I know you’re wondering how that’s even possible. Two people, so diametrically opposed to each other. One a man, the other a boy. Different races and different backgrounds. One married, the other not. One dead, the other alive. From different places in life yet they are both me.
As a young man who grew up in the inner city with my formative years as a public housing resident, I have walked the streets as Trayvon Martin. My daily life, though lived in another century, was not dis-similar. The color of my skin was a distinct liability for future aspirations beyond the cement patches that I called home.
My sons, nephews and cousins of today are Trayvon Martin lookalikes. It runs in our blood. Being young and viewed by default as less than honorable solely based on stereotypes and prejudices is a never-ending sad reality. Trayvon Martin’s physical description alone, without knowing the name, could have been the son, brother, nephew of many of my closest friends and family members.
We all mourn with his parents and all feel an emptiness inside as we try to come to grips with the senselessness of his premature death at the hands of a stranger. Anger and confusion compounds our sense of helplessness to correct the injustice of his death. We are all Trayvon Martin.
But I too am George Zimmerman. No, I don’t carry (or own) a gun. I have not appointed myself as a guardian of my neighborhood nor have I sought to play the role of an enforcer of my perceived sense of propriety and legitimacy in the streets about my home. But I am still George Zimmerman.
How? I too have made serious missteps in my life. Some criminal and even more moral. I have wronged others in ways that I am too ashamed to state publicly. I have crossed lines that still haunt me to this day. Guilty I stand before God, whether courts ever make that pronouncement.
I hear the growing chorus that George Zimmerman must one day get the justice he deserves. I get that. I feel that. I can’t argue that. But some time ago I discovered that everyone, including George Zimmerman, has access to mercy.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that consequences are an inevitable result of our actions. The mercy I am talking about does not invalidate doing the time when convicted of a crime. I’m talking about a mercy that goes beyond court decisions and legal pardons.
I don’t know George Zimmerman and I am 99.9% sure that I will never meet him. I don’t need to in order to know that the same mercy and forgiveness I ask and receive from God is the same mercy and forgiveness available to him.
I know that to some this sounds like a pie in the sky rationalization of the current events. I can understand that. But right now I am speaking to fellow Christians.
I am speaking to people who once a week enter into church services and sing songs of God’s grace and mercy; preach sermons of His love and compassion to the least of them. I’m talking to fellow believers who spend years in helping to show others the way to salvation now consumed with a thirst for justice that will not be satisfied until George Zimmerman pays publicly for his transgression.
I’m troubled as I view my FB feed to see leaders in our churches with nothing to add to this discourse other than to highlight what is already evident. I already know, as a black man, that there are serious liabilities that have nothing to do with my character and everything to do with my race. I already know that there is injustice in our communities and in our courts. I’m not blind to that.
But I also know, with just as much conviction, that the gospel of Jesus Christ alone is the solution to the ills of society. I also know that we all will one day stand before God and answer for the things done in our lives. I know that whatever has been done in darkness will be brought to light. And I also know that all of us, George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin, you and me, all need the grace and mercy of God to answer the demands of justice on that day.