On a mission trip to Africa, I joined some other seminary students and our African hosts to visit a small island off the coast of Senegal. At one time, Goree Island’s strategic position made it prime real estate in the lucrative slave trade. From the 16th to the 19th Centuries, the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French, and the British all used the island as a slave depot. Goree Island was the largest slave-trading center on the African coast. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There was no multi-media museum when I visited. Instead, visitors toured buildings and saw artifacts from the slave trade. Nonetheless, it was a powerful experience. We were told about the tiny cells, no bigger than a closet, where human beings were crammed 20 to 30 at a time. We saw the heavy balls and chains which made escape all but impossible. Slavery, which shockingly still exists in this world, is a horrific crime against the humanity and dignity of all people.
After the tour, our group stood looking at a tall monument to the victims of the Atlantic slave trade. I was searching for words, and one of my African hosts sensed my discomfort. He came over and put his hand on my shoulder, and he said, “This is a monument to human sin. It is a reminder that each one of us needs a Savior.”
I have thought about his words this week. A police officer unnecessarily kills a man by placing his knee against his neck for over eight minutes. Rioters and looters steal, destroy, and set fires. Sin looks for excuses to dehumanize another. The color of a man’s skin is a convenient excuse for some. Being drunk on power can be another. Injustices whether real or imagined can be still another.
Early in the book of Genesis, God warns Cain that sin is crouching at the door (Genesis 4:7). Cain’s jealousy against his brother had gotten the better of him, and sin desperately desired to control him. Instead, God warns that Cain must rule over sin, but Cain can’t. We can’t. Our society can’t. We need a Savior to rescue us from our own sin.
The overwhelming majority of police officers serve every day with honor and distinction. They are joined by the many more courageous people who are working for constructive solutions to the injustices of our world. Still, sin is crouching at the door ready to pounce. Sin is ready to divide us, sow hatred, and kill.
In Jesus Christ, sin is finally defeated. The suffering of all the innocent recall his redemptive suffering. We long for the day when justice will “roll down like waters and righteousness like an everflowing stream” (Amos 5:24). In the meantime, we rededicate ourselves to see each person as the image of God. As Christ’s witnesses, we seek to repair the damage that sin has done to ourselves, to our families, and to our community. Instead of building monuments to sin, we build reminders of God’s grace.
Grace & Peace,