Realistically, What Do We Expect?

Reform is in the air.

Reconsideration of police forces. Renaming of buildings, colleges, airports, and more. Revising of policies and procedures. Re-education of the recalcitrant.

Some of this reaction is commendable and long overdue. Some of it, to be sure, is excessive. Statues are being pulled down that likely ought to stay up. Names are being erased that probably ought to stay. And promises are being made that surely must not be taken seriously.

In particular, promises that we will eradicate deep social ills—racism, sexism, income disparity, inequality of opportunity—are being made by people who ought to know better . . . which would be anyone old enough to vote.

Christians are informed by our Bibles that sin is rooted in the human heart, not just in our social structures. Rooting it out takes such fundamentally deep work that the Scripture likens it to being born again, to dying and rising from the grave. No amount of well-intended policy change will suffice to usher in a sin-free zone.

Still, there is much we can do, and should do, to make a bad situation better.

Christians will want to share the good news of God’s great offer of spiritual rebirth, and we should press on with that basic calling of the Church. But that’s not all that can and should be done.

Made realistic by the Bible’s realism about the pervasiveness and persistence of evil in our hearts, lives, and work, we will expect wickedness to keep showing up. So we will plan for it—much better than we currently do.

What do I mean by that?

Two suggestions in particular.

First, let’s stop constructing systems that cannot help but fail. And one such system is any regime that proclaims “zero tolerance.” This extreme policy is the kind of reaction typical of leadership that has been publicly embarrassed about X and is now rushing to assure its constituencies that, by golly, we’re serious about X!

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