On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, an African American man, died at the hands of law enforcement officials just south of downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down on a city street, while Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, kept his knee on the right side of Floyd’s neck for almost 9 minutes—with close to 3 minutes of that time taking place after Floyd became unresponsive. After years of recorded violence toward the black community, this incident sparked a nationwide movement of protests against the systemic racism that remains prevalent in our nation today.
We mourn the death of George Floyd and join his family and local community, and the greater African-American community throughout the country, crying out together in lament. Yet we remain confident that God sees, hears, knows, and is grieved as well. No one understands what it’s like to lose a loved one to injustice and hate more than God our Father, who willingly gave up his own Son. What we see is not just, and so we cry out today, “How long O Lord? How long will justice delay? How long will the color of someone’s skin put them in danger?”
George Floyd’s death-plea, “I can’t breathe,” has become the rallying cry for people who have experienced the suffocating grip of racial oppression and injustice. Racism is undeniably woven into the fabric of this nation—from our treatment of Native Americans, to the institution of slavery, segregation policies and Jim Crow laws, redlining in urban sectors, and the ever-evolving overt and covert modern practices in our economic, political, social, and religious spheres of life. Black men and women live under the particularly heavy shadow of generational pain that is the result of gross inequality and inequity.
Our only hope comes through gospel-centered repentance: corporately addressing our dark history and its ongoing implications, while genuinely turning to Christ with compassionate and consistent action. Individually, we must repent of our own wickedness—of sin that we may have committed explicitly, or have been complicit in, or committed simply in our silence or tone-deafness. And we must come together to denounce the evil that has been committed, as well as the systems that support it. We must not sit idly by. True reconciliation, one of the great thrills of being in community, will not be achieved without confrontation and responsive action, which is part of the great responsibility of being in community.
We’re thankful for law enforcement and elected officials who understand the God-given responsibility to serve and protect all citizens. It’s a weighty responsibility to put on a badge and commit to serving as a compassionate first responder—always ready to enter into harm’s way to fight for the lives of the citizens entrusted to one’s care and protection. We thank God for first responders who put their lives at risk to help others, and for leaders who boldly cultivate peace, justice, and unity. But we grieve the misuse of power that unnecessarily harms people without due process. We call on our law enforcement officials and public leaders to address systematic failures to serve and protect our citizens in order to cultivate unity and understanding in our cities and nation.
We grieve with black men and women, for whom the death of George Floyd has become emblematic of longstanding injustice—rising to a breaking point of peaceful protests, followed by unlawful riots and looting. It is our prayer that evil will be exposed and that God will protect those who truly give themselves to serve and protect our cities. As Psalm 127 says, “Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stay up in vain.”
So, we call on public leaders at the local, state, and national levels in the United States to move quickly to address systemic failures that enable abuses of power against our nation’s citizens and to implement sweeping changes needed to ensure justice for all people. We pray that they will lead with wisdom, integrity, courage, and the pursuit of true justice.
THE SOURCE OF OUR DIGNITY IS GOD HIMSELF. THIS IS TRUE FOR EVERY PERSON IN EVERY PLACE WITH EVERY HUE OF PIGMENTATION IN THEIR SKIN, WHATEVER THEIR EXPERIENCE, BACKGROUND, OR EVEN SPIRITUAL DISPOSITION.
The first pages of the sweeping narrative of the Bible establish firmly that human beings are made in the imago Dei, the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26–28). The source of our dignity is God himself. This is true for every person in every place with every hue of pigmentation in their skin, whatever their experience, background, or even spiritual disposition. We groan with all of creation, longing for the day of our own redemption (Rom. 8:18–25), looking ahead to the day of perfect justice and mercy in the restoration and renewal of all things (Rev. 21:1–6). And we recognize that God’s people are called to be sojourners and exiles who give their lives for the welfare and good of this world now, wherever we find ourselves (Jer. 29:4–9; 1 Pet. 2:9–11).
And so we commit to pray and work for the good and welfare of our cities and nations, for all people. To speak up for the voiceless (Prov. 31:8–9). To do good works motivated by the gospel (Titus 2:11–13). To confront injustice (Isa. 1:17). We will lead our churches to work to restore foundations that lead to hope. This is what it means to apply the dignity of the imago Dei in a practical way. We plead, “Lord, may your kingdom come, and your will be done here as it is in heaven.”
God’s heart is for the last, the least, the oppressed, the marginalized, the barren, and the poor. That’s why God always moved towards the broken in Scripture. It’s why Abel the younger was chosen over Cain, Sarah the barren given a child, Leah the ugly carried the seed of the Messiah over Rachel, David the last chosen over Saul as king. God’s heart is always for the broken; salvation came through our broken Savior. The sheer grace of God working through our lostness calls us to move toward the broken in accordance with the same pattern and likeness of his own character and work in Scripture.
EVEN AS WE’VE WITNESSED THAT VIOLENCE BEGETS VIOLENCE IN CITIES ACROSS THE NATION, WE PRAY THE SPIRIT OF GOD WILL BRING PEACE AND MOVE GOD’S PEOPLE TO BE PEACEMAKERS RATHER THAN MERELY PEACEKEEPERS.
Thus, the call to love our neighbor has no contingencies (Mark 12:30–31). Race, religion, political affiliation, or any of our perceptions of a person’s worthiness for dignity and love have no bearing to cancel that call (Luke 10:29–37). We’re called to serve one another, absorbing personal wounds, to bind up the wounds and restore those suffering injustice—since therein lies the presence and work of a Savior who suffered the ultimate injustice. And by his wounds we are healed (Is. 53:5). Even as we’ve witnessed that violence begets violence in cities across the nation, we pray the Spirit of God will bring peace and move God’s people to be peacemakers rather than merely peacekeepers (Matt. 5:9).
We believe the church is the greatest hope to show what unity can look like in the midst of ever-deepening divides (Eph. 2:11–22). Church plants serve as incredible centers of faith—broadcasting true power through a broken Savior that brings about real redemption and unity. And yet, we recognize that, too often, churches are caught up in politicized narratives, forgetting our allegiance to our one true king, Jesus Christ. Therefore, we repent for seeking the comfort of alignment with a worldly power that compromises our Christian witness and the prophetic voice of God’s people. We call Christians to band together in the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace, to confront and battle injustice and to cry out together for those whose voices are too weary to be raised. This is not a side battle; this is part of our calling to battle sin and death. It’s part of taking up our cross and following Jesus—against which the gates of Hades cannot overcome.
As a diverse, global family, Acts 29 churches stand ready to labor and help to seek the restoration and renewal of all people for God’s great glory. May God help us.
Originally posted at Acts29.com