Dear e-News friends and church family,
Welcome to this week’s e-News, this time it comes in two parts, my response to a present crisis and our latest update. But first,
George Floyd, me and Jesus
If ever a picture spoke a thousand words, it was this one.
We sat on our sofa at home horrified as we watched the police officer’s knee on that man’s neck. We found ourselves shouting at the TV, along with thousands of others no doubt. But what exactly troubled us?
Sadly, it couldn’t have been the imminent killing of a man; we have got used to that it seems. We see it every day. In fact, in the same news report on George Floyd, we also heard of 25 women and children murdered in Kabul by a bomb, and a young black lad knifed to death in London, both incidents it seems have passed unnoticed by the incensed public. But this one hasn’t, why?
I think we were deeply upset this time because we saw:
1. The absolute and horrendous abuse of power.
Here was a police officer sworn to uphold the law and protect lives, taking a life before our very eyes.
2. The callous lack of mercy and humanity.
Even as George called out ‘I can’t breathe’, the officer, Derek Chauvin continued with his knee on the neck restraining Floyd in this awful way unabated.
3. No one stepped in to help.
None of the other arresting officers, nor the passing public stepped in to help. We all know the saying well, all it takes for evil to abound is for good men to do nothing. It would have taken great courage for a member of the public to step in and challenge armed police officers.
4. Perceived Racism.
White officer abuses a black man, so the crowd shouts racist, and the rest of the crowd go along with it. Yet, we already know that Derek Chauvin had 18 other complaints against him for various levels of abuse on other people both black and white and was married to an ethnic minority woman. (His wife has this week filed for divorce). Was this man a racist, or was he one angry, bullying, out of control individual, or potentially both?
5. Crowd indignation.
These images, together with others publicised over the last few years, of white on black power abuse, have put the crowds on the streets, of this there is no doubt. The emotional reserve has boiled over, people are crying out enough!
But what exactly do the crowds want? Who are they holding accountable? Who is to blame?
Racism is a long-term institutional problem in America, so they say, and even voting in a black President didn’t fix it.
Interestingly, most of the commanding police officers interviewed on news feeds from the various protesting cities this week have been black, and one in floods of tears. The black community is itself being destroyed by the riots we are told. Just as it was trying to recover from the lockdown. So, a bad situation is getting worse. They definitely need our prayers.
The US government data shows that 64% of LAPD police are of ethnic minorities, with 48% of NYPD being of minority groups. Minority groups are often well represented in law enforcement. So, are the police forces the problem, or individuals within it?
If the crowds protesting and rioting get their way, and millions of people around the world want ‘something done about it’, what will that look like? What is to be done? What will change? There can’t be new laws, since America already has laws in place on this issue. In fact, an American lawyer told me recently that America has so many laws, no one knows the actual number.
And whilst this issue is happening in America, what about the situation right here right now? Do our black, or mixed-race friends experience racism on our streets, or in their workplace? Are we just a few degrees below boiling point also?
Me and Jesus
God does not hold institutions to account – but He does the people within them. Governments cannot be saved, only the people that make up that government.
The crowd shouted, ‘away with Him’, as they led Jesus to the cross, so, at the very least I have to be very careful that I am not just shouting along with the crowd on this occasion or any occasion.
But we as Christians and as a churches in our communities need to have a clear response.
Racism is as old as the world, it was one of the first big sins that God had to root out of the early church, as Jewish Peter refused to go to gentile Cornelius’s house, without first having a heavenly vision, an angelic visitation and a man sent to knock on his door.
I’m reminded of C.K.Chesterton’s letter of reply to a newspaper which ran the question ‘What is wrong with our world?’, He replied:
Justice is equality for all, a fair hearing, an impartial response. That’s what black people want, that’s what all people want. It’s what I want.
There is an ever-growing trend in our world to be socially self-righteous. Is that happening on racism?
God is also gracious, if He did measure justice out to me, I would be going in a straight line to hell. Guilty as charged. Instead He judged Jesus for my sins. Can I be gracious with others in return?World change usually starts with my change. Jesus told us to go the ends of the earth, but it starts at my end. I have to ask; would I be the one standing by watching the next George Floyd being chocked to death? Or would I have the courage to do something about it?
We the church say not, God forbid, but Sunday is America’s most racially segregated day as thousands of black Christians go to black churches, and thousands of white Christians go to white churches. We the church keep the divide going far too many times.
Should we protest and petition some have asked?
Yes, if we think it makes a difference. I joined a protest in the pouring rain for the first time this year. I got soaked, but it was peaceful. I think we got somewhere with it.
Do we want justice just for George Floyd, or also for Derek Chauvin’s wife and stepchildren, whose homes have also been wrecked this week? Could we even pray for Derek Chauvin? Could God’s grace reach someone like him?
I was heartened to see hundreds of city people walk down-town with brushes and brooms to clean up the rioting mess from the night before.
God wants to change one life at a time, and passing laws just won’t do it – we’ve tried. Hearts have to be changed from the inside out, and there is only one power source on earth that can do that – the gospel!
Jesus told us to go to the ends of the earth and preach the gospel, and that He would be with us.
So, am I willing to engage with others in my witness? Or am I simply content to shout from the protest lines or pray from my closet? If you want real change, then commit to seeing people saved. A wonderful Bible prediction and declaration is that Jesus will call them form every tribe, language and nation, and He will make of us one new nation called church.
I thank God that we fellowship with so many nationalities, doing real life with real friends of every colour. All nations and all races welcome here.
We want all our ethnic minority church family to know that you are loved, and we will do all we can to support you, stand with you, be there for you and your children. We also know that you will be there for the rest of us. Just don’t give into fear.
This is the best time to model Jesus’ love for us and that love which is amongst us. Remember that Jesus said it will be by our love one for another that they would know that we are His disciples. The love of God is colour blind.
Then again, am I willing to get involved, get my sleeves rolled up and stuck in?
Will I cook, deliver and provide food this week, to the black, white, young or old, gay or straight, no strings attached? As thousands are still suffering from the present pandemic crises.
Remember what the preacher said, ‘no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care’. Let’s practically, physically, actually love our community – all of it.
Some people see passionate rioting as ‘caring’, but those whose homes and businesses have been trashed probably wouldn’t agree.
Also in this comment, we haven’t even asked what will now happen with Covid-19 and America, as clearly no-one was socially distancing either there, or elsewhere in the world where these protests took place.
Politicians always promise to change human conditions, but only Jesus can change human nature.
Change me God!