Let Mercy Triumph

Throwing verbal insults and profanity is like tossing gasoline on a fire.

Corporal Casebolt in McKinney did the right thing by resigning from the force. In these days of viral videos, it was clear that he was emotionally charged and behaved badly. Excessive profanity is not the way to subdue an unruly, obstinate crowd. Slamming a bikini-clad girl to the ground showed poor judgement. The police officer, however, was not the only person at the scene who showed poor judgement.

The Resident Adults
There’s a video interview with Tatiana, a young woman who described the cause of the fight that broke out at the pool party. It was wrong for the white residents to hurl racial slurs at her, telling her to “go back to section 8 housing.” No matter how the teens were behaving, berating them with derogatory comments was like throwing gasoline on a flame. Not smart, not a good way to diffuse a situation, and definitely not what Jesus would have us do. Maybe the people throwing around these comments were angry and emotional (like the police officer, perhaps?), but since when does being emotional or angry give a person a license to say demeaning things to another person? And if the adult did in fact assault Tatiana, then her verbal abuse escalated into physical — obviously more poor judgement.

But young Titiana and her mother have something to think about as well. Their homeowner’s association limits the number of guests at the pool to two people per family. It allows for pool parties for 20 people with a $175 security deposit and a $50 rental fee.  Titiana, who hires herself out as a party planner/promoter, hired a DJ and posted a flyer on twitter advertising free food, drinks, and pool. Why would you do such a thing if you knew you could only have 20 friends at a pool party? It was irresponsible for her to post the twitter flyer and promote the party at her neighborhood pool. She clearly violated the terms of her HOA policies. Some of these teens who attended the party were residents who had pool access cards, but not all of them, and when outside kids began climbing the fence, that’s what made the other residents angry.  The police were probably trying to sort out who had legal access to the pool and who did not — can you imagine the nightmare of figuring who was a resident, who wasn’t, and who was a legal guest of which resident?

The Teenagers
Since when did it become okay and defensible to run away from police officers who are conducting an investigation? No matter what color your skin is, if you comply with police commands, you will be ok. If you run, then they will chase you because they will think you have something to hide. In fact, running away from police who are conducting an investigation is a Class A Misdemeanor. It is true that my skin is not dark, so I don’t know what it is like for my darker-skinned friends. But I can’t help but think that those who obey police commands without resisting are better off than those who scorn and ignore those commands.

Since when did it become okay and defensible to use profanity when addressing police officers, teachers, parents, and others in authority? Why are we not having a national dialogue about civility? I think we would be better served as a nation if we looked at civil discourse as much as we looked at civil rights. In fact, many civil rights are not violated until someone first stomps all over civility.

All of us could learn some life lessons from the book of Proverbs:

  • Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a soft tongue can break a bone. (Proverbs 25:15, NET)
  • A gentle response turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath. (Proverbs 15:1, NET)
  • A perverse person spreads dissension, and a gossip separates the closest friends.  (Proverbs 16:28, NET)
  • Hatred stirs up trouble; love overlooks the wrongs that others do. If you have good sense, it will show when you speak.
    But if you are stupid, you will be beaten with a stick. If you have good sense, you will learn all you can, but foolish talk will soon destroy you. (Proverbs 10:12-14, CEV).

What If?
What if the residents who hosted the party had acted in love, making sure that they followed their HOA rules and limiting the number of guests as per the requirements?

What if the residents who were offended at the mob’s behavior had acted in love rather than in hateful speech and actions?

What if the teenagers had acted in love and respect when the adults and security guard tried to talk to them about their behavior? Or when the police came to investigate?

What if Corporal Casebolt had acted in love as he attempted to apprehend those who ran away?

Race Relations
Decent behavior supercedes skin color. Skin color does not give anyone a license to use profanity or otherwise behave disrespectfully and hatefully. And this cuts both ways, whether your skin is light or dark or medium or a mixture — who we are is not determined by our color, but by our conduct. A famous man once said he had a dream that we’d be judged not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character.

James says it much better than I could. Here’s a section from Chapter 2, regarding prejudice and the law of love:

My brothers and sisters, do not show prejudice if you possess faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. For if someone comes into your assembly wearing a gold ring and fine clothing, and a poor person enters in filthy clothes, do you pay attention to the one who is finely dressed and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and to the poor person, “You stand over there,” or “Sit on the floor”? If so, have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my dear brothers and sisters! Did not God choose the poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor! Are not the rich oppressing you and dragging you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme the good name of the one you belong to? But if you fulfill the royal law as expressed in this scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show prejudice, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as violators. For the one who obeys the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a violator of the law. Speak and act as those who will be judged by a law that gives freedom. For judgment is merciless for the one who has shown no mercy. But mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:1-13, NET)

Let that last line roll around in your head a bit:

Mercy triumphs over judgment.

In the end, when we are all called to account for our actions, we will see those days that we showed mercy to others and those days in which we did not.  We will see those days in which we loved our neighbor as ourselves…and when we showed prejudice instead. And then, whatever we gave, we will receive. That’s a sobering thought.

I pray that the national dialogue will turn more towards healing, mercy, and forgiveness and less towards divisiveness and death threats and slurs. People of all colors and sizes and shapes mess up. None of us is perfect. Let’s all own up to our mistakes, take what we can learn from this situation (a need for more civility and respect in society — more loving our neighbors as ourselves), letting mercy triumph over all.

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