled with each other. But you and I must consistently die to ourselves in order to be used by the Lord to that end. We must recognize the suffering of the people around us, and particularly the suffering of people groups who have been marginalized for many years. It’s a pain that many of us do not know firsthand, so we need on a daily basis the “gentle and lowly” disposition of our Savior. Only then can we love and serve as we ought.
- We must not make enemies out of friends. We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. Both “law and order” and “every voice matters” should be shared national values in American life. From the Bible and from Reformation history, we understand the immense blessings of free speech within a free society. I suppose that my challenge in this regard today is for you to consider that perhaps the church must LEAD THE WAY toward the only kind of reconciliation which will bring to all of our neighbors the ultimate freedom – freedom in Christ – and that is the gospel of Jesus! Martin Luther King, Jr. said it like this: “If you can’t fly, then run; if you can’t run, then walk; if you can’t walk, then crawl; but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”
- We must speak the truth in love in these darkening days. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. In a world of watered-down soundbites, you and I can’t shortchange the gospel. We have to tell it like it is: things are a mess … we’re all unsafe … we’re all both part of the problem and part of the solution. These times call for great humility on the part of the body of Christ, but we can’t shy away from the fact that there is only one way out of this mess – and the Way is Jesus! As much as you and I need the Prince of Peace, so do our neighbors. We ought to be praying fervently that the Lord will use even this surge in violent crime to remind us all that human strength is never enough to solve problems which are intrinsically spiritual.
I know you’re tired. We’re all tired. But don’t give up now.