I didn’t need to rewatch the video of George Floyd’s arrest to know that those four police officers, specifically Derek Chauvin, sinned in how the arrest was handled. Neither did I need to rewatch all the videos of the looting and fire-starting in the streets of various cities to know that those rioters sinned in how they handled their reactions to Floyd’s death. Those folks might be likened to a husband who figures that he can do whatever he wants to do, including having an affair, in retaliation for his wife cheating on him.
While I in no way excuse the behavior of the rioters, I have to say that I understand why they are so angry and frustrated. Instances of racial profiling and racially-tinged arrests have been happening in America for a long time, some of them resulting in the deaths of those arrested. Clearly, though, the black community playing it nice and trusting American justice to eventually right itself hasn’t gotten the problem solved. And by the way, if you are a white person in America and you still don’t think there is a racial divide in regards to justice in this nation, how many more videos of the excessively violent arrests of minorities do you need to see? Speaking for myself, as I watched Derek Chauvin sit there with his knee over the throat of a clearly subdued George Floyd for almost nine full minutes, I couldn’t help but wonder how many similar arrests have gone unfilmed and unprotested in this country. Seriously, Chauvin looked like some ancient gladiator who wasn’t content to just defeat his opponent but also had to show his supremacy over him by keeping him pinned in his defeated place.
Are all white cops racist in America? Of course not. Are all black men criminals? Of course not. Are all white people complicit by default anytime a racial sin is committed? Of course not. Are all black people innocent by default of all wrongdoing simply because of their race’s tragic history? Of course not. Did George Floyd’s soul go to heaven because of the unjust way his body died? Of course not. Are Derek Chauvin and those other three arresting officers inevitably destined for hell because of their participation in George Floyd’s arrest? Of course not. It’s times like these that we all need to keep a Biblical perspective on things.
Any serious student of the Bible will admit that the book, shockingly, doesn’t prohibit or outlaw the institution of slavery. Even the great apostle Paul, who lived in a Roman empire wherein millions of people were owned as slaves, didn’t say, “Owning slaves is a sin.” To the contrary, he left us with two passages — Ephesians 6:5-9 and Colossians 3:22 — in which he laid down rules for how Christian slaves and Christian slave owners should get along. He even sent one runaway slave, Onesimus, back to his master, Philemon (Philemon 1:1-25).
It isn’t hard to see how white slave owners who were professing Christians once used these passages to justify their practices. For example, many of the most prominent founders of the Southern Baptist Convention denomination were not only pro-slavery but actually owned slaves. Two such cases were James Boyce and John Broadus, the first two Presidents of the denomination’s flagship seminary, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
Of course, even as slave owners staked out Ephesians 6:5-9 and Colossians 3:22 as the moral high ground for their conduct, they obviously relegated a whole bunch of other passages to lesser status. Consider the following:
- Genesis 1:27 says that all mankind is created in the image of God.
- Acts 17:26 says that God has made from one blood every nation upon the face of the earth.
- Romans 2:11 says that God doesn’t show partiality.
- Both James 2:1 and 1 Timothy 5:21 instruct the Christian to show no partiality.
- In a situation where a slave owner and his slave were both Christians, Paul taught in Galatians 3:28 and 1 Corinthians 12:13 that each person was equal in Christ and received the same Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation.
- In Mark 12:31, Jesus says that we should love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves.
- Leviticus 19:33-34 teaches that you should love the stranger/foreigner who dwells in your midst as much as you love yourself.
- James 2:8-9 says that we can’t love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves if we show partiality.
- In Matthew 28:19, Jesus commands His followers to make disciples of all nations, not just the light-skinned nations.
- 1 John 4:20 says that if you claim to love God, but hate your brother (your fellow man), you are a liar.
- 1 John 3:15 says that hating your fellow man amounts to murder.
- Philippians 2:4 says to stop looking out for your own interests and start looking out for the interests of others.
- John 7:24 warns against judging a person on the basis of that person’s appearance.
- 1 Samuel 16:7 shows that God judges by looking at each person’s heart rather than each person’s appearance.
The takeaway from these passages is that racism is sin, and it’s even more so sin when it involves the cruel treatment of others. That’s a message that some white people need to hear. But do you know something? It’s a message that some people of other skin colors need to hear as well. And when the discussion gets around to the topic of salvation, the Bible is clear about that, too. According to God, all have sinned and fallen short of His glory (Romans 3:23). Consequently, all need salvation and the forgiveness of sin that comes with it (Galatians 3:22; John 3:16-18). Therefore, Jesus died for all the sins of all the human race in order to be able to offer that salvation (1 John 2:1-2).
Actually, the root cause of racism is the same as the root cause of looting: sin. This is not a politically correct message right now, but that doesn’t make it any less accurate. We are all members of Adam’s fallen race, and that means we are all born with the nature of sin coursing through our veins. This nature manifests itself in a long list of sinful deeds, and that list includes racism and looting.
Unfortunately for the legitimate cause the rioters are promoting, their destructive actions have given anyone who is prone to defend what those police officers did an easy rebuttal. Whenever someone says, “Those officers should be punished” the quick comeback can now be, “Oh, and those rioters shouldn’t be?” You see, the rioting, the looting, and the burning have created an escapist talking point for any white American who feels uncomfortable discussing just how awful that video of George Floyd’s arrest is. And that’s a real shame because, for a fleeting moment there, that video made white Americans more open than ever to doing something about the complaints the black community has been registering for many, many years now. Has that moment passed? Frankly, I don’t know. I guess we’ll all just have to see what the future holds to get that answer.