How to talk to your children about the verdict

News headlines provide daily opportunities to tell your children about the King of the universe and how he runs his world. The announcement of the verdict in Sanford, Florida has made headlines. How do you interact with your children about this verdict? There is already anger, frustration, and calls for violence. Others are adamant that we must abide by the laws and by what appeared to be a fair trial; they say it’s time to move on.

But, these two perspectives are not the only ones and perhaps not even the most important ones to consider. There is a cultural / historical component that is intertwined with the verdict.  There is also the perspective of God’s faithfulness to honor his own covenant with man. It is this covenantal commitment that alone brings hope to those struggling with the verdict and how it is received. This is what you must help your children to grasp.

Let me explain.

I remember riding a city bus as a young boy. I was probably 7 or 8. Those were different times. Young children could safely ride a public bus by themselves. It was also a different time because this bus had a white line across the floor of the bus about two-thirds of the way back from the front. One day, as I sat down, I noticed an older woman standing because there were no seats left in the back section. Since my seat was near her and I had been taught that it was respectful to stand so that women could sit, I offered her my seat. I was immediately rebuked for doing what should not be done by a man sitting in the front section. So I continued to stand and she continued to stand until I reached my stop.

I also remember drinking fountains and restrooms that were labeled colored and white. As I said, those were different times.

Around 1970, as a young man, I took a job with the Parks & Recreation Department of Dade County, Florida. My second summer I was assigned to work at Virginia Beach, which was a park right next to the famous Crandon Park beach. The two parks were separated by only a few hundred yards of water. My supervisor told me he thought I could handle the assignment as it was one he couldn’t give to just anyone. He gave me the name of my supervisor, which I recognized as a local college football star. At first I was a little confused by his comment. Then I arrived at the park for work. Even though I had been to Crandon Park many times, I never thought much about the public beach just across the water. Immediately I understood my supervisor’s concern. As I got out of the car, I realized that Virginia Beach was the black beach. I was the only white person in sight.

Needless to say, it was an instructive summer. I also realized that one of the county trash incinerators was at the end of this small island called Virginia Beach. I have never seen so many flies. And of course, just across the water where the other beach was there were no flies and no black people.

Things are different now. There are no white lines on buses, no labels that say colored and white. There are no separate beaches. My memories don’t even begin to compare with things that were far worse. In my mind I remember these things and how wrong they were like they were yesterday. And I am white. I can’t imagine, even though I experienced them, what these memories would be like for those who are black.

These historical / cultural realities also form part of the response to the verdict. These realities cannot be ignored or forgotten. They are part of what makes us who we are as a people. This is why one can’t say, just move on. You can’t move on from what you are.

I think the verdict, according to the law (as I understand it,) was probably correct. I also don’t especially trust the media’s assessment of either the two individuals who are the focus of this trial. That being said, it is important to remember that man’s law has limitations. The law can’t fully account for the realities of racial disdain and hurt etched upon the souls of folks for generations. Changed laws will not give us better verdicts in the days and months ahead. Only changed hearts can do that.

This is where the covenantal commitment of God must be grasped to help bring hope to the aftermath of the verdict. God does right wrongs. He does heal wounds – both physical and cultural, both of the body and the soul. There is hope for the broken-hearted and for the arrogant. People on different sides of the same historical realities can work together in Christ.

There is more to the verdict than finding out the correct legal response. The verdict cannot account for the fall of man and the ongoing inhumanity of man to man. As Christians we must not place handling the aftermath of the verdict squarely on the shoulders of law enforcement and our elected officials. That is not fair to those charged to uphold the law.  Remember, changed hearts heal, not changed laws. As Christians we must stop taking the easy way out. We must have wisdom and compassion to accompany the judicial process.

We must reach out to those who are hurting and those who are blinded by cultural wrongs. Only the power of the gospel can heal the broken hearts and the ugliness of the past.  Only the gospel can bring compassion to those who can only trust the law of man.

Talk to your children about the gospel and the history that is behind this verdict. There is more to life than what we can see. No picture is complete or accurate until we consider God’s perspective given to us in Scripture.



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