Like millions of others, I watched the video of George Floyd’s death, which was a murder recorded live as it happened. After seeing it, I have prayed to the Lord God for George’s family in the loss of a son and brother. I have also watched the ongoing aftermath while pondering things, asking questions and trying my best to understand.
I read the Bible each day to learn more about who God is and how to live as a follower of Jesus. One passage struck home while viewing the events of Floyd’s death. It was found in a letter written from an older man, Paul, to his young protégé, Timothy. He was explaining what Timothy was to expect in the days prior to Jesus’ return. Paul wrote to him saying, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God . . . (2 Timothy 3:1-4)” I thought to myself, “This describes what is happening in the cities of our nation right now.” Let me share some personal observations of the events surrounding Floyd’s death as related to Paul’s words.
1. Officer Derek Chauvin. When I see him on top of Floyd, pinning his neck down in broad daylight I see out of Paul’s list a sense of pride, arrogance, abusiveness, heartlessness, without self control, brutality, not loving good, treacherousness, recklessness and someone who is swollen with conceit. I am not a trained police officer, but it clearly appeared Floyd was subdued, wiling to cooperate and posing no threat to the four officers. Chauvin’s knee to the neck was excessive and unnecessary. His behavior was immoral and a sin against God and against Floyd.
2. The accusation of racism. The image of a white male police officer in a position of force over an unarmed, helpless black male has the perception of racism. But is it? Immediately upon Floyd’s death statements about racism rang from my fellow evangelical leaders, politicians, the media, black activist groups and more. When I look at Paul’s list, the sin of slander jumps out to me. As of my writing, no evidence has come out of racial slurs toward Floyd from any of the officers or store clerk who called 9-1-1.Did the now-fired-clerk who called the police do it because Floyd was black or because Floyd paid for cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill and refused to return them when confronted? Was the 9-1-1 dispatcher racist for sending out officers in response to the call? Were the officers racist for responding to the dispatcher and showing up on the scene? Where is the actual evidence of racism versus the perception of it? False accusations are slander and is a sin against God and the person whom they are aimed.
3. George Floyd. Upon Floyd’s death family, friends and the public-at-large spoke of the good man he was. Christianity Today published an article of Floyd as a Christian with a vibrant ministry in the Houston area before moving to Minneapolis in 2014. What is missing in the article is balance. Floyd had a criminal history spanning many years with multiple stints in prison, much of it related to drugs. And the events surrounding Floyd’s encounter with Minneapolis police involved him being arrested for using counterfeit money, and his autopsy revealed he had illegal drugs in his system. When I read about Floyd’s life it appears Paul’s word “reckless” applies to the choices Floyd has made at times. As best I can observe, it seems Floyd was trying to leave behind a long life of drugs and crime, but sometimes fell back. When he did, he looked to God, his church, pastor and other believers to help him get back up. Perhaps he saw this in himself, which drove him to call out younger men to avoid walking the path he did. The cycle of defeat and victory with Floyd did not seem to be related to racism or police, but an up and down struggle with his personal sins. No doubt, there are many who can identify with Floyd, especially those who have battled with drugs or alcohol and tried to walk away from them.
The times we are living in are difficult, but the gospel of Jesus is our hope. The darkness and evil that surrounds us is not final. Because Jesus has risen from the dead, He is Lord and King over all that swirls around us.
A prayer for you - “Lord God, give us courage to call out evil when we see it regardless of a person’s race or position. Guard us from judging our neighbor’s heart. And let us be transparent about our victories and struggles with sin, that our truthfulness and our story might help others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”