Remembering George Floyd
At a couple of friends request, I’ve started watching the show The Chosen. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about Jesus calling various followers and I gotta say, I’m really enjoying seeing the familiar accounts I’ve read in scripture come to life. My favorite part so far is the recount of John chapter 3, when Jesus sat down with a renown rabbi named Nicodemus. Jesus explained to Nicodemus that he was not there to condemn the world for it’s brokenness, but to save it by bringing a different kind of Kingdom, one that would awaken the spiritually dead.
I theoretically understand the confusion and frustration of Nicodemus, who lived in Roman occupied Israel. I have the privilege of living in the modern day United States, where my experiences of oppression as a woman and a Jew have had recourse and was largely condemned by our society. I can’t even imagine a day where society would not only accept but actively foster a system that continued to oppress me, and that I would meet God face to face only to have Him tell me that my physical oppression was not His greatest concern…But if you talk to my husband, you’ll notice similarities in his language to that of people under occupation. There is a sense of always being “on,” being “different” than those in power, having boundaries violated or just being completely invisible to those around him. He is able to relate to the frustration of knowing God is fully present with His people, yet that presence isn’t there to shift the powers that be and liberate all those in oppression the way we would desire.Today is the 1 year anniversary of the death of George Floyd, where the world watched an abuse of power kill a citizen with no fear of recourse. Many this year have grieved, have cried out for liberation and redemption, and have taken matters of justice into their own hands and thus acting out the role of the oppressor themselves. There has been an outcry against the Church and against God himself for not doing more in response, and I can’t help but think about Nicodemus’s bewildered response to Jesus when he was told, “God did not send his son into this world to condemn the world, but to save it.”
I remember a year ago watching my pastor on his knees from the stage cry out in repentance on behalf of the hatred humanity is capable of harboring and acting on. A few days later, he invited a friend who is a well respected African American pastor to come and speak on the multitude of feelings that were bubbling up in our people. This pastor looked into the camera and with a straight face said, “Treat others the way you want to be treated. Love your neighbor as yourself. We cannot be something that we are not. It’s about your heart. It’s all about your heart.” My pastor went on to say that that all of the moral outrage, whether we throw bricks or protest peacefully cannot change the hearts of men, only receiving the sacrifice of Jesus can do that. At the time, I was so offended and so angry, I just wanted to walk out of the room. How could men of God advise us to just pray and “be like Jesus” in the face of not only unrepentant but proud darkness?
So I protested, signed petitions, made videos, and would do it all over again because I do believe the updated policies regarding how Power is kept in check is a direct result of the people demanding accountability, but I have to acknowledge it was the conversations I had with people where I saw the most change. While I lost many friends in the last year who turned a deaf ear to our pain, I had the privilege of watching others transform before my eyes. We did not condemn their lack of action, or their ignorance when they revealed it to us. We welcomed their questions and didn’t give them a list of “to-do’s” that would satisfy our requirement for justice. We treated them the way we wanted to be treated. We loved them as we loved ourselves. We showed mercy instead of judgment. After awhile, we watched them speak up in the face of injustice, and sacrifice their own comforts for the sake of their neighbor. Their hearts had been awakened and renewed.
I have wondered many times in my life why God wasn’t “doing anything” in the face of great evil. Yet reflecting on the last year, I can see the work of this Kingdom Jesus spoke of. Light has come, and those that have exposed the truth of what was in their heart have stepped out of the darkness. They now live as lovers and agents of Light, reflecting the power of forgiveness and reconciliation everywhere they go, and their impact will affect not only policy and politics, but generations to come. This work could not have been done with well articulated speeches or threats of violence, but only by the power of God.