(note – this is not a discussion or observation on the facts of what happened and how in Baltimore. Indeed, more and more facts come out each day. It now appears that it is possible that the person who died may have intentionally injured himself. It is also possible that the police did something to cause the injury. We simply do not know for sure what happened. This writing is more directed towards the thugs and how we view them, and maybe how we should…as always, just something to stick in your theological pipe and ponder…)
The riots and looting and burning of buildings this past week in Baltimore paint a horrible picture. Anytime, regardless of the cause, people feel the need to steal and destroy other people’s property it is a sad situation that truly is beyond words and understanding. Sure, someone might be able to concoct a scenario where this type of behavior would be justified, but they would have to be very creative.
Do the people rioting and hell-bent on destruction have grievances? Maybe, maybe not.
Are they based on reality? Maybe, maybe not.
But I do believe that these people who throw bricks through windows and who steal snacks and who destroy small businesses in their communities, whatever the reason, are not only wrong, but are ignorant and immoral. There has been some discussion among newscasters and talking heads that calling them thugs is a code-word for some hidden, subconscious racism, but I don’t think so.
Calling them thugs is exactly what they are – thugs. If it walks like a thug and talks like a thug and acts like a thug, it is a thug. Thugs and thuggish behavior are not based on color or race or class or anything other than behavior.
Throwing bricks through windows and destroying property and threatening and injuring other people are the activity of thugs.
The people acting like thugs over the past few days are a small group. The majority of people – whether they be protestors or residents – do not condone or want burning houses and destroyed businesses and do not want to fear for their lives in their own communities.
I have seen countless commentators on the news and on social media commenting on how the small minority of thugs is ruining legitimate conversations and making life miserable for “the rest of us.”
A Facebook post I read made a soothing point to let the readers know that the large majority of people in Baltimore and indeed around the world are not thugs. The media fixates on the thuggish behavior because it makes for higher ratings, but the writer said that the majority of people are basically good people and we should all remember that. We should remember that as the media focuses on the worst of us, the rest of us are good people at heart.
Soothing and poignant.
And completely false.
It is very easy to compare ourselves to the thugs as they destroy property and burn buildings and say, “I am a good person.” Well, of course you are when compared to the thugs.
But, if we think truth is important, the reality is you are no better than the thug. In fact, you are a thug too.
No. You are not a good person.
No. You do not have a good heart.
No. You are not so different than the people running the streets at night destroying, burning and looting.
But, but, but…but nothing.
Truth –“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
More truth –“For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Matthew 7:21-23)
Now you may say, “But that is not talking about me. I worship God.”
“The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based merely on human rules they have been taught.” (Isaiah 29:13)
So, this idea that the huge majority of people in the world are basically good is a nice thought when we come face to face with evil people doing evil things, but in reality – in truth – it is wrong.
We are all bad. We are all nasty.
We are all throwing bricks.
We are all destroying things.
We are all setting fires.
We are all thugs.
All of us.
“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10)
The ONLY thing that sets anyone apart from being a thug is Jesus. He, and He alone, can take a thug and transform him into a different person, into a Child of God.
Christians who have gone to church for any length of time have probably heard the discussion about who they would be during the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. Would you be one of the disciples who ran away? Would you be like the women who remained with Jesus until the very end? Would you be like Simeon who carried Jesus’ cross for him?
No, you are the crowd. You are the mockers. You are the ones who spit on Jesus and laughed at him, defying him to show miraculous signs. You are the sinners – you are the very ones who sent him to the cross.
Today, you are the thugs.
You are the ones looting.
It is who you are.
It is how you were born.
It is in your nature.
The only thing that changes the thug in all of us is Jesus.
So as we watch the scenes unfold on TV. As we watch countless videos of the destruction and devastation. And as we shake our heads at the evil nature of these thugs and then marvel at our own perceived goodness. It might be good to remember –
We are thugs – and the only thing that has changed and can change us is Jesus.
And maybe instead of offering only prayers for the afflicted and derision for the thugs. We can remember that we too were once thugs and we can pray for them as well.