Baltimore Pastor Cautions Christians Against Labeling Young Looters as 'Thugs' or 'Animals;' Says They Could Be the Church's Future Apostle Pauls

CP: What can you tell us, people that are far away from Baltimore and kind of staring at CNN and thinking maybe we know what's going on, or who are trying to appreciate what issues or factors might actually be at play?

Pastor Dan Hyun
Dan Hyun, lead and founding pastor of The Village Church in Baltimore, Md., is seen in this Twitter profile photo. |

Hyun: I would say one of the biggest things is to not let your opinions be overly influenced just by what you're seeing through the mainstream media, whatever outlets that might be.

Realistically, CNN, or whoever, they're gonna want to put out there the most fantastic things that are gonna get attention and just seeing a lot more of the ugliest. ... Let's be real, it is very ugly. Some of these expressions are very ugly. But if that's all you see, I think it would be too easy to just automatically judge — 'kids just need better parents,' or you know, 'those people need better control,' 'what's wrong with those people?'

It becomes just ... I think it's not a very helpful thing without knowing what is going on, knowing some of the deeper systemic issues that have been brewing for years and years. I think from the outside it can be easy temptation to think this is because of a Freddie Gray or it's because some of the other things going on throughout the country, or this is the particular issue of these past few weeks, and not understanding these are the things that have been here for years and years. Again, it's almost like a powder keg and this was just that match that lit it.

I think it's too easy to look from afar and just condemn, especially looking at the youth. One of the things that I've been really trying to impress upon people is to be careful what kind of language you're using on social media. Social media's been an incredibly helpful tool to get out the word for prayer, to mobilize. But I'm also seeing a very negative effect, particularly from people who have nothing to really do with Baltimore. Some of those are Christians. ... I don't necessarily expect, you know, … People are gonna say what they gonna say. But I think it came from a lot of Christians even, using terminology like "thugs" or "animals" when referring to looters. I don't think you can follow Christ and be so casual in labeling people in that way, even if they're doing the most horrendous thing in your opinion.

I think there's a lot of room for, rather than our judgement and condemnation, we need to be praying, we need to be taking action. If you're far away, obviously action is a littler harder, but pray, pray especially for the young people of this city. Find out the deeper story, find out some of these deeper systemic issues that have led to stuff that's — obviously, we're looking at it and we're upset, but don't just look at the surface. What are some of the deeper things that have led to that?

Related article: Baltimore Pastor of Diverse Church Located Just Blocks From Rioting Says White Christians Need to Acknowledge Systemic Racism

CP: What are one or two things that you all have been praying for specifically about this situation?

Hyun: As I think about the young people, I'm praying that we're seeing them perhaps in their pre-Apostle Paul days and are in their Saul stage of life right now, and they're doing these things and maybe no one else has any hope in them. I'm sure before he was Paul, when he was Saul and doing horrendous barbaric activity, no one might have had any hope for him, but eventually God turned his heart. That's been my prayer for the young people of our city here, those who are maybe on TV doing things that just make folks shake their heads. Perhaps God in His mercy will just use these things to just convict the hearts of those who've been involved, and this would be part of their story to turn to God.

I've actually been very thankful. I know there's been a lot of criticism in the way things have been handled, and it could have been done better. I think there's validity there, but I've also been very thankful that God has been merciful. I think it's been pretty amazing that there's been no loss of life in the past few days. Considering all of the different factors that are working together, I think God has been working and intervening in a certain way, so that's one thing we've been continuing to pray for. Just (for) God to continue to show mercy and intervene into situations … particularly in just protecting lives.

CP: Can you comment on or describe the relationships that different churches have in Baltimore? Is there cooperation, or is it usually like each one to his own?

Hyun: It really depends. I think it would be nice to say every church in the city is united. That would just be impossible. But one of the things I'm very encouraged by is I think there are partnerships. Perhaps some of that is the nature of being in a challenging city, you're gonna have to lean on other folks.

I know for us, we have a lot of relations with different churches throughout the city, praying together, meeting together, working together. But I think events like we've seen in this past week have also united churches beyond the point where they might normally be connecting. Just because you see what's going on, you realize we need to work together. I do think there's a growing sense of cooperation within our city for the glory of God.

CP: What are you hoping for or expecting or praying to see when the dust settles maybe weeks or months from now?

Hyun: My heart is heavy, but at the same time, I wouldn't say that I haven't given up hope. I actually feel very hopeful. Even at our church, our mentality is we just try to keep things very real and we want to bring things out to the surface, and that's painful. It makes things uncomfortable and awkward. And I think our city is going through some of that right now where many people would just like to keep things as they were — kind of calm, everyone to his own neighborhood, you do your stuff and as long as you stay behind your geographic lines, we're good.

But God is stirring it up. God is forcing this city to wake up and say it won't be able to go on like this, there are real issues here. So I feel there's a huge possibility of hope, that a lot of brokenness, a lot of wounds are gonna be exposed, and I think time is right for the Gospel to really speak into those different areas in our city.

CP: Any final thoughts?

Hyun: Just for people to keep praying. I think especially from afar, it's just too easy to know all the reasons why things are happening, and everyone's smart now, everyone knows everything. But maybe we just need to humble ourselves and pray, pray for God's mercy upon this city, but just everywhere, for our own lives.

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