My childhood Bible had a lot of pictures in it.
One picture I will never forget was that of the man who wrote the majority of the Christian New Testament. He was the Apostle Paul. And he was pictured often in the book of Acts, which furnishes us with a chronological narrative of his life.
The first picture of Paul to be found in my Bible was in Acts chapter 7 where he was found holding the coats of those who were killing the first Christian martyr, named Stephen. It was back when Paul was still named Saul. But it made quite an impression on my young mind.
Perhaps you know the scene I'm referring to within your own memory bank.
Saul was not stoning Stephen to death. He was only watching. The actual killers were trusting Saul to, in something of a more common metaphor today, "hold my beer while I take care of this wise guy." The Acts narrative portrayed Saul as holding their coats while they stoned Stephen to death for expressing a faith contrary to their own. "The men who had brought charges against him put their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul" (Acts 7:58 CEV).
Why would I bring this old Bible story up today?
I’ll start with the obvious. This Christian apostle/missionary/writer we know as Paul has tremendous amounts of clout where today’s Christian evangelicals are concerned. They cling to his every word.
So I’m wondering what Paul, who was never shy about confessing to his previous sins as Saul, might say today to white Christian evangelicals in America who watch silently while those from their own community kill innocent and unarmed black men from their same community and country. What would he say when they’re not the ones firing the shots but only the ones watching the videos?
Would Paul excuse today’s white Christians who watch as their own authorities, say policemen, fire the shots? Would that make their watching silently okay? Would holding their coats, as it were, seem okay to Paul?
I doubt it.
I doubt Paul would watch silently as a Christian if he saw other Christians watching silently. But I wonder what he would say about what today’s white evangelicals are saying, or not saying. Wonder what he’d write.
I’m not so sure he wouldn’t bring up his own sinful past as Saul, watching the coats, watching the murder of Stephen, all the while thinking he was doing God a favor.
And I’m not so sure he wouldn’t bring up his own conversion on the road to Damascus. Or that he wouldn’t be asking today’s white evangelicals to stop persecuting Jesus Christ and instead join him in actually preaching AND LIVING the Gospel instead. Even if it means they, too, end up like Paul. And like Stephen. And like Christ. And like Ahmaud Aubrey, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and an enormously long list of other unarmed black males who were killed. While other God-fearing people were only standing by. Holding on. Rationalizing. Watching. Silently.