One Year Later – What George Floyd’s death taught me

On the 25th of May 2020, the whole world stopped, or so it seemed. Social media was full of recordings of the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer, Derek Chauvin. A year on from this death so much has happened. There has been further police shootings of civilians, more countries ravaged by the coronavirus, child abductions and increased tensions between nations. It seems like never-ending traumatic events are occurring throughout the world. There is the temptation to conjure up reductionistic explanations as to why there is so much trouble. Additionally, there is also the temptation to chalk up these situations to the “signs of the times” and let these events pass you by without feeling anything. So what lessons can we learn a year on from George Floyd’s death and the events that have occurred since then?

Human life is precious

The last year has been heavy. Death has a way of inducing deep grief that no other sorrowful situation can produce. On the 25th of May 2020, it felt like the whole world lamented the death of George Floyd. The video of George Floyd being crushed by the knee of a police officer who was supposed to serve and protect him circulated across social media and throughout the world. In subsequent days nationwide protests erupted across America and sparked protests throughout the world with the name George Floyd on the lips of those protesting. No matter the background of the people shouting for justice there appeared to be this unifying position: human life is precious. This statement is vital for humans to believe and for Christians to affirm. Human life is precious and is rooted in the very fact that humans bear the very image of their Creator (Genesis 1:27). God has placed even in the most callous of hearts His law, humans instinctively know that life is precious (Romans 2:15). The fact that people from various backgrounds rallied around to protest the unlawful killing of George Floyd signifies this truth. We don’t have to agree with every occurrence that transpired during and after the protests to affirm righteous anger when we see it.

The world is broken

As if George Floyd’s death wasn’t enough, more depressing events were to soon follow. At the time of George Floyd’s death, we were just at the beginning of countries entering into various lockdowns and social distancing regimes to try to curtail a virus that was running rampant throughout the world. Not only were there restrictions that limited normal life, there seemed to *more* pain televised. There was the End Sars campaign, Muslim concentration camps in China, more deaths at the hands of police officers, moral failures from pastors and leaders, inter- & intra-denominational wars. The list of issues that we face as communities and individuals appears to be endless. What do we do with this pain? What do we do when this pain is seemingly endless? Different solutions have been espoused for different problems. For racism there is black lives matter, for police brutality, there is End Sars, for sexual misconduct against women (and men) there is MeToo. Whilst these solutions can be helpful, are they sufficient? Can they ultimately bring the healing that we all desperately want?

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The Gospel is the answer

The answer I will give shortly may frustrate people and I understand why. When people have brought legitimate questions and issues to a leader or fellow believers, they have been dismissed with “just preach the gospel”. The gospel is not a crutch to lean on when you can’t be bothered to walk, neither is it a bat to whack away all the problems you don’t want to deal with. The gospel is the power of God for salvation for all people (Romans 1:16-17). The gospel also has imperatives, namely two: love God and love neighbour (Mark 12:30-31). These aren’t the gospel but they flow from it. People that have been captured by the gospel walk in its implications. We cannot divorce orthodoxy (right doctrine/worship) from orthopraxy (right actions). If we do we don’t have a gospel at all. Why? Because the gospel doesn’t only save the person but also changes the person (Jeremiah 31:33, Ezekiel 11:19, Hebrews 10:16). With that being said, the gospel is the answer to all the problems of our day. The gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ came to save sinners and in doing so He conquered sin (1 Timothy 1:15, Hebrews 2:14-15). Sin brings all the pain and sorrow that we see and Jesus is the only One who can deal with all the pain and sorrow.

Lessons to learn

1 . Christians are in danger of apathy – when you are far removed from a situation it’s easy to be apathetic. That’s not what we are called to. We fight apathy with love. Read the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). How often are we the pharisee that asks “who is my neighbour?”.
2. People are looking for real solutions – Over the past year, we have seen Christian leaders and laypeople alike fumble the bag when dealing with a variety of social issues from racism to sexual misconduct. If unbelievers don’t see the church address these issues, they will go elsewhere. We must show the world we are trustworthy individuals that will handle these social issues with care, expertise and the truth.
3. People are hurting – Sin is destructive. It causes pain that permeates throughout communities far beyond the environment the sin originally occurred. It is insensitive and, quite frankly, foolish to continue to suggest that the effects of the issues in one community cannot be felt by other communities. Rather than looking for ways to delegitimise the feelings of oppressed communities, we should seek to be comforters since we receive comfort from God in our times of need (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

There are many lessons to be learned from the various events that have occurred over the past year. There aren’t any simple solutions to these complex situations. We will do a disservice to the communities we must serve if we minimise the pain these communities feel. Christians we are equipped with the Spirit of God and the good news that provides hope. Let’s provide hope to the world that desperately needs it and learn from the lessons that have been provided by the events of this past year.

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