It is Wednesday evening, and the streets feels tense. There are police cars racing back and forth with sirens blaring. The ambulance and firetruck are following, all heading downtown. We look at the police blotter and discover there is a protest heading our way. We stop and talk with Carl who is having liver failure from years of alcohol abuse. He is crying and thanking God for us. He tells us how much he loves and appreciates the good work we are doing. He promises us that he will go the hospital in the morning. I offer to call an ambulance, but we all agree that emergency dispatch has their hands full. Even on a non-protest night, Carl and his liver are a low priority for the city of Seattle. The business owners on the other hand, have helped Karl in many ways. They have let him sleep in their doorway, taking him to the hospital, helped him get on medication, and giving him a sleeping bag. I pray with Carl and he prays for me. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).”
Around the corner is our friend Jake who sleeps next to the police station. Jake is a fan of our ham and cheese sandwiches and likes to fill us in on the latest street gossip. He tells us about a fight that involved someone getting hit in the head with a hammer. It is chilling to me how normalized this level of violence is for people living on the street. Jake has befriended the business owner of his doorway as well, exchanging pleasantries with one of the shops employees as he leaves for the night. As we talk with Jake, my anxiety level tells me it’s time to go.
Police have poured out on to the street and are greeted by fellow officers in a van. They are passing out riot gear and preparing for battle. I wave and try to be friendly, but they do not care about me, my clergy collar, or my sandwiches. Watching the police put on riot gear in the street fills me with fear. Fear of the level of hate in their eyes and fear for my safety. We walk around the corner and plan to cut through the park. We are met by a group of protestors. They are drinking and smoking and preparing for battle. Watching the protestors mount on bikes with bats and alcohol also fills me with fear. Fear of the level of hate in their eyes and fear for my safety.
Loving your enemy is the ultimate expression of Christian nonviolent protest. Biblical meekness refers to a spirit of gentleness that trusts in the power and strength of God. When I was standing with Carl and Jake between the police and the protestors, I felt the blessing that come from meekness. I know that the power of God is with the people who are crying out for their lives. People who are sleeping in doorways and storefronts. The people forgotten by the national media, the church, and the activists are the ones who hear the Lord saying, blessed are you who are meek, poor, and merciful. Yours is the kingdom of heaven. Yours is a kingdom of peacemakers.