A Dallas police officer was standing in a hotel café when he was asked how he was doing. “Second time in thirteen months,” he replied.
This morning’s New York Times reminds us that a gunman attacked Dallas Police Headquarters on June 13, 2015. Though he did not kill or injure anyone, he fired nearly 200 rounds at police before he was killed by officers. Now our nation is grieving after a second attack last Thursday left five dead and nine wounded. Funerals for the fallen officers are set to begin today.
How do we go forward after such tragedy?
President George W. Bush spoke at a memorial service held yesterday for the fallen officers. (For more, see Nick Pitts’s Presidents Obama and Bush Speak at Interfaith Service.) He made this remarkable point: “Americans, I think, have a great advantage. To renew our unity, we only need to remember our values. We have never been held together by blood or background. We are bound by things of the spirit, by shared commitments to common ideals.”
President Bush is right. Many nations find their unity in a monolithic racial heritage, culture, or history. But America has never been about such uniformity. From the beginning we were home to Protestants and Catholics and Jews, immigrants from across Europe and around the world.
President Bush explained our unique solidarity: “At our best, we honor the image of God we see in one another. We recognize that we are brothers and sisters, sharing the same brief moment on Earth and owing each other the loyalty of our shared humanity.”
In other words, the closer we draw to our Father, the closer we draw to each other.
President Obama, speaking at the memorial service, quoted Ezekiel 36:26: “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” The key to this “new heart” is found in the next verse: “And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (v. 27). Human words cannot change human hearts. The One who made us is the only One who can change us.
That means that Christians are on the front lines of this conflict, the only salt and light in a culture dying for truth and hope.
Writing for The Washington Post, legendary Dallas pastor Dr. Tony Evans traces our challenges “directly to ineffective Christians” and states, “one of the real tragedies today is that the Church as a whole has not furthered God’s light, equity, love and principles in our land in order to be a positive influence and impact for good in the midst of darkness, fear and hate.”
He calls for churches to unite in a “solemn assembly” with prayer and fasting, to train our members to be verbal and visible followers of Jesus, and to unite for good works in our communities. This is our “God-given role of influencing the conscience of our culture.” Without it “our country will keep spiraling downward into the depths of fear and hate.”
In confronting the divisions of our day, the church must be the church. Whatever it takes, whatever the cost, wherever our Master leads. President Obama noted, “We cannot match the sacrifices made by Officers Zamarippa and Ahrens, Krol, Smith and Thompson, but surely we can try to match their sense of service. We cannot match their courage, but we can strive to match their devotion.”
Our service and our devotion must be to Jesus as our Lord and then to our neighbor as ourselves. How will you fulfill your calling today?
Note: For insight into Dallas Police Chief David Brown’s faith during this crisis, see Mark Cook’s Chief Brown’s Outstanding Leadership.