Moving from Lament to Leadership: George Floyd, the Gospel, and Our Response (Part Two)
This is part two of a two-part blog series written by Senior Pastor Chris Brooks addressing how the church should respond to injustice. To read part one, click here.
As the dust clears over the Minneapolis skyline, and other cities around our country, and the embers begin to fade from the blaze of yet another heartbreaking page in the story of human fallenness, we are all left with the aching cry of Maranatha! This one word sums up our deepest longings when God, in His sovereignty, allows the veil to be lifted from our eyes causing us to see the sheer depths of human depravity.
The filmed pain of the injustice committed against Mr. George Floyd has only been compounded by the ugliness of burning buildings and wounded cities. This should cause any true believer to long for Christ’s return. As we witness clashes between people and police, we are reminded this world is not our home. So, our souls cry, Maranatha… “Come Lord Jesus!” And yet He remains. In spite of our pleas, the rapture still has not happened, the Angel’s trumpet has not yet blown, and the mountains continue to wait for the day when they will tremble at the second coming of King Jesus. These events will take place. After all, Christ promised they would (Matthew 24). But for now, we, His Church, are left to look forward to His return while grappling with the question, “How now shall we live?”
In the wake of injustice we often find ourselves asking familiar questions like “What can we do to personally address the evil of injustice?” and “How can we show our neighbors the grace and truth of the Gospel in the face of such pain and brokenness?” These questions are only intensified when we see 24-hour news cycles of civil unrest across our country.
When we see young people gathered in our streets, I believe we should agree with the sentiment Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. expressed in his September 27, 1966 interview with then CBS reporter Mike Wallace, “Riots are the language of the unheard”. The images of our brothers and sisters in Christ expressing such deep hurt, pain, and frustration, should cause us to ask ourselves what aren’t we hearing? We must acknowledge non-violent, peaceful protests have been a very useful tool for addressing inequities in our society. But it should break our hearts whenever these peaceful protests are highjacked by looters and those who desire to instigate further violence. They have no genuine love for the communities who are hurting, because destruction will never produce the true justice our hearts long for. Yet, if we are humble, we must also admit these types of civil unrest do teach us something about our hurting neighbors. They reveal the historical depths of penned up lament.
The images of our brothers and sisters in Christ expressing such deep hurt, pain, and frustration, should cause us to ask ourselves what aren’t we hearing?
While we must condemn looting and violence in the aftermath of the unjust killing of Mr. George Floyd, we must affirm that lamenting is biblical. Buried underneath the headlines of the riots are the untold stories of image-bearers who are deeply grieved by the types of abuse of power that killed Mr. Floyd. And by the apathy of leaders who refuse to address the injustice they and their children face on a daily basis. These men and women cry out to God in lament. Our Bibles are full of Psalms of Lament (Psalms 44, 60, 74, 75, 79, 80, etc).
Lament is a uniquely Christian action. It is the act of taking our sorrows to God when our pain is tempting us to run from Him. All laments begin with God’s people bringing our complaints before the Lord. They then progress to us petitioning God boldly in prayer, that He would hear our cries for justice and our pleas for His intervention on behalf of the mistreated. Christian lament is grounded in a deep abiding trust in the character of God.
Ultimately, our lament drives us from our knees to our feet in action, compelled by love to be difference-makers in our communities for Christ. The Lord reminds us in our anger and grief that we are His ambassadors. We have been entrusted with the task of being His witnesses in both word and deed. Lamenting, though biblical, is not enough. We cannot afford to live in unending lament. We must act redemptively to fix what is broken, to leverage the power of our voices against injustice, to exchange our comfort for solidarity with the wounded, and to bring truth, beauty, and justice to our communities wherever it is missing. So, what do we do now? Where do we go from here?
Ultimately, our lament drives us from our knees to our feet in action, compelled by love to be difference-makers in our communities for Christ.
Today, I write to help answer these questions. To give some guidance on how you and I can make a difference in the face of injustice. You see, after we have pushed back the distractions of the unproductive responses of some, we are left with the sobering reality that this moment demands Christians to act. We must all press beyond the overwhelming feelings of inadequacy that come when we are confronted by injustice of this magnitude. Do not let distance in geography or difference in ethnicity cause you to think there is nothing you can do. While the list of positive proactive steps we can take to address the underlying causes of injustice are endless, I suggest there are four enduring actions every believer should take now as we seek to live out our faith and to love our neighbors.
Do not let distance in geography or difference in ethnicity cause you to think there is nothing you can do.
Four Enduring Actions Every Believer Should Take
1️⃣ Show solidarity with the victims of injustice. Throughout scripture we see God identifies in a unique and special way with the oppressed and mistreated. Although Liberation Theologians will misrepresent this truth in an unhealthy and disproportionate manner, what is undeniable is the Bible makes it clear that to bless the poor and mistreated is to bless God himself. For example, consider Proverbs 14:31, which says, “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.”
