By this point, most who would be reading this have seen the horrific video, or at least heard the horrific news, of the death of George Floyd, murdered by a Minneapolis policeman. Thankfully, that former policeman is now in custody, and has been rightly charged with murder. But, that is not the end of it.
And which of us, seeking to be empathetic to other human beings made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26), does not understand why this can’t be the end of it? Over the past several decades we have seen the unjust death of numerous black men and women; unjust, because they never saw the courtroom, their right to a trial by jury was taken from them by the actions of a police officer who had taken upon himself the office of executioner. Try to imagine being a black man or woman after having seen pictures and videos of other people of color being murdered by police; as a white man, I can’t imagine fully the fear that they must have of the police, those who are meant to be the servants of peace and order. It’s one thing to be afraid of the authorities when we have done something wrong; indeed, the wrongdoer should fear the authorities! (Rom. 13:4). But there are many in our country today who have not broken the law, have no intention of breaking the law, live their lives as outstanding citizens and contributors to the good of the community, who, when they see the blue and red lights, are nevertheless afraid.
Perhaps you might retort that there are plenty of police officers who would never think of committing such heinous crimes as what we have seen replayed over and over again for the past several years. And you would be absolutely correct! I am thankful for those wonderful officers who have dedicated their lives to the peace and protection of their communities (sometimes even sacrificing their lives for those communities). But, the recognition remains that even if there is only a rotten number from among the whole, it is enough to give pause, to inspire fear of injustice, and it is certainly enough to merit peaceful protest for the betterment of our country.
Is it fair that law enforcement as a whole should be labeled as racist? No. Is it fair that people of color should live in fear of being unjustly targeted by law enforcement? No. Are there changes that need to be made in this country concerning the relationship between law enforcement (among other aspects of our society) and minorities? Yes. And that is why peaceful protest is called for. Indeed, that is why peaceful protest is a right given to every American citizen, regardless of color, religion, or social standing.
Injustice is not a political issue; injustice is a moral issue. The Republican who seeks to hide behind his supposed “conservatism” while espousing the idea that the problem is not really a problem fuels the fires of injustice. The Democrat who hides behind his “liberalism” in support of the violent riots, suggesting that the unjust destruction of the property of others is justified, likewise gives fuel to the fires of injustice. How much injustice has been done in this country under the hellish monikers of “Republican” and “Democrat” (or any other political party that bids one check their conscience at the door)! It is enough to condemn this nation a million times over!
The Scriptures bid us, rather, to exercise our consciences according to the revealed will of God! “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” (Rom. 12:9). “O you who love the LORD, hate evil!” (Ps. 97:10). God is just! And, as He is the Source of all that is good, we must recognize that injustice – no matter where we find it – is evil, and it is hypocritical to claim that one loves God and neighbor when one does not hate the evil of injustice.
A wise mother once told her kingly son: “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Prov. 31:8-9). Right now, our nation is boiling over because the rights of the poor and needy have not been defended, because those who were meant to be representatives of law and order have not judged righteously (that is, they have not judged with justice), and because the rights of the weak and destitute have often not found an authoritative voice to speak for the voiceless in the halls of our government, and that at every level.
This is why peaceful protest is necessary. And this is why I stand with those who are peacefully protesting. I also stand with those police officers who work hard every day defending law-abiding citizens and enforcing the law and who have sadly been lumped in with the wrongdoers. I believe that every part of our justice system needs to be evaluated so that equal justice is indeed given to all citizens of this nation. I believe that justice in our government honors God, and as a voting citizen in a republic, I believe that as far as I am lawfully able, I should see that my country’s government does not dishonor God through injustice.
God alone is Lord of the conscience; I cannot and would not seek to persuade anyone to act against one’s conscience. But, inasmuch as my conscience has been informed by the teachings of the whole of Scripture, I believe that if I truly love God, if I truly love my neighbor made in His image, I must hate injustice! And, if through lawful means I might speak on behalf of the voiceless, it is my duty to do so. I am not an adherent of the “social gospel”; I do not believe we can legislate or revolutionize man to godly perfection. From first to last, the issue at hand is sin, make no mistake, and that is only dealt with truly by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on behalf of sinners and the regenerating and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. At the same time, just because I believe that the time is coming when perfect justice will be done, the Day when Christ brings His kingdom at the great consummation, it does not mean that I, or any who look forward to His coming, should be unconcerned about social ills in the here and now. Quite the opposite! Because Christ is coming back and bringing complete and perfect justice to this world, let us seek always to do justly and be advocates of just doing, or else we ourselves will be condemned on that Day with those who have unrepentantly practiced injustice.
On Monday, 8 June 2020, our church, along with many other churches in the EPC, will be recognizing a day of lament, prayer, and fasting, seeking God’s help in the midst of this crisis. A guide for prayer will follow in the coming days. Please consider joining us as we lift our country, our leaders, our police, and those who have experienced injustice up to our gracious God and King in prayer! The Lord bless and keep you, beloved!