If you have not yet read the article in Christianity Today on George Floyd, please stop, click on this link, and read it now.
It turns out that the black man who died pinned against the front tire of an automobile with the knee of a white police officer in his neck while pleading for mercy because he could not breath was a Jesus-follower. That shouldn’t matter, but it does. What should matter is that he was a human being, the image of God, deserving of dignity and respect. Still, the fact that he was a peace-maker in a Houston housing project, an evangelist, a mentor to a generation, a person who sought to effect reconciliation, all of that makes a difference. It drives home what a screwed up world we live in, how badly things have gotten off the rails.
We are still murdering the Messiah.
Now, I can hear a protest: "But surely the Messiah wasn't forging a $20 bill to buy goods at a convenience store!" Well, give me a little literary license, please. I am suggesting that people like George Floyd may be our only hope to see peace return to neighborhoods of color. It won't happen without George Floyd...and we killed him.
What can we do?
Check out this list of 75 things white people can do to combat racism. I confess, I read it like a deer in the headlights. I kept saying to myself “I had no idea!” The list is a little overwhelming. I felt the lethargy of my white privilege. “It’s good somebody’s doing that!” In light of George Floyd (and many others who have died as innocent victims), I know that I have to select a few of those 75 things and act on them.
If nothing else, this event along with a spate of others that unmask institutional racism, demonstrates that reconciliation doesn’t come cheap. For crying out loud, our nation went through a civil war, emancipation, legal reforms. We watched as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and others suffered to show us the evils of segregation. The painful realities of school integration linger in our memories. Yet we continue to see a torrent of institutional racial oppression year after year. We still can’t achieve racial reconciliation. We can't get it out of our system.
History is a teacher. The seed we sowed by bringing Africans to our shores, owning them and using them to gorge our bank accounts and build our institutions is still bearing its bitter fruit in our society. This article gives a good overview. We can’t get rid of our societal sin. It’s clinging to us. It infiltrates our institutions, our legal system, our economic structures, our houses of worship. It’s all over us! We can’t shake it off.
And it does no good to feel badly, to feel ashamed. Shame paralyzes with fear. Something else is needed.
For those who claim to follow Jesus in our day, private faith is no longer enough. The injustices of our world cry out for more. We must be willing to scrutinize our systems that have historically disadvantaged African Americans and other minorities and continue to do so. It means that we must own our privilege and seek out ways to right the scales. We must go on a quest to discover how we can walk with the oppressed. We must act to to embrace all and move our society to do the same.
Until we do that, our gospel will continue to ring hollow. It has no meaning if we fail to live the truth of Jesus’ Kingdom here and now. “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” There’s a reason we are called “the body of Christ.” It is because we carry on his redemptive work here collectively. Animated by his spirit, his body brings justice to the oppressed, we set the slave free, we elevate the poor, we care for the orphans and widows. Or do we? Let's be honest enough to say that we've done a poor job, that we often refuse to love our neighbors as ourselves, that our short-sighted discipleship brings contempt on the name of Christ, that we are unclean people and live in the midst of unclean people.
I’m the first one who needs to sign up for this.