July 27, 2013

The Rev. Rodney B. Weaver: There is still hope

— In the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman trial, thoughts have focused on the tension that exists between the races.

Subdued ill feelings resurfaced from blacks and whites about this case. Unfortunately, some used it as an agenda to promote their causes. But as a nation, “indivisible under God with liberty and justice for all,” how does one respond? How do we move forward without any malice, anger? How do we reconcile our thoughts?

Some respond by dismissing this matter. This is difficult to do because the media (whether it be spoken word, TV, or the printed word, newspapers, magazines) gives daily updates. Marches have been organized to bring attention to this case. Race relations have been tense and stressful. Everyday activities and conversations have generated insight. But just how does God intend for us to act, to react, to respond, to move forward as a people and as a nation under God?

As always, the Scriptures provide guidance. Amos 5:24 states, “Let justice roll down like righteousness, and righteousness like a mighty rushing stream.” The author (Amos), a layman, a sheep herder, the son of a priest, speaks boldly to the children of Israel. His message resonates and is still applicable today.

Amos declared judgment unto his people. He was not content to witness wrong and say nothing. He challenged his people to recognize that actions have consequences. But the ultimate consequence will be delivered by God at the judgment.

Just how does this relate to the circumstances surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin and the trial of his accuser, George Zimmerman? Both individuals’ paths collided. Martin lost his life. Zimmerman stood trial for this death.

The trial ended with the acquittal of Zimmerman. He has been set free. A jury exonerated him of any guilt. The criminal legal process ended. But as with every verdict, we must live with it.

Responses to the verdict has been evidenced in public opinion by concerned United States citizens. In response to the Trayvon Martin –George Zimmerman issue, finger-pointing has been directed towards both individuals. Who is right? Who is wrong? What really happened? Was race a factor?  

If so, why was Zimmerman not punished? Why didn’t one of them just walk away? These thoughts bounce around in our heads. Who is to blame? Amos would say that we all are to blame for senseless violence and the disregard of life — a precious commodity given to us by God.

Amos chastised foreign nations. That message was well received by the Israelites. But when Amos turned his words upon his own people (the Israelites) and admonished them for their actions, they became irate at him.

After his chastisement, Amos leaves the people with words of hope. Yes, “justice will roll down like righteousness, and righteousness like a mighty rushing wind.” Consequences for our actions will be delivered by God at the judgment. But in the interim, we must restore communication between us. We must not fall into the trap of isolating ourselves from each other and building barriers between ourselves.

There will be hope because God will “raise up the tabernacle” that is fallen. The people will bounce back. We will be uplifted. We will be properly restored. We will be redeemed.

Amos’ message of hope applies to us. In spite of the Martin-Zimmerman incident, we as a nation will be restored, lifted up and redeemed. Echoing the words of Amos, there is still hope.

Rodney Weaver is the pastor of Alexander Chapel United Methodist Church.