What has transpired in our country over the last week has been tragic and heartbreaking. Last Monday, on the day that Americans celebrate the heroic sacrifices of the men and women of our Armed Forces who have given their lives in defense of “live, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” we witnessed George Floyd, an African-American man, lose his life at the hands of negligent (at best) and/or criminal (at worst) conduct on the part of police officers. Police officers are public servants who are sworn to “protect and serve.”
Like every other profession, the overwhelming majority of police officers are good, moral, upstanding people who put their lives on the line every day to make sure that we are safe. However, just like every other profession, there are always a handful of bad actors. Those bad actors tarnish not only the reputations of those who faithfully serve, but they destroy the goodwill within the community that they serve. And, as we are witnessing a week later, these bad actors were sparks that the real enemy (Satan) used to set a nation ablaze.
The conduct of those police officers, particularly the one with his knee on the neck of Mr. Floyd, should not be ignored or lessened. These men should be prosecuted to the full extent of the LAW. If the evidence and the facts are such that these officers are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crimes alleged (which seems likely), then they should be punished accordingly. Under our system of justice, those accused of crimes are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Unfortunately, Mr. Floyd will not be afforded that same right under our justice system because of his death at the hands of those same police officers. We must presume that George Floyd was innocent when he was detained and arrested. However, like other African-Americans, he was subjected to a seemingly (if not in fact) different standard of justice. A justice that would, for the non-violent crime of forgery that he was alleged to have committed, end in his death on the ground instead of his day in court. I love and respect our police officers, but unless officers are in danger of their lives, arrests should simply never end in a presumed innocent man or woman losing their “life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness,” no matter their color or background.
Just last Tuesday in the parking lot of our church, a young, white man (not sure if he was Hispanic or non-Hispanic) was pulled over for suspicion of being involved in a shooting that had just occurred. It turned out that the young man was not the suspect. Police, with guns drawn (see photo above), were able to detain the young man without incident. It could have gone badly, but our local Carlsbad police officers used restraint and good sense when interacting with someone they believed could have been armed and dangerous. If that good outcome can happen here, why can’t it happen everywhere?
That question is perhaps at the heart of what started out as peaceful demonstrations for justice in the case of George Floyd. Our system of justice, though imperfect, is still the best in the world. However, we can always make changes that improve justice for everyone. That should not simply be words that we recite as part of the Pledge of Allegiance. It should be actions that we take to ensure that those words do not ring hollow. To the extent that our African-American neighbors do not believe that our actions match our words, “with liberty and justice for ALL,” we should listen respectfully and take concrete steps to make sure that all people are afforded equal justice under the law.
Unfortunately, over the last few days, different bad actors — this time Antifa and other anarchists — have coopted that message of justice and have dishonored the memory of George Floyd and all those who were fighting for justice in his name. The riots and looting across the nation, including last night in Albuquerque, are heartbreaking, frustrating, and maddening. Police officers in cities across our nation, including Secret Service officers at the White House, have come under literal fire from radical groups whose mission is to destroy the very foundations of our government and justice system. Most of these riots, which are nothing short of organized insurrection, happen at night, under cover of darkness. That is no coincidence.
As angry as we can be at the senseless death of George Floyd and the continuing racism that is still a part of our culture or the violent mobs who are destroying cities, communities, and neighborhoods, our anger should not be what drives us, particularly those of us who are followers of Christ. Most people today are walking in darkness. The darkness drives them. The darkness causes them to do evil. The darkness causes them to sin, whether it’s the sin of racism or the sin of lawlessness.
Instead of viewing all that has taken place through a lens of anger, we should view it through a lens of love and redemption. People who live in darkness do not even know that they live in darkness. They are spiritually blind:
“I (Jesus) am sending you to them to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”Acts 26:17b-18 (CSB)
Jesus called Paul to go to those who were living in darkness, blinded by the power of Satan, and to proclaim to them the message of forgiveness of sins. That is the message of the Gospel — the Good News — that Jesus calls us to proclaim today to a nation and to a world that is walking in spiritual darkness. Only the power of the Gospel, not the power of the government or the persuasion of any politician, will be able to fix what is broken in our nation.
Now, more than ever, the church needs to rise up with one voice and share the message of hope, love, joy, and peace that comes in and through faith in Christ alone. To call people from darkness into the marvelous light of Jesus Christ. Nothing else will bring healing to the deep wounds of this nation or true unity to its people. No Jesus, No Justice and Peace. Know Jesus, Know Justice and Peace.