We Can Only Change Dallas After The Police Ambush By Changing Ourselves

(The following is an unabridged version of an editorial that appeared in the Dallas Morning News on July 5, 2017.)

A year ago, our city lost five servants. Five families lost sons, husbands, and fathers. I lost a friend. In the aftermath of that tragic July night, much attention was given to how this could have happened. We gathered. We prayed. Much was said. Here are some personal reflections as we mark the first anniversary of that sad day.

First, I miss my friend. Officer Mike Smith, who lost his life in the ambush, worked at and was a beloved member of Watermark’s Dallas Campus. It goes without saying that our loss is insignificant compared to that of Mike’s wife and his two beautiful daughters, but there are still times I look for Mike, expecting to see his smile, hear his words of encouragement, be sharpened by his observations, or marvel at his consistency and kindness to everyone.

Second, I must remind myself daily that the best way for me to bring change to our city is to continually seek to change myself. Many want to change the world, but few want to do the hard work of self-examination and repentance. As we ask ourselves what has changed in the last year, we would all do well to ask ourselves how we individually have become more humble and mindful of the Lord’s ways. We must ask ourselves if we take seriously Jesus’ encouragement in the Gospels to, in everything, treat people the same way you want to be treated. I constantly remind myself and my friends at Watermark that the way to change the world is for us to draw a circle around ourselves, align everything in it to Christ’s way, and then invite others to join us.

Third, time does not heal all wounds, Jesus does. The same is true of our wounded relationships. Jesus heals them. Even if two people (or two groups of people) spend time together or exchange vows of civility, their relationship won’t long improve if they are not guided by the kindness and goodness revealed in Christ and enabled by His Spirit. Without allowing Jesus to heal the wounds we have committed against others (or had committed against us) we will never heal our relationships, no matter how many peaceful words we proclaim or grand commitments we make.

Fourth, we cannot mock what we should respect without reaping what we do not want. Our “enlightened” world mocks at the ideas in the previous paragraph, yet continues to be baffled by events like those which happened in the darkness of downtown Dallas last July. As we continue to purge humility, character, virtue, and morality from our society we will continue to harvest horror, crime, violence, and murder. We cannot continue to look to secular solutions in hope of finding spiritual peace. It is foolishness to “laugh at honor and to be shocked to find traitors in our midst.” As our culture increasingly mocks the One who is the author of justice, morality, and peace, all those in it will continue to race toward our own destruction.

Fifth, this is our city. The troubles in it are our problems. That means today is our day to restore honor, love courageously, and seek justice. Today is our day to consider how we, in the days ahead, can do as much as we are able to “be at peace with all men” as it says in Romans 12:18. If you are looking for a way to start, please consider joining us this Saturday night as many from our Watermark family gather at Klyde Warren Park from 7 to 9 pm (see watermark.org/awaken) for a time of worship and prayer. We will gather to remember God’s kindness and goodness, and remind one another that our best days will come as we live and lead with humility in His name.

Todd Wagner is the Senior Pastor of Watermark Community Church.

Email: pastoraloffice@watermark.org

Officer Smith's funeral

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