Brothers and sisters in Christ, greetings!
I come before you today in the Name of Christ Who, with His death and Resurrection, destroyed every social construct that would otherwise be used by sinful men to restrict the rights and opportunities that God gives to every man ❶.
We are here today to consider the tragic death of George Floyd and to determine if his death is the result of a wicked mindset manifested in the actions of ones entrusted with the role of keeping the peace. ❷
We, as a culture, have been conditioned to project any one of a number of assumptions on to scenarios such as these and believe that it is all part of the insidious sin of Racism our ancestors had to endure for centuries. But I come to you in the Name of Christ today to remind you that we become the very thing we claim to despise if we first do not mediate on the Truth of Scripture which is what gives Divine Credence to our cause. ❸
You Who Pass Judgment Do the Same Things
If we do not call out these officers by name and instead condemn the entire law enforcement community - if we do not address those individuals within the system who are corrupt and instead indict the entire system…
Are we not doing the very thing that we accuse others of doing to us? ❹
Set Them an Example
Moreover, when we take the stand in the court of public opinion, how does our testimony resonate in the minds of the jury? It says in Proverbs 3:1-4:
My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, 2 for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity 3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. (Prov 3:1-4)
Later in chapter 22, it says;
A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. (Prov 22:1)
As believers, you bear the Name of Christ. As a son and as a daughter you bear the name of your forefathers and of your immediate family. It is because of this Truth, that your reputation is so important because your actions reflect, not only on yourself, but also on those whose name you bear. ❺
What is our reputation?
41% of our young people drop out of High School, 70% of our infants are born out of wedlock. Combine that with the fact that while we account for only 13% of our nation’s total citizenry, the population of our country’s prisons are 34% African American.
When a police officer kisses his wife good bye in the morning, there is an unspoken reality that he is seeing his bride for the last time given the risks he takes to serve and protect. Does our reputation put him at ease or does it put him on his guard?
Is our reputation such where the words we speak are immediately embraced as the legitimate concerns that they are or does our notoriety drown out the voice of our hurting and the sound of our appeal? ❻
Jesus said you will know a tree by its fruit. What sort of produce do our collective vineyards yield? Is it characterized by law abiding citizens or arrest records? Do we have more abortion clinics than nurseries? Does it boast a rich collection of graduates or a large number of empty classrooms?
Are we collectively setting an example that compliments our cause or does it distract from it?
We Each Are Responsible
We accuse our own within the law enforcement community of being corrupt, we assault the character of anyone who dares to suggest that our bad reputation is deserved, we complain that the system is rigged, that our image is distorted and even now, we prepare to protest the newest appearance of Police Brutality because we believe that it was not only Racism that caused the death of George Floyd but it’s Racism that’s to blame for all the adversity we contend with. ❼
But to what extent do our collective actions place us in the position we’re in? Are we victims of a biased infrastructure or are we merely victims of our own immoral decision making? ❽
We complain that the police project on to every one of us the trouble and the harm they have suffered at the hands of our brethren. But should not a portion of our indignation be directed to those of us who are lawless instead of hating the one who enforces the law? ❾
We burn the flag that elects a black man as president, we spurn the anthem that destroyed slavery, we denounce the system that gives us free education and all the while it is our fathers who are leaving, it is our grades that are lacking and it is our own that we are killing.
If our platform is to have any credibility - if our indignation is to resonate as righteous - than we cannot be hypocritical in our accusations, we must set an example in our conduct and we must take responsibility for our actions.
Regardless of Race
And it is here where I would pause and remind you that at this point I do not speak only to those who are gathered in this sanctuary, but to all men regardless of race.
We stifle the resolution we seek by referring to men as either black or white. And ladies, I beseech you to hear me include you when I say, “men” in that I’m referring to all humanity.
We are not “white,” we are not “black” we are all God’s offspring ❿ and we are all therefore obligated to not only hold the Bible we own with our hands, but to obey the God it proclaims with our whole heart. ➀
More Than An Authority
As an officer of the law, you are tasked with keeping the peace and assuming all suspects are innocent until proven guilty. Even those whose records are tarnished with past mistakes, the Bible rebukes those who make false assumptions. ➁ Your badge must be more than an authority, it must also be an example. And however you are maligned and even threatened, your response must go beyond being merely “smart,” you have to be “wise.” ➂
And I am not suggesting that by being “wise,” you are therefore restricted from using deadly force. It’s not that you are restricted as much as you are resolved to kill only when it’s appropriate to do so.
