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Minneapolis on Fire: The Murder of George Floyd and the Gospel

Written by Nic Alvarez on May 30, 2020

 

The Problem

This past week has been one for the history books. It seems that the whole country is in uproar over the tragic murder of George Floyd at the hands of local police in Minneapolis. The images coming out of the city look like something out of a war zone or a movie. The understandable response of anger and unrest has flooded over the state lines of Minnesota to other major metropolitan areas of the country, exemplified through both violent and non-violent protests. People are angry. People are pointing fingers at one another, blaming those who don’t think like them, don’t have the same political affiliation as them, don’t have the same skin color as them… If you speak out against the murder, you don’t support the police. If you defend the position that not all cops are bad, you’re a racist. If you don’t voice your opinion on social media, you’re a racist. These are troubling times indeed. 
 
So what do we make of these things? How do we, as Christians, respond to this crisis, that honestly seems to keep happening over and over again?
 

From Joy to Mourning

First of all, we need to follow what Paul wrote in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Last week, through our church’s online gatherings, we celebrated our graduates. We recognized those who have put in years of hard work at school and finally finished their degrees, some of them being the first in their family to ever do so. We expressed how proud of them we are. Their joy became our joy. We rejoiced with those who were rejoicing. 

One week later, our tone has drastically shifted. An entire segment of the population is hurting. They are crying out for the lives of their loved ones who have been unjustly taken too soon from this world. They are weeping. 
 
 

Our Response

As Christians, we must “weep with those who weep.” We have to put ourselves in the shoes of those who are hurting and in need of healing. We must empathize with their pain, feel that pain, and that pain must lead us to do something. 

Does Paul say to take up arms against the oppressors? No. Just a few verses down in verse 19, Paul wrote, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” (Rom. 12:19 ESV). We must call evil out for what it is: evil. But the Lord is not silent – vengeance belongs to Him. Though earthly judges may fail, acquitting the guilty and incarcerating the innocent, our Heavenly Judge does not fail. His judgments are perfect, swift, and just. He does not waver, and He does not fail. All evildoers will receive their judgment, either in Hell, or on the cross. No evil goes unpunished.

So what do we do in the meantime? Do we just accept that we live in a sinful, fallen world, and that there’s nothing we can do about it? No. We can do something about it, as the people of God. In verse 12 of the same chapter, Paul says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” – (Rom. 12:12). 

Here and in another place, we have the command to “be constant in prayer,” and to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17). In 2 Corinthians 10:4, Paul said, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” Was he writing about creating social change? No. But the principal remains. After we weep with those who weep, our next response as the people of God must be to pray

1 Timothy 2 begins, “1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” – 1 Timothy 2:1-4.

We have access to the highest power. Not the power in city hall, Tallahassee, or the White House. We have access through prayer to the God of the universe who is sovereign and in control of all things. Only He can bring peace out of unrest, and harmony out of brokenness. “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.”  – (Pro. 21:1). God has the power to direct the heart of the governing officials He has placed over us. We must pray for drastic change, not only for a change in policy, but for change in the hearts of those with the authority to enact that change at the legislative level. When a heart loves God, that heart loves the things He loves, and that includes justice. As we pray, we must be patient in trying times as God changes the hearts of those who make up our society.

Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” As Jesus is making all things new, we have an obligation to “do justice.” In this country, we have the opportunity to do justice when we enter the voting booth. Those demonstrators have the right under the 1st amendment to peaceably assemble, (at the risk of contracting a deadly virus, I remind you), and seek justice for their communities. Those in other countries are not afforded those same privileges, but because we do have that right, and that power, we have a responsibility. Just as with the abortion issue, if we are truly pro-life, we must speak up to defend the lives of the innocent which are being taken from them.

“Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.”  – Proverbs 24:11.

I am by no means intending to insinuate that all police are bad, or even that a majority are bad. In my opinion, the majority of police officers are decent men and women working a job that was likely a dream of theirs since they were children. They, just like everyone else, just want to get back home to their spouses and children at the end of the day. But unfortunately, just as any stereotype develops for any segment of the population, a few bad apples can ruin the reputation of all who suit up every shift to protect and defend our communities, and the constitution of the United States, with honor.
 

How the Gospel Infiltrates Our Prejudices and Restores Our Communities

In Ephesians 2, after giving a Spirit-inspired gospel throat-punch in verses 1-10, Paul addresses how the gospel of grace works itself out in the community of faith made up of people from differing traditional, religious, and ethnic backgrounds, who didn’t quite enjoy one another’s company very much. Speaking of Jesus, he wrote,

“14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” – Ephesians 2:14-16.

This is the beauty of the gospel. Where there was once division, Jesus brings unity. Where there was once enmity, Jesus brings reconciliation. Where there was once hostility, Jesus brings peace. Where there was once two, Jesus makes one.

We cannot afford to allow our sinful prejudices to get in the way of Jesus’ mission to bring the kingdom of God to earth. We who believe are the kingdom of God. The Spirit of God abides in us who believe. And because of that truth, we as God’s people have an obligation to manifest His love, His mercy, His kindness, and His justice to the fallen world around us. We must be the first to repent, and the first to forgive. The Church must embody that which we are calling for.

We must call upon the world to trust in Jesus, first for a reconciled relationship to their Creator, and secondly, so that the peace that Jesus brings would, by the Spirit, work itself out in our multicultural families, churches, (yes I said churches!), schools, communities, and in our nation as a whole.
 

My Final Plea

We are at a crossroads. We are facing polarization in this country that I have never seen in my years during the relatively short time I have spent on this earth. But we can work towards change. We must take upon ourselves the disposition commanded in James 1:19, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” 

It is easy for us to see a few clips on the internet and quickly respond in anger and rage. It is easy for us to quickly speak out in defense of those who look and speak like us. But it is not easy to be quick to hear, or to listen. An entire race of people made in the image of God is expressing its discontent with how their lives are going. They are voicing their concern. Albeit, some are taking their demonstrations too far. To be sure, there is no justification for the destruction of your neighbor’s property. This only hurts their own community. But what is behind the destruction? What is behind the towering smoke of a thousand burning buildings? Hurting, fearful hearts that don’t know what else to do but lash out against anything and everything in their paths, to express their pain.

We cannot dismiss them. We cannot act like we do not hear their cries and concerns. We cannot act like nothing is wrong. Clearly, there is a major problem. I don’t have the same worries and fears for my two children that countless mothers and fathers of black children do. But I can listen. I can pray. I can anticipate God’s work in the lives of those in authority. I can act towards positive change in our community. And I can rejoice in hope, knowing that one day, the infighting will cease. For those who trust in Christ, every broken heart will be mended. There will be no more crime, murder, rape, or racism. Everything will be made new. That’s the day I’m looking forward to, in hope. But until then, we work for change.