The first thing to understand in this discussion is that there is only one race — the human race. Caucasians, Africans, Asians, Indians, Arabs, and Jews are not different races. Rather, they are different ethnicities of the human race. Racism, in varying forms and to various degrees, has been a plague on humanity for thousands of years. Brothers and sisters of all ethnicities, this should not be.
The death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer left the USA reeling this past week. Like the death of Ahmaud Arbery, the horror of watching these deaths on video forced all Americans to at least witness what many in the black community fear: the confrontation of and mistreatment by police based on the colour of their skin. The discord has only increased over the past years, as incidents like these not only grow more numerous but face a greater public scrutiny through the media. This increase in exposure should lead to an increase in justice, not only for individual victims but for the black community burdened by systemic oppression at multiple levels. In addition, it should lead to greater awareness of these issues and a greater drive for unity.
Unfortunately, George Floyd’s death has led to an increase in looting, violence, and destruction. Peaceful protests have been overrun by angry and violent individuals adding fuel to a literal fire in city after city, destroying the very properties and livelihoods of those most vulnerable to systemic racism. And one of the greatest losses is the witness of George Floyd himself, whose own story, told and retold by protesters crying out for justice and change, is drowned out by the sound of chaos, and burning buildings. This kind of increasing violence and hatred are the very evidence of the sin and brokenness in every human heart, in every people, language, tribe, and nation; it defies secular solutions alone.
Many firmly believe the greatest weapons we have in the fight against racism, hatred, and division are our God-given ears to listen as Jesus would to the cries of the oppressed; God-given voices to speak on their behalf and to speak Gospel-truth to power when needed; God-given actions to serve those in need of comfort, financial security, companionship, and solidarity; and God-given hearts to desire that all people know the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that they may come to true repentance and reconciliation.
George Floyd’s death is a tragedy and a crime against the dignity of every human being made in the image of God. It is a moment of reckoning for the Church. As America picks up the pieces of its demolition, we should all pray that there is a deep soul-searching that asks the why behind the racism, hatred, and violence. The causes of these sins in any society are nuanced and layered. The solutions to them must also be just as nuanced, touching various aspects of society and affecting the problems in the different social systems meant to bring order to our communities. But the causes of racism, hatred, and violence in our hearts are just as nuanced and layered. Christian Churches must pray and speak up for racial justice and reconciliation, but we must also do what we can to act upon our own hearts and minds. If judgment begins with the household of God, this is a time for Christians to examine what we may be contributing, even unintentionally and unconsciously, to the brokenness of the society in which we live.
Many Christians have come to the conviction that our call is to focus on our hearts as well as societal structures. Solomon wisely observed in Proverbs 4:23, “Guard your heart, for out of it flows everything.” We must turn to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the household of God first, where there is neither Jew nor Gentile, black nor white, slave nor free. When we turn inward and look at ourselves, we can begin to pray for the transformation that is possible at the root of each person who worships Christ. The Church can then step out into the world and speak the truth with greater confidence and integrity.
America is not alone in its struggle against racism and its fight for racial reconciliation. Wherever the human heart exists, the struggle exists, especially when accompanied by histories filled with oppression, warfare, and tribalism. From the conflict in the Middle East, to the tribal divisions and wars plaguing East Africa, to the continuing ramifications of South African apartheid, and not forgetting the Indigenous communities here in Australia, there is a need for each and every person to see the vision of humanity found in Jesus Christ, which can only be brought about by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the hope of a new humanity composed of “every tribe and nation”, found in the one Man who, through His body, ushers us all into the presence of the Father of all. This biblical vision of human nature is the single most important issue of our time, and the very point at which we, as followers of Jesus, have good news to share.
Let us pray for the end of the violence overtaking American cities this week and for the healing of the hatred that still plagues the American social landscape. As followers of the Prince of Peace, may we become instruments of His transforming peace wherever He has planted us.