The Gospel also makes it clear Christ expects His followers to take on this same characteristic of loving and identifying with the hurting and abused. Hebrews 11:25 says, about Moses, “He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.” You and I are called to do the same. This is simply to say we must avoid the temptation of looking away when our brothers and sisters, who may live in very different social situations from us, are crying out over their pain and mistreatment.
Historically the church has found this easy to do when it comes to international missions, but much harder when it comes to hurting communities in our own backyard. We must look with equal concern upon the pain of others who are geographically near us and listen to their stories. When Christ-followers ignore those who live under the weight of injustice, we ensure the evils that victimize them will perpetuate. The greatest way to end systemic injustice is surprisingly simple, it is for Christians to model the character of God by showing solidarity with those whose stories our society so often dismisses. Demonstrating this type of solidarity becomes very practical and uncomplicated when we understand it is shown primarily through friendship and hospitality. By opening our hearts and homes and entering loving relationships with diverse groups of people, we are able to hear their stories, feel their pains, and offer them the hope of Christ. We may shed tears with our friends when they encounter injustices we ourselves are not exposed to. But in doing so we become more authentic witnesses of God’s grace in Christ to them.
By opening our hearts and homes and entering loving relationships with diverse groups of people, we are able to hear their stories, feel their pains, and offer them the hope of Christ.
2️⃣ Speak up. This may be the simplest but, in many ways, hardest thing for us to do. Let’s be honest, speaking up on behalf of others who are suffering injustice is risky. It is not convenient to use our voices and social platforms on behalf of the unborn, for those who are trapped in human trafficking, and victims of domestic violence, sexism, racism, or police brutality. What if our friends do not agree or understand? What if speaking up means we must break with some of the narrative we learned as a child about other groups of people? What if speaking up causes us to risk losing acceptance within our social group? You see, this is exactly what makes doing justice so difficult, it requires risk. However, nothing is more healing to those who are suffering injustice than the voices of their friends being lifted on their behalf.
However, nothing is more healing to those who are suffering injustice than the voices of their friends being lifted on their behalf.
Again, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” We live in an extraordinary time marked by the power of social media platforms, which enables each of us to bring light to issues that grieve the heart of God. As stewards of His grace, we must leverage these platforms to fight all injustice. I encourage you to use social media as a tool for good. We can also speak up by correcting the inappropriate thinking of our family and friends. They may not listen to those who are experiencing injustice directly, but they will hear us. By speaking up on behalf of others like Mr. George Floyd, we are fulfilling Proverbs 31:8–9, which commands us to,
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
3️⃣ Support people and projects that are making a difference. Although we may have a burden to see a form of injustice end, it doesn’t mean we have the expertise to effectively address it ourselves. This is because it takes more than passion to fix the problem. However, we can praise God for and partner with those have studied, trained, and equipped themselves to fight on the front lines against injustice. By investing our generosity into the people and projects that are making a difference, we join in the fight against injustice. When we use our resources to support those who are addressing the injustices in our community, we demonstrate the love of Christ. Likewise, when we withhold our generosity, we are withholding the love of God. This is exactly what the Apostle John express in 1 John 3:17, which states,
“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”
It takes more than passion to fix the problem.
Remember God has blessed us so that we can bless others. You may not be called by God to become an expert in overturning legislation that hurts the unborn, a domestic abuse counselor, or an advocate for victims of police brutality, but you can invest into those who are called in these areas. So, let us use our generosity as a weapon of love in the hand of God to fight injustice in our community.
4️⃣ Share the Gospel. This by far is the most important action we must take as disciples of Christ. As Christians, we must never forget God’s ultimate answer to the world’s cries for justice is the cross of Christ. In this world the best we can hope for is legal justice, which is so often elusive. The hurting are left feeling even more bitter and vulnerable to abuse. The outlook for the offender is bleak. Once the public knows the identities of those who have been the perpetrators of injustice, they face the tidal wave of vitriol, retaliation, and condemnation. However, it is at the cross where justice, mercy, and forgiveness meet.
It is at the cross where justice, mercy, and forgiveness meet.
You see, people everywhere desperately need Jesus. This is true for both the victims and the victimizers of injustice, for Mr. George Floyd and for the police who unjustifiably killed him. The good news of the Gospel is there is grace for everyone at the foot of the cross. The people of our communities need the healing and redemption that is found in Christ alone. We are witnesses of His life transforming, heart-healing grace. But what good is a witness who pleads the 5th? The Gospel is to be shared! We must share it with our spouses and children, our friends, our neighbors and yes, even our enemies. Praise the Lord that while we were yet enemies of God, He sent Christ to save us.
As the dust clears over countless cities across our nation and we reflect on the painful events of this week, we are left to realize there are no winners. Mr. George Floyd has lost his life. People of Color have had their fears and frustration reignited. Good law enforcement agents (representing the vast majority) across our country have had the reputation of their profession bruised because of the unjust actions of a few bad ones. Cities are burning. Young people feel hopeless. And, while we cry Maranatha and wait for our Lord’s return, we must never forget the Gospel is still the power of God unto salvation for ALL who believe! So, let us proclaim it with boldness and faithfulness until Christ’s return. May cities be healed, sinners saved, and may justice roll down like a river!