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As I scanned social media and blogs during the events following the grand juries’ verdicts concerning Michael Brown and Eric Garner, I noticed many people expressed frustration in one form or the other. I came upon a few posts that shared common features and provoked a similar unease. At first, I could not put my finger on why I had a problem, so I begin to meditate on what it was I thought to be unsettling.

The principle thrust behind each post was “Not all black lives matter, but they should.” One person used the deaths and protests to talk about the alarming abortion rates among African Americans, and the other post used the deaths and protests as a platform to attract the public’s attention to some of the dire situations in parts of Africa. Both of these causes are of the utmost importance, but for some reason, the methods of persuasion left me feeling strange. What was it that kept me from saying a hearty “amen” and posting it on my social media outlets? I came up with two reasons:

1) Using a tragedy as a platform to talk about another tragedy is opportunistic.

“Opportunistic,” according to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, means “exploiting opportunities with little regard to principle.” An opportunist is someone who is trying to buy a TV for the local orphanage, who negotiates the price because he has insider information about the financial emergency of the person selling the item. The nobility of the cause does not justify the ignoble means of attaining it.  In the case of the two posts I mentioned earlier, they took the opportunity of a current tragedy to advocate for other noble causes. But why is this wrong, biblically speaking? What “principle” does it give “little regard” to?

2) Using a tragedy as a platform to talk about another tragedy is not weeping with those who are weeping.

The principle is found in Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Speaking about something other than the current tragedy is a failure to weep with those who are weeping.  How appropriate would it be if, as Mrs. Garner were mourning the loss of her husband, to take the opportunity to speak to her about other injustices that do not pertain to his death? “But what about black on black crime, Mrs. Garner?”

No matter how noble it is to address the issue of abortion or tragic circumstances in others parts of the world, one should not use a platform of another misfortune to do so. We need to weep with those who are weeping and also fight for noble causes. But there is a right way and wrong way to reach for these goals. Being opportunistic is not the right way.

Question: What are some other principles that enable us to weep with those who are weeping?

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