Though a lot more could be said here, what is stated below speaks to foundational elements. Without which, any continued building on these matters will be on sinking sand.
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a black man, tragically died with a white policeman kneeling on his neck.
This heartbreaking and awful scene (which, sadly, seemed all-too-familiar of heart-wrenching mistreatment of the black population through the centuries) mixed with existing tensions. The combination catalyzed outrage, protests, and riots.
Further, it deepened the polarization of an already divided country and church, this time on the extent of existing racial injustices and how the church should respond.
Thankfully, our God isn’t a, “mute idol,” (1 Cor. 12:2). He speaks on this to all with ears to hear.
God Sides With No One
First, let’s begin with Joshua 5.
Israel is about to fight Jericho to begin their long promised Canaan conquest (see Deut. 7:1-2).
Up to this point, Israel: wandered in the desert 40 years following God through a cloud and fire; endured 400 years of slavery in Egypt; were, “the fewest of all peoples,” (Deut. 7:7); had God’s special love (Deut. 7:8); and God promised they’d conquer the land (Lev. 20:24; Deut. 7:8; etc.).
In contrast, the Canaanites about to be attacked: lived 400 years in sin and wickedness (Gen. 15:12-16); sacrificed their children to idols (Lev. 20:2, 22-23); consulted evil spirits (Lev. 20:6, 22-23); committed perverted sexuality (Lev. 20:11-17, 22-23); and more (Lev 20; 25; etc.).
Surely God chose Israel, right?…Well, shortly before Israel began battling, Joshua (leader of Israel) met God’s armed angel. Joshua asked: “Are you for us or for our enemies?” (Josh. 5:13).
“‘Neither,’ he replied…Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence…” (Josh. 5:14).
God took no sides here, and, “shows no favoritism,” anywhere (Acts 10:34). He takes no sides with the police or the marginalized. God stands alone on His side, seeing who will join Him.
A Marginalized, Innocent Man Murdered By The Authorities
Next, consider the only absolutely innocent man in history: Jesus. He led a marginalized community. Then the authorities gruesomely executed him.
2 from his community tried to understand this, when the resurrected Jesus clandestinely joined them. He asked, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” (Luke 24:17a).
They were still and sad (Luke 24:17b), but replied, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” (Luke 24:18).
Pause…They didn’t recognize Jesus among them. They didn’t understand the events properly themselves. And they had the audacity to presume that Jesus was the one who didn’t know.
Then, 2 things changed everything:
- Jesus rebukes them for not looking to Scripture to understand their experiences. He then teaches what the Bible says on the matter (Luke 24:25-27, 32).
- They pleaded that Jesus would stay with them (Luke 24:28-29). So He did, and, “their eyes were opened and they recognized Him,” (24:31).
From there they left with a completely hope-filled understanding of Jesus’ sad and unjust death.
Following this pattern, we also must:
- Humbly look to Scripture to best understand, discern, and respond to our experiences.
- Plead with Jesus to come near us and reveal Himself to us.
Job’s Revelation & Repentance
Next, consider God’s revelation through the book of Job.
Though the reader of Job understands why Job suffered terribly (Job 1-2), Job and his friends don’t. 70% of the book (by chapter count) is a debate on the “why” behind Job’s experiences:
- Job interprets his own experiences 1 way (he assumed he was faultless).
- The 3 friends interpret his experience a different way (they assumed he deserved this).
Sound similar to the systemic racism debates over the decades?…After the arguments, a young man wisely rebukes Job and his 3 friends (Job 32-37). Then God:
- Corrects Job (Job 38-41).
- Rebukes Job’s 3 friends for speaking wrongly (Job 42:7-9).
- Never explains “the why” behind Job’s experience.
- Begins by asking things like, “Who is this…Who determined its measurements…who shut in the sea…?” (Job 38:2-8). This contrasts Job’s, “Why?” (cf. Job 3). In other words, God wants focus on Himself (the, “Who,”), rather than the “Why?” we naturally debate.
Like Luke 24, once Job sees God, all changes: “Now my eyes see you; therefore I despise myself, and repent,” (Job 42:5). Then Job prays for his friends, and is truly restored.
So far, we see that we struggle to discern God’s ways and justice, our hope is revelation of Jesus/God (leading to repentance), and this comes clearest from Scripture and prayer.
These principles are magnified even further when considering true biblical unity.
Long before race divisions in the U.S., Jews segregated from (Gal. 2:11-13), showed hostility toward (Luke 9:54), and excluded from salvation (Acts 15:1) the Gentiles.
In contrast, the gospel reveals great unity between Jews and Gentiles in 3 important areas:
- We are one human race, equally created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27; Acts 17:26)
- We are equally condemned as sinners before a holy God (Rom 2:9)
- We are equally forgiven through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection (Rom. 3:22)
In fact, in Romans, Paul spells out that both Jew and Gentile equally share sin and redemption through Christ.
As such: “He himself is our peace, who has made us both [Jews and Gentiles] one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility,” (Eph. 2:14)
Such groups that were culturally at war are now one in Christ (Col. 3:11), told to greet each other with kisses (1 Cor. 16:20) and chastised by the Lord for not uniting in heart and body to celebrate communion as one church (1 Cor. 11:17-34).
Outside a revelation of God and His Gospel, all efforts to unify will be shallow at best. And they will be unified around someone/something other than Christ and Him crucified!
Pray Against Satanic Division
Lastly: “the Lord hates…one who sows discord among brothers,” (Proverbs 6:16-19).
And: “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but…against the spiritual forces of evil,” (Ephesians 6:12).
The church must know that we fight satanic efforts of division and discord (over skin color and a million other things), as well as efforts of false unity not centered on Christ and His gospel.
Jesus prayed directly about this (John 17). And He tells us to pray desperately against our enemy, like a widow with only an unjust judge to help us (Luke 18:1-8). Our life depends on it.
In conclusion, all of this is not to minimize or trivialize the very real and raw and sad and tragic death of George Floyd and other events that have catalyzed this maelstrom of racial tensions.
No. Instead, I pray this gives a proper foundation to tackle this in God’s way, seeing with God’s eyes, for God’s glory, all the way through.