Hear me out, dear Reader.
Something has taken a back seat to the horrendous unfolding following the murder of George Floyd on May 25th. It has been reported that Floyd had a criminal history; perhaps police were right to detain him when he proffered his counterfeit $20 bill. But officers’ actions on the scene have given us pause–the punishment was astronomically outsized compared to the crime.
Calls for justice to be served are valid points. Peaceful marches and demonstrations are also valid, as uncomfortable as they make us feel. And talking about racism in this country, facing my own fears and silence as a Christ-follower has given me pause, too.
But there is another story unfolding if we go looking. George Floyd had turned his life around before he came to Minneapolis for a new start. That message has unfortunately been pushed off the front pages and replaced by incendiary headlines about rioting, chaos and anarchy. I don’t mean to dismiss those events; they are rocking our country, I get that.
But if we aren’t careful, we will let the darkness drown out the light. The enemy of our souls wants to keep our focus on destruction when God is all about creation and new beginnings. Forgiveness and second chances. Light in the middle of the darkness.
George Floyd served time in prison in Texas and after his release turned his life around. The Minneapolis Salvation Army welcomed him; he had high hopes for a new start. Girlfriend Courteney Ross, a white woman, recently spoke out and said he dreamt of starting a restaurant where he would employ ex-cons. He’d call it Convict Kitchen.
“You know, if he was here, he would say that he’s a man of God. He would stand on that firmly,” Ross told a reporter with local Minneapolis CBS news affiliate WCCO. “He stood up for people, he was there for people when they were down, he loved people that were thrown away.” (from the Epoch Times, online, accessed 6.9.20)
“He would have objected to the violence, he would give grace.”
It grieves me that the death by asphyxiation of George Floyd on May 25th has been reduced to hashtags. I suppose they’re easy for anyone to use and scribble on a sign or type next to a photo on a social media post. Seems like everywhere I look, someone’s done so. But after awhile we become immune to the phrase. The meaning is lost, its power and message relegated to our minds’ back pages.
If you are a Christ-follower, perhaps when you see the hashtag #blacklivesmatter, you think, “But all lives matter. God created everyone equally. We’re all important to Him, what difference does it make what color our skin is?”
True. True. As Christians we can take that tack and nod our heads, and inside maybe wonder, “Why are black people making such a big deal about this?” Perhaps we’ve been missing the point, turning aside like the priest and Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan. And by ‘we’, I mean the church.
I am the church, and if you are a believer in Jesus, you are, too. The changes we want to see in the way black people are treated in this world can be highlighted by rallies and marches and peaceful protests. But the truth is, the change begins in the privacy of our own hearts.
What do we actually understand about what’s going on? What are the issues black people face? Is there a prejudice or misunderstanding in my own heart about the inequities that need to be addressed? How can I pray? Who can I vote for? (Not just for President, but Judges, Attorney Generals, Prosecutors).
That’s a place to begin.
Back to the hashtag. After decades of history, police brutality and discrimination against black people still persist. Inequities in education and business, prejudice in the workplace and economic disparities remain with us in shameful ways. Maybe because there’s no time or opportunity for black people to sit with us and tell their stories, they’ve developed a shorthand to communicate their message. When all you have is a 15 second sound bite, it’s better than nothing.
#blacklivesmatter Black lives matter, not more than everyone else’s but just like everyone else’s. Which is what God meant when He created man and said, “It is good.” Which is what Jesus modeled throughout His life. The part about loving your neighbor ? He also meant that. (And if you want to hear a White guy from Mississippi explain Jesus’ parable about the lost sheep, a propos of black people, click here to watch this. It’s given me a whole new appreciation for the craziness that is TikTok.)
From Christian author and artist Ruth Chou Simons (on Instagram):
Racism is a result of thinking ourselves higher and better than our Creator God and consequently in turn, thinking ourselves higher and better than another. And all of us, in our sinful nature, are capable (if not compelled) to image ourselves and guard our own perspectives. Sin is our desire to rule, rather than be surrendered to the King of Kings.
We can’t simultaneously believe we are desperately in need of God’s grace AND think ourselves better than our neighbor (or defensively deny we ever would.) Jesus came to restore our image-bearing potential. For all us who come surrendered.
The Jesus I know died to set me free from my sins. Not just once, but continually.
As God allows, we all have opportunity to offer acceptance and grace to those made in God’s image. And along with that, extend forgiveness to people we don’t understand, whose message we want to hear, whose lives we are committed to as God calls us.
The path of reconciliation will be a marathon, not a sprint. We need God’s voice speaking and the power of the Holy Spirit to move in us and heal us.
We cannot give what we do not have. We will need grace every single day.
#alllivesmatter. Yes, yours, mine, everyone’s. As a Christ-follower I need God’s help daily to live that out. Right where I am. Let’s keep that news on the front page.
If you’d like to begin a journey of understanding the message of racial reconciliation from a Christ-centered perspective, here are some resources:
- Seattle resident (and speaker at our denomination’s events–Foursquare) Rev. Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil’s book A Credible Witness
- LaTasha Morrison’s book Be the Bridge and ministry website
- Friend Sheila Wise Rowe’s book Healing Racial Trauma, the Road to Resilience
- Friend Deidra Rigg’s book One Unity in a Divided World from Christian Books dot com
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