When you hear the name Rodney King, our minds swirl with memories of what took place in Los Angeles between 1990 and 1992.
King was brutally abused by officers from the Los Angeles Police Department during a traffic stop. The assault was filmed and the images shared across the nations. It led to an investigation, charges being filed, and a highly publicized trial. The officers accused in the assault were acquitted, which led to the Los Angeles riots of 1992.
In the middle of the riots, King was asked to speak at a press conference to share his thoughts on what was taking place. King spoke as someone who was uncomfortable with the spotlight, but said words we can all remember.
Can we all just get along?
Much has happened in our nation and world since those words were first uttered.
We have seen the political polarization of our nation divide us into homogenous groupings of conservative and progressive only. A division that too often means we refuse to listen to anyone who is politically opposite of us. We assume the worst in the political other and believe that only those who are truly ideologically pure to the cause can be trusted.
We have seen divisions tear churches apart. Much like our society, our churches are becoming more and more defined by our politics and political persuasions. We have become unfortunately uncomfortable with the idea of a church that welcomes all to the table. We want churches that are more like a social club of like-minded people than we do a gathering of followers of Christ who come from different walks of life.
We have seen racial tensions rise as the voiceless seek to be heard. We have a systematic issue in our nation where minorities are told they do not have voice. We make it harder and harder in our nation for minorities to live. Those who are peacefully protesting for the rights of all are told that they are destroying the nation. There are those who are using the moment for violence sake that are not seeking to advocate for justice, but for their own desire for destruction.
We have seen a pandemic that has been used to promote distrust and dishonesty.
And … we don’t get along well with one another.
So, can we get along with one another? Or do we just laugh it off as an impossible statement for an impossible time?
I believe we can find a way to get along with one another, but it will require a lot of hard work and effort on our part.
It will require us to take to heart the Great Commandment to love God and love one another as we would seek to be loved. The very ethic of loving our neighbor cannot be absent from any conversation within the church, nor can it be tossed aside as a relic of a bygone era. Christ calls us to a higher standard of looking at the other person and seeing God at work in that person, but also to look at them and see how we would want to be treated. That very ethic, in response to Christ’s love for us, calls us to hear the concerns of others and ask how might we all work for a just and peaceful world.
At the same time, finding a way to get along with one another requires us to remember that agreement upon the essentials is important, but disagreement is acceptable with the non-essentials. In our Christian faith, the essentials are found within the words of the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed. Both serve as the doctrinal background that provide foundational understanding of what it means to worship the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Outside of those foundational statements, there is a lot of room for diversity of thought and engagement within the church. We don’t have to always see eye to eye on all things in order to keep our eyes upon what is most important within our mission and relationship in Christ.
As people who seek to follow Christ, we should always strive to find ways to work with one another and build relationships with all people. This is the witness of Christ who built relationships with all people, and teaches us still today on how to care for those who may be different from us with grace.
We need, more than ever, to put into practice a theology of grace towards all people and, truly, seek to get along with one another as a response to Christ’s love.