In “Murder on the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie, a murder is committed on a train. There has been a lot about killing in my Facebook feed recently, so here’s my piece. You go through the book, and you have ideas about who the killer is, but you aren’t sure. As Christie takes you through the suspects and you follow detective Poirot, there are thirteen suspects in total. At the end, the detective has two solutions: one solution is that a stranger had boarded the train, committed the murder, and escaped unnoticed.
It is so easy to see the other person, the stranger, as the problem. “They’re black, so they’re the problem” or “they’re white and they’re in authority, so they’re the problem.” We think they are the killer. Our identity is at stake here. This is not about something that happened. This is about who we are and about who they are. And as far as we can see it, as far as our own blind eyes can see, they are the killer. They are the culprit. They are the problem. We are innocent, they are guilty. They should be reviled. Not us. Them.
Detective Poirot’s first solution was wrong. The stranger was not the killer. Yet he had a second solution to the murder, that ended up being right. Do you want to know what it was? I’ll tell you: all thirteen suspects were involved in the murder. Every single one. They were all complicit. All had blood on their hands. All had the wrath of the government and justice awaiting them. Everyone had contributed, and in their own way, was personally responsible for the tragedy on the Orient Express. All had sinned.
We are in the very same situation today.
We are all a part of the problem, because we have a flawed view of personhood. Somehow we think tragedy can strike, whether it be in September 2001, or in July 2016, whether it be in New York, Louisiana, or Dallas. We thank God that it is not us that is the problem. We pray, “Thank you God that I am not like them,” not knowing that all along, we are the Pharisee in Luke 18. We are the ones who cannot see the problem. We are the ones who are to blame. We all are. We all have blood on our hands.
I do not know how the current political, social, and racial firestorm can be solved. But I know where a solution begins. And that solution begins when we stop looking at skin or uniform and start looking at ourselves. Do you see the flawed human? That is all of us. I am listening to an audiobook right now about the rise and fall of Nazi Germany. Did you know that Hitler liked painting watercolors? Sounds normal, right? That’s because he was human. Like you. The same evil that was in him is in you. It is there.
The harsh reality of the world is a reality that only the Christian Bible owns up to.
You are not nice. You are not holy. You are not better, than them, or anyone.
You, and me, and all of us, we have blood on our hands. Eternal blood. With Lady Macbeth, we wash our hands, we scrub them harder, trying to get the blood off. We point fingers, we write blogs, we shift the blame, we cry, “Out, out damn stain!” But there is no cure.
Jesus was perfect. We know this, because when we read about his life in the four gospels, we are constantly surprised by the strangeness of his actions. He loved unconditionally. He fraternized with the marginalized, he dined with the socially outcast, he even touched a man with leprosy—do you know the kind of implications that had in that culture? He got involved with the human condition, with dirt, with racism, with societal barriers — he was an agent of redemption, of reconciliation: of love.
He saw the sin, the depth of the human heart, he saw the Hitler in each of us, he saw the stain on our hands, he knew we were complicit in the murder. He saw what we deserved, and he decided to love. Profundity unmeasured. On the cross, this perfect man died for us and yet because of us. Our sin put him there. We were involved. But do you know what kept him there? Not the nails. Love. For you. By his blood, we can be washed “white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18), robed in “white robes” (Revelation 7:13), clean. The Stain gone.
When you see what you deserve and you see what he has done—when you take that in, internalize it, and let that news change you, you will not feel superior to anyone, no matter what they do. You cannot. How could you when it was your sin that killed the Son of God? And yet you will not have anything to prove, because do you see the depth of his love for you? God’s love for you was not cheap. The cross shows us this. It was a costly love. It cost him everything, because for some reason of reasons, you were worth that much to him.
When you see that, you will love the “other.”
You will challenge them, and you will love them.
I am white. I have two white brothers, David and Daniel, who are police officers in Chesapeake Virginia, and they put their life on the line every day, in a predominantly black area. They are my heroes. I prayed for them on my bike to work this morning. This is personal for me, and I am thankful that like my brothers, God did not sit back and watch the absurdities and contradictions of the human condition from a distance. He got involved.
He got metal through his hands, splinters in his forehead, for you. For black people. For white people. For all of us.
We are all a part of the problem. By his grace, may we all be part of the solution.
May you see the human in the uniform and extend to them your sincere gratitude for their service. May you look the person warmly in the eye whose skin is colored a shade other than yours. May you shake their hand. May you hold their hand. May you embrace them. And together, may you look to Christ — he who at great cost to himself, simply loved.
“He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6)