This morning, I happened to be at these verses in my walk through the Gospel of Matthew.
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:35-38, NIV, emphasis mine)
I immediately thought of Ferguson, and the crowds Monday night who senselessly destroyed the property of innocent people. I pondered these questions.
- Who led these people?
- How many of the people actively participated in destructive behavior – e.g., lit a match or threw a rock? Most, or less than 5%?
- How did those who came only to make their voice heard feel afterward, while watching the destruction on video footage?
- Where can they all turn now, victim and protestor? What happens next?
Here are other Bible translations of the highlighted text (v36), emphasis mine:
When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. (MSG)
When He saw the throngs, He was moved with pity and sympathy for them, because they were bewildered (harassed and distressed and dejected and helpless), like sheep without a shepherd. (AMP)
Whenever crowds came to Him, He had compassion for them because they were so deeply distraught, malaised, and heart-broken. They seemed to Him like lost sheep without a shepherd. (VOICE)
But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary [harrassed] and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. (NKJV)
The crowd in Ferguson was not much different than the crowds Jesus faced. Yes, many in Ferguson were filled with anger and rage, too.
But don’t anger and rage often come from broken hearts full of pain, deceived into believing lies?
I’m not condoning destructive violence in any way. My heart breaks for the innocent, hard-working people who lost everything. But my heart also breaks for all those in the crowd, including those that committed the worst of the violence.
What about justice, you ask? Shouldn’t those who commit crimes suffer consequences? Yes, I believe we need laws and people to enforce them, and consequences for breaking them. But while consequences can be a deterrent, changed hearts are the only permanent solution.
I also believe all choices bring consequences of some type. But it is not our place to judge others and condemn them from our hearts. As followers of Jesus, we look to God for answers, pray for mercy, and trust in His perfect justice. Here’s what He requires of us.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8, NIV)
We are called to act justly, not to seek what we think is justice for everyone else.
If we all got what we deserved for our sins and crimes, wouldn’t we all be in prison?
The answer to the events in Ferguson is not using force. Jesus gave us the answer: Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
The Kingdom of God advances by force, and the most powerful force in the universe is love. More than ever, the Kingdom of God needs to look radically different than the culture we live in.
I read this quote by Martin Luther King, Jr, on Facebook that sums it all up.
I don’t know what specific actions need to take place next. But I do know whatever happens next must come from hearts of love and mercy, especially from those who follow Jesus.
Let me ask you one last question. Given different circumstances, on any given day, for what we believe is a just cause (right or wrong), couldn’t we all have been part of the crowd in Ferguson?
TODAY’S CHALLENGE: Ask the Lord for His compassion in your heart for all who were and continue to be involved in Ferguson. Respond as Jesus asked, praying for workers to be sent out into the harvest field called Ferguson, Missouri.
And if He sends you, go!