I don’t know all the facts about the shooting incident in Ferguson, Missouri, that prompted the ongoing civil unrest. But looking at the totality of the situation from the thirty-thousand-foot level, I see a problem that curfews and calls for calm can’t solve.
At first, it is easy to focus on who was at fault in the shooting, the police or the deceased. Fault does need to be determined, and justice does need to be done. That’s what trials are for.
But there is a bigger issue that we can and should ponder: What really fueled and sustained the violence that flowed from the initial incident? And is that “thing” something unique to Ferguson? What if that “thing” is lying dormant in the soil of every American city, like a seed ready to sprout as soon as the environment is right?
As we think about the “root cause” of the violence that sprouted, I’d like to suggest something that I’ve not heard anyone say yet, or at least not say it this way—it is a lack of love.
Reading that, my conservative friends will think I’ve gone soft, that I’ve turned liberal on them. But hear me out. I’m talking about the kind of love our society wants nothing to do with anymore.
The kind of love about which I’m speaking is that found in Matthew 24:12, which records Jesus as saying, “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” The word “lawlessness” is from a root word that literally translated means “not law.”
Of course, the law to which Jesus referred was not civil law. He wasn’t saying that love will grow cold and society will become “loveless” if there aren’t a lot of civil laws on the books. He wasn’t saying “big government” is a precursor to or condition for a loving society. To the contrary, we have big civil government because we lack the kind of law Jesus was referring to.
The kind of law to which Jesus was referring is law in a real, ultimate, and final sense, the law by which God has ordered all of His creation, including human beings. When mankind wants to pretend there is no moral law by which we must conform our conduct in order for us, individually and corporately, to prosper, then love will grow cold.
In that kind of “lawless” environment, which is our current national environment, love must grow cold because in the absence of such a God-ordained and imposed law, every man is a law unto himself. And that breeds a self-centered, egotistical human being. For that person, there is nothing and no law higher than himself. He wants what he wants when he wants it, and whatever gets in his way is wrong and must go.
Sadly, lawless love has infected the church, which is why our society continues down this path of fomenting anger and violence. I tire of the preachers who today call us to just “love God” and “love our neighbor” but never bother to remind those whom they so exhort that those “calls to love” were summations of what it meant to live out the Ten Commandments, the law of God.
What is happening in Ferguson truly makes my heart heavy not just for those who live there, but for my country. What happened in that community is bound to happen at some point in every community where lawlessness is allowed to abound.
And faced with that possibility, let’s hope the church will do more than join the calls for calm and curfews.
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.