Blood On My Hands

Isaiah 1:1-2:22, 2 Corinthians 10:1-18, Psalm 52:1-9, Proverbs 22:26-27

When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.
(Isaiah 1:15,17)

Relate: It has been a long time since I was last in the United States. It would have been four years this past summer since my last visit. During that visit, I was in the car with my cousin and his family when he got a text that caused him to say, “Oh man, they did it again. When are they ever going to learn?” He then pulled up a video link and we watched Philando Castile get shot because he had “looked like someone else.” An innocent black man was killed by the cops… again. And again… and again… and again.

Part of me wants to say, “My hands are clean.” I’m not a cop. I’m not a racist. I barely even consider myself an American anymore. More than friends, I’ve got black family members. Six of my siblings were adopted and five of them are black. Maybe I have not done all I could, but I have written and spoken out for racial justice more than once in the past. I put my life on hold to cross oceans and work with refugees. If anyone could say. “This is not my problem, I would think that I am pretty high up on that list.”

React: But I wonder how many of the people in Isaiah’s day would say the same. How many could say, “I haven’t shed the blood of innocent victims.” I mean, I’m pretty sure that more than 99% of those who would have heard his words were not in and of themselves murderers. I am sure most of them had never even seen such a crime and would have been appalled and horrified if they had. But how many of them benefited from a society and a system that exploited the poor? How many didn’t care why they got their clothes so cheap or intentionally turned a blind eye when so and so’s land was up for sale at bargain prices just weeks after the father of the family died fighting in Judah’s wars?

Is it enough to simply not participate in racist activities myself? Am I guilty just because I have benefited from a system of oppression? Slavery existed for more than three centuries in America, and Jim Crow another eighty plus years beyond that. America was built on the oppression of others. And it maintains itself on similar oppression. There is absolutely no way on earth the entire world could survive if it all consumed resources at the rate America and the West does. Maintaining that lifestyle demands that the third world remains the third world. Am I guilty for living an unsustainable first world lifestyle without even realizing that I am doing so? I am not saying yes or no. I don’t have answers to these questions. But these are questions that I, and all of us, need to be asking. There comes a point when we need to start asking such questions. Instead of telling the world what we think is right, we need to talk with our neighbor and simply say, “Help me learn.”


Dear Lord, 
Let Your justice roll. Help me to be a carrier of that justice. Help me to do what I can, when I can, where I can to help bring peace and healing and justice to my neighbor. Even more, help me to shut up and listen. Before I go spouting off telling the world what ought to happen, help me to sit down at a meal with a friend and simply ask, “tell me your story.” Help me to vastly expand my vision of who my neighbor is that you have called me to love.

8 thoughts on “Blood On My Hands

  1. Sad to say, but oppression of the poor is the history of mankind. I have been trying to help in Haiti for almost 30 years (built and operate a school of 400 students with feeding program) and as in most third world countries you have the rich and the poor with a sparse middle class (if you could call it that). Hardly any place on the planet will you find the current residents the original inhabitants. Again, not excusing the excesses but a realistic history of the world. We live in a fallen world with broken people. America has its problems but people here have their best opportunity to succeed than any where else on the planet. I have brown and black friends who came here from poor countries with nothing and not even speaking English who are now thriving as middle class citizens. We ain’t all good but we ain’t all bad either.

  2. It is interesting that Isaiah 1:17 translates into “fatherless” in many of the translations of the bible I have read, the strongs says both. Many black people either have lost their fathers to the systematic laws that were aimed at black people then progressed to losing their fathers to hard drugs or the fact that they didn’t have fathers to be examples of what fathers were. When mothers must bare all of the responsibility of parenting and working they lose them too. It is true there is a lot of crime in cities and in neighborhoods with more minorities, but I fully believe that it leads back to the loss of the father in the family because of past racism, and current oppression of the fatherless. Truly children become orphans because they lose both their parents to the pressures of society.

  3. If you compare America to Heaven, it will seem very bad. Heaven has neither racism, injustice, nor sorrow of any kind. But if you compare America to any other country on earth, it will seem very good. Racism is an ineradicable tendency of human nature. We should always try to improve, but we cannot make Heaven on earth, and attempts to do so have almost invariably led to Hell instead.

    • It is not our place to compare ourselves with others. Doing so just reminds me of the Pharisee. He stood next to the tax collecter and prayed, “God, I thank you I’m not as bad as that guy.” Meanwhile the tax collecter was praying, “Have mercy on me a sinner.”

      Rather than saying, “We aren’t as racist and unjust as other countries.” We should be saying, “God have mercy.”

      First of all, from my experience as a global citizen, I don’t believe America is nearly the paragon of freedom and equality it imagines itself (and I once imagined it) to be. Beyond that, rather than comparing ourselves with other nations, we should be comparing ourselves with what God’s word calls us to be. Or at the very least, what we could be if we were at our best.

      America is a great nation but far, far from perfect. We have a long way to go in improving and should be focusing on that rather than gloating in self righteousness how much better we are than others.

  4. I am sitting here in the U.S., feeling very helpless in light of the protests and my ability to help fight systemic racism. I never thought myself racist, but perhaps I was in a sense, being white and not knowing the complete history of slavery and racism in this country. I’ve been reading a lot about the Jim Crow south, the redlining that created places like Harlem and the inability to live where one wants to live, and the utter oppression and denigration of a people only due to the color of their skin. It gives me sadness and wonder if it will ever be any different. How many generations would it take to eradicate? How do we change the mindset of those who hate people of color? At this point, I can try to be an informed voice for change, but I realize it’s not enough until I can have the conversations you speak of…to learn and understand firsthand from the mouth of someone who has not had a privileged life, who battles with racism every day. You may find the following article interesting as these are people who are having those conversations and taking action in their communities.

  5. I wouldn’t rely on mainstream media for your only source of news. The misinformation propagated there is astonishing. The biased media will say anything to support their narrative. When you really look into these situations, there’s always more to the story than racist white cops shooting innocent, unarmed black people. This kind of false narrative is burning the country down at the moment. Good not to pile fuel on the fire without really checking into it first.

    • Eight minutes and forty-six seconds. I don’t care what type of person George Floyd was. I don’t care if the $20 he used was counterfeit. The man was killed handcuffed and facedown on the ground while a cop held a knee to his neck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds. Meanwhile, the rest of the cops stood around with their hands in their pockets doing nothing. I don’t need mainstream media or alternate media or any news site whatever to know that this is wrong.

      Two wrongs don’t make a right. And an escalation of evil certainly isn’t justified by the initial evil. Eric Garner was illegally selling cigarettes. Yes. That doesn’t justify his murder. Philando Castille looked like another suspect. (Apparently, all black people look alike.) That doesn’t justify his getting shot right in front of his wife and child. I guess buying a bag of skittles is a crime too. Just ask Treyvon Martin.

      I really do try to see the other side of any argument, but quite honestly enough is enough. Get your head out of the sand. America has a racism problem. America has a justice problem. I live in Turkey and I understand that the bias here of Turks against the Kurds and the history here of Turks against the Armenians is far, far worse. So what? Anywhere you go in the world there may be issues. But that doesn’t justify American racism. Rather than trying to justify our sin, why not get rid of it?

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