3 (Good) Ways to Respond to Ahmaud Arbery’s Death

It’s happened again. 

An unarmed black man was shot and killed by white men. While this article has “Ahmaud Arbery” in the title, we could replace his name with any number of similar events within our country. 

The cultural conversation for stories like Ahmaud’s, Trayvon’s, Philando’s, Botham’s, and Atatiana’s usually goes like this:

  • Liberals: They should not have died!
  • Conservatives: Let’s wait until we know all the facts.
  • Liberals: What circumstances can make this person dying deserved?
  • Conservatives: Well, look at the kind of person they are!
  • Liberals: All white people are racist and #blacklivesmatter.
  • Conservatives: I’m not racist, and they should have just followed the law better – then they’d still be alive.

But what should our response as followers of Jesus be?

I think we should be above and beyond those arguments. I believe our response should be shaped not by the law, by the videos, or by the narrative. Our arguments should not appeal to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or the Governor’s office.

Our responses, conversations, and arguments should depend on the person and ministry of Jesus and the Bible.

Here are three ways to reflect Jesus in any divisive conversation.

1. With Mourning

Death’s presence in our world is scandalous!

As Christians, our first response to stories about someone dying should be sadness, lament, and mourning. Regardless of the circumstances, death is not something we should easily excuse. It should be a reminder that the world is not as it should be.

When we respond to death with a quick justification or accusation, we are skipping over the deep tragedy of death.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:14-18

Our first response to hearing news of someone being killed should be to mourn with their friends, family, and community. Blame is not needed. Defense is not beneficial.

Our responses, conversations, and arguments should depend on the person and ministry of Jesus and the Bible. #AhmaudArbery Share on X

In the case of Ahmaud Arbery specifically, and most situations generally, we must not rush to defend the men who killed him. We should not immediately blame racism or hatred.

Instead, we mourn. 

We imagine what it would feel like if our son, sister, father, or wife were killed under similar circumstances. Then sit in that pain.

2. With Love

We so often fail to reflect Christ’s love in the way we conduct ourselves publicly and online.

Here’s a quick refresher on what Christian love looks like:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

When we hear about someone being shot by a cop, by vigilantes, or by a criminal, we need to be sure our words and attitudes reflect the love of Jesus. After we mourn their death with their friends and family, we should still be sure we listen before we speak. We should not be quick to dismiss someone’s viewpoint.

Too often interactions can devolve into name-calling and digital yelling. No one learns from that. No one grows. No one’s mind is changed.

We Christians have Truth on our side. That means we should be more gracious and patient and loving than anyone else. The Apostle Paul understood that when he wrote those words from Corinthians above.

When our conversations stop being loving before anything else, we have failed. We do not need to win every argument. We do not have to change everyone’s mind. We do not have to confront every idea we disagree with.

But we should display patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, gentleness, peace, faithfulness, joy, and love in every interaction.

3. With Yearning

Hearing about death and violence and grief should stir a deep yearning for it to be “on earth as it is in heaven.” 

It should cause us to hunger for a world full of justice and righteousness. A world in which misery and pain are neutralized.

A world in which the hungry are fed and the lowly are lifted.

A world in which death has been defeated.

Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Revelation 21:3-5

It’s not enough to trust that Jesus has saved me. I must also devote my life to following and continuing in his work of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration. 

The next time you see a post on Facebook or Twitter about someone being shot to death – pause. Do not respond right away. 

Think about their family.

Think about the experience of getting the phone call about your family member being killed. Think about seeing their name and face all over the news. Think about what it must be like to hear someone saying your brother is deserving of death. 

Listen to the stories of the people who are scared and hurt by the story. Be full of patience and mercy and grace and love.

And kindle your passion to partner with God in wiping away every tear and injustice.

It should cause us to hunger for a world full of justice and righteousness. A world in which misery and pain are neutralized. A world in which the hungry are fed and the lowly are lifted. A world in which death has been defeated. Share on X
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May 11, 2020 2:23 pm

The intro to this in the hypothetical conversation between a “liberal” and a conservative is already misleading and highly offensive. The rest of the article isn’t bad, but that needs to be removed. Or you will able to say goodby to any “liberals” who Love Jesus and choose to listen to your station. This is appalling and doesn’t speak love or life into anything. Shame on you!

Reply to  Mandy
May 11, 2020 6:35 pm

Mandy, both sides of the “conversation” are simplistic and stereotypical. I would agree that it doesn’t add anything to the article’s argument.

Reply to  Jude Hawkins
May 13, 2020 8:23 pm

Hi Jude, No need to apologize to me. Although I did not prefer the technique, I was not offended. I understood what you were trying to convey. I agree with the Biblical directives you outline. I think that it stops short of saying what we do when we “hunger for a world full of justice and righteousness.” However, I don’t think that every article has to do everything. Perhaps the basic steps of just being loving, kind, and compassionate are what many need to hear about responding in these cases. I appreciate how your article “Cops Aren’t Racist…” directly challenged… Read more »

Dion Richardson
Dion Richardson
May 11, 2020 2:40 pm

Amen! We must also respond in humility and acknowledgement of racism as a tool of the enemy and know that we all of are of ONE blood through Adam and Christ. 1 John 4:4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God… Read more »

Reply to  Dion Richardson
May 11, 2020 7:26 pm

Dion, it seems like the “acknowledgment of racism” is problematic for some White conservative evangelical Christians in the United States. I am not exactly sure why except to say that discussing its existence is seen as “liberal” and “leftist” and part of a “democratic” agenda. Why is it so difficult to acknowledge that the people listed at the beginning of the article were judged, mistreated, and killed because of the color of their skin? They would not have been treated the same way had they been white. Study after study after study after study show that our systems of justice,… Read more »

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