Embers to Flames: A Pastor’s Perspective on the Baltimore Riots by George Lawson

We love Baltimore and it saddens all of us to see what has transpired in the last few days.  The senseless acts of vandalism, looting, arson and destruction of our own neighborhoods, in addition to violent attacks against innocent by-standers and the public servants of our city, have nothing to do with justice and everything to do with the depravity of the sinful human heart. Any claim to be concerned about justice cannot be taken seriously while a CVS is burnt to ashes and cinderblocks are thrown at keepers of the peace.

Baltimore CVSThe criminal behavior that has caught international media attention, has nothing to do with supporting a grieving family (the family has already condemned the violence).  It has nothing to do with honoring the memory of a deceased loved one (only a small fraction of the protesters even know who Freddie Gray is).  Even less are these disgraceful acts about social programs, better education, or equal opportunities. Rather, this is what happens when the fear of lawful authority is removed and we are allowed to peer into the darkness of the heart.

Over the next few days and weeks we will hear much from the media, community leaders, friends and family about what the root of the problem is in Baltimore.

It’s fair to acknowledge that I can relate to some of the frustration young people feel.

There were clear violations of department policy and many are still waiting for answers about what happened during the 30-minute ride to the police station.Baltimore Freddie Gray

There is also significant tension that exists between law enforcement and many of our urban youth, who are under the impression that they are assumed guilty until proven innocent. As a teen, I was never involved with drugs or gangs but I still remember being surrounded by police cars while reading a book outside of my building, having an officer point a gun at my back while walking home from a game of bowling and being stopped numerous times for no apparent reason.

But I also have a deep respect and appreciation for the difficult and dangerous work that officers are expected to do. They are often required to size up a situation in seconds and those that look suspicious usually are (how many people run from cops who are not guilty?).  It is an extremely difficult job and there are many honorable men and women in uniform.  The Scriptures make it very clear that our responsibility is to honor and obey our governing authorities.

Baltimore Police CarRomans 13:1 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.

The picture of cop cars being set on fire, while their belongings are paraded around as trophies, says much more than what people think about the police. Ultimately it communicates what they think about God and their desire to throw off His authority.  This is what they would do to God if they could get to Him.

Romans 13:2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God;

But even solving this tension between citizens and law enforcement is not the root of the problem.  Jesus addresses where the heart of the problem really lies.

Mark 7:21-23 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries,22 deeds of coveting andwickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride andfoolishness.23 “All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”Baltimore riots

The root of the problem with the teens that began these riots and the many others who joined in was not, what was outside of them but what was inside of them.  Have you ever considered what man is capable of, when he thinks he can actually get away with it?  Why was there an American slave trade or Nazi Germany or a Rwandan genocide?  There were people, who convinced themselves, that there was no authority that would stop them and after the restraints were gone, the wickedness of the heart was set loose.  What else would make a person cut the very firehose that was intended to save the only store in his neighborhood?Baltimore Cuts Hose

As soon as a group of young people in Baltimore felt emboldened and believed the governing authorities would give them room to destroy (and that their parents would not hold them accountable) many seized the opportunity. Addressing poverty, improving infrastructure and repairing relationships with law enforcement will not change that.  The only hope for changing hearts is the gospel.  We must be born again. Baltimore Mom

This is the message we desire to bring to Baltimore.  This is not a time to retreat.  I am even more excited about our opportunity to shine the light of the gospel in Baltimore because of the darkness.  As I’ve heard Dr. MacArthur say, “The darker the night, the brighter the light”.  Would you pray for us in the following ways?

Pray for an open door for the gospel:

Colossians 4:3 praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ

Baltimore MondawminMondawmin Mall, where these riots began, is the very same place we have had the privilege to do ministry for the last two years.  Pray that the seeds of the gospel that have been planted, would take root and produce fruit.  The good news is not that we can save this perverse generation but that we can “be saved from this perverse generation” (Acts 2:40).  Pray that souls would be saved.

Pray for our governing authorities:

1 Timothy 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitionsand thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.


Entreat the Lord for our governor, our mayor and our law enforcement personnel.  We are grateful for the police and the reinforcement of the National Guard.  We honor the authority that God has placed over us and recognize them as ministers of God for our good (Rom 13:4). A son of one of our members is a police officer and others we know are in harm’s way.  Pray that they may do their jobs in such a way as to bring peace and calm to our city and that those who are not saved, would come to the knowledge of the truth. Baltimore Police Car top

Pray for our opportunities to do good:

Galatians 6:10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

Baltimore Gray FamilyOur primary responsibility is to the household of faith, so we are looking first of all for opportunities to serve the immediate body.  But we are also looking for opportunities to demonstrate the love of Christ to neighboring unbelievers.  It is heartbreaking to see the businesses and homes that were destroyed as a result of this tragedy.  We hope to minister to families as the Lord gives us opportunity.

We Love Baltimore and pray that the Lord would allow us to be a bright light in this dark city for His glory!


George is a graduate of The Master’s Seminary and is the Pastor-Teacher of Baltimore Bible Church, a new church plant in Baltimore, MD (www.baltimorebiblechurch.org)




Posted: April 30, 2015


About Katherine Wacker

Katherine Wacker is currently a reviewer for Bethany House Publishers, and Howard Books. She is a Craftsman graduate of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer’s Guild. She holds a B.A in History from San Diego State-Imperial Valley Campus. In her spare time she likes to read books, watch sports, and do jigsaw puzzles. She lives at home with her parents and three dogs, Charlie, Roscoe and Daisy.
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