Are we listening to the brokenhearted?


Our country’s 200m sprinter, Bianca Williams, said she was ‘heartbroken’ to be dragged from her car by police, and away from her baby.

I watched the video and found it hard to watch and hear a mother’s cries for her baby. There were a variety of public responses – can I gently ask how you responded?

Some people claimed she must have been doing something wrong to be stopped by the police. Some said she needed to be more compliant. Some dismissed her claim of being racially profiled, with a ‘Yeah, but the police stop more black people because more black people commit crime.’ And some said ‘Heartbreaking’.

What does the Bible say?

I think the Bible guides us with how to respond to the ‘heartbroken’.

Psalm 34:18 says: ‘The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’

So, if God is close to them, and saves them, can I suggest that we also should move towards the brokenhearted in compassion?

Now, some might argue: ‘But this verse is only for the covenant community!’ And if that’s the line you’re going to take—and do be careful with the ‘who is my neighbour’ blind-spot (Luke 10:25–37), then please consider the following brokenhearted voices coming explicitly from the covenant community:

One of our brothers in Christ, Guvna B tweeted The Guardian news that 80% of stop and searches on black men led to no further action, with the challenge: ‘You can turn a blind eye but you can’t say it’s a lie.’

And my question is, how did you respond when you saw this tweet? I hope it was to desire to move closer with compassion. But I fear that some want to move further away, throwing rebuttals in the process.

Another brother in Christ, Ben Lindsay, wrote the excellent book, We Need to Talk about Race. As a black pastor of a white majority church, he shares the pains of black brothers and sisters in the church, and invokes 1 Corinthians 12:26: ‘If one part suffers, every part suffers with it’ (NIV).

Listen to black brothers and sisters

Can I gently ask how you’ve responded to his challenge? I suggest, if any of us don’t see the need to compassionately move closer, that’s all the more reason to read it with ears to hear.

I hope that the church in the UK can recognise that many black brothers and sisters are heartbroken over racism. I hope that white-majority church groups will listen to the cry of a minority, just like the apostles did in Acts 6:1-7 (cf Ps. 34:17). And that Christians can trust the judgement of Spirit-filled minority groups, just like the whole church did when they voted for Hellenistic deacons to sort out the problem. And I hope that we can be like God, in hearing the cry of the brokenhearted and acting accordingly.

Duncan Forbes

Duncan Forbes is a pastor on a council estate in London, and runs the Urban Ministry Program to equip people for ministry in urban areas.