And yes, there are times when it’s appropriate to kill. ➃ But there is also a time to heal and you must be able to make that distinction.
Should it be determined that you are using your position to lord it over those who are obligated to obey, you are identified in Scripture as a wicked oppressor and a false teacher and there is a special kind of destruction awaiting you on Judgement Day. ➄
To those who are breaking the law, in whatever capacity, know this: You are not just violating a human regulation, you are breaking a Divine Directive. If you commit murder, if you steal, you not only incur the righteous wrath of of the law, you also sin against God.➅ Just like the Police Officer who has to answer to a Higher Standard than his immediate supervisor, you also have to answer to a Higher Law. And should your behavior be revealed as violent and disrespectful when you are apprehended, you do nothing but add to your guilt both in the sight of your jurors as well as in the sight of your King. ❾
It’s Not Only the Law That You Are Breaking
And to those who murder, steal and destroy and excuse it as a reasonable reaction to “not being heard” or a “miscarriage of justice,” let me remind you that the moment you break the law, you are no longer a protester or an activist, you are a criminal and, again, it is not only the law that you are breaking, it is your God that you are offending – especially if you do your wanton acts insisting that you represent a godly disposition ➆.
What Are We Doing?
In the sixties, a number of extraordinary people emerged who had labored beneath the weight of racial prejudice and went on to accomplish some amazing things:
- Rosa Parks was a soft spoken black woman whose refusal to surrender her seat because of her race would inspire the Montgomery Bus Boycott and lead to her being honored with the Medal of Freedom in 1996.
- James Meredith was a nine year veteran of the United States Air Force who would go on to become the first black American to attend the University of Mississippi despite the riots his enrollment inspired which would be dispersed only with the intervention of Federal Troops.
- Percy Julian is one of the most influential chemists in American history despite his not being able to attend High School and had to study abroad in order to secure his doctorate because of his color.
- Barbara Jordan grew up in a poor, black neighborhood in Houston, Texas and, despite the challenges of being an African American in an area where Jim Crow laws was common, she was nevertheless able to make history by being the first black female in congress to come from the deep south.
These are among the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. They inspired change, in part, by presenting an argument that reeked of moral and professional excellence. By living and performing in a manner that was beyond reproach, they were able to silence the criticisms that would’ve otherwise distracted from the injustices they sought to resolve and the result was dramatic ➇.
Today, we are instructed to embrace an entirely different kind of individual and and honor them in the same way we do the noble persons who carried the baton of the Civil Rights issue decades ago.
- George Floyd had a criminal record that included five arrests and five years spent in prison for aggravated robbery.
- Rodney King, at the time of his arrest in 1991, had been sentenced to two years in prison for robbing a convenience store armed with a tire iron.
- Freddie Gray had been arrested on multiple occasions for drug related crimes.
In each case, you have a person that had a criminal record and was resisting arrest when they were initially apprehended. Now, rather than being able to prosecute our cause in the context of moral courage and professional excellence, we are seen as accusing others of being unprincipled when our champions seemingly have no principles ourselves. ⑨
What are we doing?
If we would answer that question with a response that included successful appeals for justice and productive conversations that yielded positive results, we need to cease all attempts to qualify an event by asking whether or not it involved a black man or a white man and instead ask whether or not it involved a good man – be they the one being arrested or the one that is making the arrest. And if Christ really did die and come back to life, than the definition of a good man is a godly man, can I get an “Amen?”
Let Us Move Forward
Let us move forward, then, by refusing to express our concerns in the context of labels, mobs and crowds. Let us avoid becoming the very thing we claim to despise by by directing our questions to the individuals involved and not the institutions they represent. Let us labor to be living manifestations of the moral excellence we would demand in others. Let us move beyond race and instead look at one another as fellow soldiers battling our eternal enemy as a unified force, sanctified by the blood of Christ and empowered by His Holy Spirit. And let our cause be a racially diverse venture that battles true bigotry by holding up specific instances of moral excellence responded to with an undeniably sinful bias- and not the flawed campaigns triggered by legitimate arrests and prosecuted with even more criminal activity.
That is how you effectively assert the Truth of your God, that is how you lead by example and that is how you effect true and enduring change.
Let us move forward and let us pray now for both the Strength and the Wisdom to do just that.