Strong Not Hard
Last week in my community a high-speed chase ended with a man shot dead.
As the body lay on the cold concrete, officers swarming all around, local social media went wild. First with expressions of concern, then with stories and contradictions:
The motorcycle was STOLEN.
It was NOT STOLEN, it just wasn’t properly licensed.
When he crashed the motorcycle, he ran to a local car wash and TRIED TO CARJACK a man.
NOHEDIDNOTTRYTOCARJACKANYONE. An old man at the car wash tried to stop him as he ran by, and he pushed him away.
The man had a gun. The man did not have a gun. No, he reached into his backpack and the officer thought it was a gun…
Don’t forget the day care, someone wrote. Good thing they stopped him, because he was very near the day care center. You can tell he was headed there, she added, by looking at where the body is. This sparked a side debate about whether you could determine the man's path by where his now-motionless body lay. Then a person piped in to point out that it was really dangerous for the police to shoot in the direction of a day care center: I mean, I hope the officer thought of that…
Then someone posted a picture of the body covered (mostly) with a white sheet…arms spread wide. And folks argued about that, too. Argued about whether it was necessary to post a picture of the body.
Think of his family, someone wrote.
Oh. Sorry. Didn’t know you were all so sensitive about a WHITE SHEET, someone snarked back.
A woman named Rebecca commented that it was all very sad, but she was quickly informed that IT IS NOT SAD @REBECCA THE MAN IS A CRIMINAL.
The chatter went on while the body laid there. It was a crime scene, and evidence collection takes time. This time it took…hours.
What does it matter how long he lays there? The guy’s dead.
As day became night, the comments grew harder. You know, comments about how much HE DESERVED IT. How he was surely a POS. How we should THROW HIS BODY IN THE RIVER.
And Big-Issue Hard:
Comments like Maybe he was an illegal and that’s why he ran.
Comments like We better hopehe’s not black. Because if he’s black, we’ll have Jesse Jackson and Quanell X in our community tomorrow claiming police brutality…
Looking over the chatter, the speculation, the judging, I thought --
We are becoming so very, very hard. And somehow we’ve become convinced that hard is good.
Our political party, our favored candidate, our feelings about immigration, about Black Lives Matter, about global warming, about LGBTQ rights –
It’s everything, really. If we’re gonna discuss it, we’re gonna go HARD.
Even with a body dead on the cold concrete and absolutely no confirmed facts, we are all about the business of putting forth our view…HARD.
And every HARD remark, cleverly executed, is a secret win. We look at our HARD words on the screen and think, Yes. KILLED. It. And we count the “likes” that roll in for our HARD and clever comment. For those who object to our comment, we have more HARD and clever words.
AND I THINK –
I think we should be strong instead. STRONG instead of HARD.
What does STRONG look like?
Strong does not see people in terms of gender or color or race or religion. Strong sees two kinds of people: Those who need help. And those who can give help.
Immigration? Who needs help and who can give it? Black Lives Matter? Who needs help and who can give it? LGBTQ rights? Who needs help and who can give it?
Do you see?
STRONG looks at a high-speed chase and subsequent death and says
A man made a long series of bad choices that cost him his life today. Let us mourn this happening, then let’s work to build a world where men making bad choices see a clear path to making better choices. <- This is Kingdom-of-Heaven-on-Earth work, folks. But some of you are called to it, and you know it.
STRONG also says
A man took another man’s life today because in his best judgment it was the choice that would protect other lives. He is a decent man, so this choice will not go easy for him. Let us mourn this happening, and support this man.
STRONG sees through "problems" to actual PEOPLE.
Jesus was strong, you know.
Strong enough to explain his parables over and over when people didn’t understand them, and to do it without saying it HARD.
Strong enough to help people heal their bodies and their minds – not with HARD words, but with STRONG ones:
“Little Girl, get up.” “Be opened.” “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” "Take heart!" "Don't be afraid!" “Lazarus, Come out!” “Your sins are forgiven.”
Strong enough to insist – in the face of The Roman Empire – that the Kingdom of Heaven is within us and among us.
Strong enough to Not. Hit. Back. when struck.
Strong enough to remain silent when taunted.
(C’mon, you knew I was going to go there)
Strong enough to shoulder that cross and lug it up that hill.
HARD hurts people STRONG saves them.
Now, my guess is – and certainly my prayer is – that a high-speed chase ending in a shooting is not going to tumble into your world today.
My second guess is that there may be someone in your world who has made a bad choice (not a criminal choice, just a plain old bad choice) or maybe even a series of bad choices. Can you reach out to her? And be strong, not hard? Can you let her know – help her to see – there is a better path? And that you’ll help her walk it.
Or maybe there's someone in your world struggling to make a right choice. (Or maybe struggling with a choice already made.) Can you be strong for him? Can you support him as he tries to move forward?
OR HOW ABOUT THIS
Maybe you’re the man on the bike.
Maybe you’ve made a series of bad decisions. Maybe you’re feeling reckless. Desperate. Hopeless. Afraid you’ll never be anything more than the mistake-ridden man you’ve been for so long.
Maybe you’re the one facing a hard decision, trying to figure out what the right thing is. Maybe it’s scary, and you’re not sure. Or maybe it’s already done, and you’re still not sure.
When you understand the true meaning of STRONG, you understand that whether you are the one who NEEDS the help, or you are the one who could GIVE the help,
You are called to Reach. Out.
And THAT, my friend, makes you STRONG.
If you're feeling STRONG today, BE THERE for someone in need. If you're struggling today, REACH OUT. If you don't know where to begin, start by reaching out to Him -- I assure you, He'll send help.