“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the lord and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord.”
Psalm 27:4-6 (ESV)
One of my favorite sermons by Jonathan Edwards is titled, “Pressing Into the Kingdom of God” (from which I adopted the wording of my title). In its introduction, Edwards speaks of Psalm 27:4, pointing out that the verse demonstrates both strength of desire and strength of resolution. The psalmist’s eternal heavenly rest is the one thing that he asks of the Lord and the one thing that he seeks. Edwards then makes the argument that both of these strengths are essential to our “pressing” into God’s Kingdom.
All week, I have been reflecting on the grand jury’s decision against indicting Officer Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown in August. It has been hard to avoid the subject, to be honest. The night the decision was announced, there were riots—physically on the ground in Ferguson, MO and all over social media timelines across the world. The Ferguson predicament has certainly become something much larger than any of us could have anticipated. I’m sure Officer Wilson was not picturing car lots being set on fire as he pulled the trigger on August 9th.
As the son of a police officer, I have particularly struggled with some of the comments I have been reading. Though I concede that many of these remarks have come from people who offer no kind of Socratic good to the discussion, it gets a little exhausting hearing people make blanket statements about cops and race—especially white cops and black suspects. What I am not trying to do in this is state, argue, or convince you that Wilson was right or wrong. You can do a quick Google search and find all of the documentation of the evidence/testimonies that the grand jury deliberated over and form your own opinion on the case.
In a world filled with uneasiness, racial tension, and (most of all) uncertainty, I want to bring to the table something that is, and always will be, certain. While Twitter activists and media outlets encourage mob-like questioning from both sides of the argument, I want to show you that there is an answer for injustice.
It is truly amazing how applicable the Word and the theology that we interpret from it can be to our worldview. In the case of Michael Brown, I made a decision to press into the glorious future we have in the promises of God. Whether just or unjust, the life of a young man has been lost. Whether or not Brown was innocently surrendering or he was charging at Officer Darren Wilson, what has happened did, in fact, happen. Whether Wilson goes punished or unpunished, there will be a gaping wound for many Americans—black or white, majority or minority, entitled or poverty-stricken.
I want to turn our attention now to Joel 3.
I want to charge each and every one of you reading this—each and every one of you social media activists and bloggers: You are all human. You were made in the image of the Almighty God—the God of justice—and because of that, you should desire justice as He does. It is part of pressing into the glorious future.
That “strength of desire” that Jonathan Edwards spoke of some 200-something years ago still rings true for us today; however, I have come to think that the “strength of resolution” no longer belongs to us. As prophesied in Joel, the Fountain has come forth. This Fountain has been opened specifically for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem for the cleansing of their sin and uncleanness (Zech. 13:1). As Matthew Henry writes of Isaiah 55:1-15, “Come to Christ, for he is the Fountain opened, he is the Rock smitten.” As Edwards bade us to do, press into the Kingdom of God, and in doing so, you will press into the promises of future glory won for us by Christ on the cross.
A case like the one in Ferguson, Missouri, invokes a picture of Christus Victor. While I cannot stand up for all of the views usually associated with Christus Victor, Scripture speaks of Christ humbly dying and through this act of submission to the will of the Father, rising to conquer the power of death (1 Cor. 15:54-57). In this sense, Christ is victorious. Too many times, we separate Christ’s victory from his death, associating it only with the resurrection. Christ’s death was a victory. With his death, he secures His sheep. This is certainly a victory.
Maybe I’m writing in circles here.
What I really just want to say is this: As Christians, we should be seeking out justice. I would never condone injustice or inequality, especially for the sake of white privilege—this coming from a suburban college student. The Bible does not condone these things; in fact, Scripture commands Christians to stand up for those subject to injustice, for they are the spiritually needy and poor (Prov. 31:8-9). But as you’re standing up for these people, don’t forget that the Fountain has been opened. Christ’s sacrifice was not in vain, and if we fail to trust in God the Justifier, then we disarm the power of the death of Christ (Rom. 3:26).
I have been praying over this situation. I have been praying for the family of Michael Brown, that they might find closure and peace in this troubling and infuriating time. I have been praying for Officer Darren Wilson and his family, that they would remain unharmed and that maybe life could return somewhat close to normal. I have been praying for the hearts of the protesters, that they might be softened and that they would act in peace instead of violence. I have been praying for blacks and whites alike, that the discrimination both socially and emotionally would be filled with the love of Christ.
But most of all, I have been praying for God to sovereignly work, that he might use the events in Ferguson for His glory and our good so that we might, in response, press into the glorious future of God’s certain promises.
“So you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who dwells in Zion, my holy mountain. And Jerusalem shall be holy, and strangers shall never again pass through it. And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the streambeds of Judah shall flow with water; and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord and water from the Valley of Shittim. Egypt shall become a desolation and Edom a desolate wilderness, for the violence done to the people of Judah, because they have shed their blood in their land. But Judah shall be inhabited forever, and Jerusalem to all generation. I will avenge their blood, blood I have not avenged, for the Lord dwells in Zion.”
Joel 3:17-21 (ESV)
Cody Glen Barnhart
Cody Glen Barnhart (@codygbarnhart) lives in Kansas City, Missouri, and is a student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has written for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Canon & Culture, Gospel Centered Discipleship, and is a contributor at servantsofgrace.org.