The death of George Floyd: A Christian response

This piece originally appeared on the Website for Wayhouse Media on June 1, 2020. Matt Allbritton, the owner of Wayhouse, has joined the contributing authors at Faith on View. Essays previously published by Wayhouse Media are being republished on Faith on View. 

I am a Christian African-American man trying to live out God’s will and ways in my life. My deepest desire – and it is the thing in which I hope most – is to see God’s people reflect the love of God in daily life. A love that manifests and points to the sacrificial, reconciling, and value-giving act of love Jesus expressed for the world on the cross.

I believe the world is desperately searching for an example of this kind of love in the nooks and crannies of our society. Who will bear the cross to love the LGBT+ crowd like Jesus? Who will love and value women like Jesus? Who will love people of color the way Jesus loved all men? Where can we find the satisfying example of the supernatural, unconditional love hardwired in us to admire, desire, and express.

The answer should be the church. But all too often, it is not.

Now, I’m fully aware this article is meant to be about the murder of George Floyd, and you may be wondering why I’m going on about God’s love, the church, and human value. The answer is obvious. When the love of God is hard to see when the influence of God’s true church is stunted by its own distracted ambitions, and when society sees no real example of what true love looks like, chaos is not far away.

And that is just what we have seen this week. Chaos. Anarchy. A “survivor-of-the-fittest” mentality that majors on might, not mercy and on strength, not sacrifice. And there are many who feel such chaos is necessary for progress. Necessary for love.

It’s not only true that American society is indulging its addiction to self, individuality, and personal progress, but our churches are following suit. We, the church, are no longer examples to society of what it means to love sacrificially (not just charitably). We are not examples of living in unity bound by the love of Christ. We are not ministers (or even icons) of reconciliation. We are not examples of “Good Samaritans.”

We are enterprises. We are corporations. We are a Christian marketplace. We are political propagandists. We are economists. We are media powerhouses of music, personality and performance. But we are not love.

But love is what we need. Love is why we’re still here. Love is what would have saved George Floyd’s life. Love would ensure justice for George Floyd’s death. Love would lead to compassionate, measured and effective advocation of justice reform that values every person Jesus hung on a cross to save.

But because we are not love, we have no authority to speak on love. Because we lack ambitious love, we cannot lead the way of love. And because we lack love, our voice is a white noise abstraction to the “real” issues of division, racial injustice, and systemic oppression. Society cannot, and will not, look to us for a supernatural example of selfless (or even sacrificial) love for enemies and those not like us, because inside our walls we don’t love our enemies and those not like us.

As long as this is true, we are helpless against chaos.

We have “every man doing what is right in his own eyes.” We have a society that must create its own version of love to aspire to, its own version of love to fight for, and its own version of love to rally behind.

I’m a black man who lives in predominantly white spaces. The plight of the black person in America is not an abstraction for me. It’s a reality. When I see George Floyd lying on the ground, suffocating beneath the knee of a white “lawman,” I feel it both emotionally and metaphorically. Black people have been “barely breathing” at the hand of the law for decades in more ways than one.

But I don’t stay with my emotions long. What’s next? How can we prevent this in the future? What’s our strategy?

Yes, there are practical things that need to be done. For instance, I think hundreds, if not thousands, of police chiefs should seize this national moment to announce collective and united displeasure with this sort of policing, along with a warning that such behavior will lead to loss of badge and potential criminal charges. That would be an excellent social start. But it won’t be enough.

Society needs the church to live out the will of God “on earth as it is in heaven.”

If I’m honest, I believe the American Church is in a time of spiritual correction, and our country is suffering in the process. God is not pleased with a “church” that bows its knee to marketplace methodology, celebrity culture, and political power. He is not satisfied with amazing media expressions of worship, clever tweetable phrases and personality, and enterprise-building ambitions.

He must correct us. Lives depend on it. Both now and for eternity.

In the book of Amos (5:12-15), God says this to a wealthy, religious and comfortable Israel…

“For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: afflicting the just and taking bribes; diverting the poor from justice at the gate. Therefore the prudent keep silent at that time, for it is an evil time.

Seek good and not evil, that you may live; so the Lord God of hosts will be with you, as you have spoken. Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gate. It may be that the Lord God of hosts Will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.”

It is my hope that today’s church will heed these words. That we will confess and repent. The world needs us to reflect God’s love, not the American dream. Until we do, sin will reign unchecked in society’s heart, and unjust deaths like George Floyd’s will continue, along with the damning of many souls to eternity.

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