Artwork By Ross Boone (@rossboone)
Written By Bree Rostic, USA
This week, a police officer in Minneapolis held his knee to the neck of George Floyd, an African American man. After nine minutes of what can only be described as desperate pleas and cries, George died. He was murdered on a street, in broad daylight, by an institution designed to protect people. This is not the first occurrence that’s been plastered across our TV’s and Facebook.
Annihilation means to destroy utterly—to obliterate. It’s not a word that I use often, especially not in regards to human life. But there doesn’t seem to be a word more fitting for this time when the lives of black men and women—our brothers, sisters, daughters, and sons—are being senselessly extinguished without justice at an alarming rate. Seemingly there is nothing African American people can do about it, but sit uncomfortably and watch as murder takes place on our social media feeds.
As a black woman in America, I’ve witnessed the grief that presses down on our shoulders until we are flat on our faces, unable to move. Fear greets us as we leave our front doors. Relief and anger find us as we come back. What are we supposed to do? As believers? As humans? As victims? Do we turn the other cheek? Do we pretend like it’s not happening because it’s not affecting us? How about crying—how much can we cry? Sometimes it seems like we can’t do anything but stare at news reports shocked yet not surprised. It’s time for a change. We can’t sit back and continue going on as normal.
If you go through the Bible, you can find a verse and example for any number of responses. Turn the other cheek or an eye for an eye. But at the heart of the Bible is Jesus. And He’s the answer to how all Christians should respond.
Because each of us, no matter the color of our skin or origin, has a responsibility to act.
Jesus the Activist
Who is Jesus? If you only believe in the Jesus who is super gentle, kind, and sensitive, you are missing parts of who He is. We can’t ignore the radical, fierce, challenger Jesus. His very position as the Savior of our world makes Him an advocate and activist. He didn’t sit back silent while humanity suffered. He strategically interjected Himself in this world to transform it. He gave up His life, His comforts, and His heavenly home, in order to restore the relationship between God and humanity. He did so by showing compassion, challenging the status quo, and changing the world.
Our hearts should be grieving. No matter what color your skin, or your beliefs, the consistent, systemic destruction of human beings should cause outrage. Somehow we’ve become more and more desensitized to death. Mass murders, drug wars, video games, gang wars, and media coverage have made the killing of innocent black men and women all too common. It can be overwhelming to the point that it hurts to hurt.
Some people may choose to ignore what’s happening, try to justify it, or simply focus on their own conditions. But Jesus models a different response. Jesus left heaven because of our suffering and took on human form so he could be familiar with our conditions (Hebrews 4:15). He was driven by compassion for humankind, and invites us to be as well. So may that same compassion drive us to get familiar with the conditions of those suffering racial injustice, and grieve it deeply as compassion leads us to see things from other points of view. Gaining that perspective should then spur us into action.
Challenge the Status Quo
The Messiah flipped the world upside down. He healed on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6), preserved the life of the adulterous woman (John 8:10-11), and turned definitions of success and blessing upside down in His teaching known as the beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12). Ideology that didn’t represent the heart of God was confronted and overturned through His probing and actions.
Sometimes it can be scary to think about going against the grain. But we all have to do our part, on our scale, where we are. For some of us, that means challenging the perceptions of those on our social media feeds, around our dinner tables, in our work places, and even our local churches. For others, it can look like board meeting attendance, and encounters with politicians that spur new legislation. For some, it could mean raising children to think outside of the box they’ve been given.
The point is, we have to do something. We have to be strategic like Jesus—law-abiding, while following the rules of the Kingdom that promote laying your life down for a friend (John 15:13), and loving our neighbors as we love ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). It’s time for us to get comfortable confronting ideas and situations that cause injustice for humanity, especially black people who are seemingly being targeted in this time. Challenging the wrong that exists makes room for us to create the change that’s supposed to come.
Change the World
If only it was as easy to “Change the World” as it is to sing the song by Eric Clapton and Babyface. But transforming culture takes time, effort, strength, fortitude, and dedication. Change starts with each of us. The secret is recognizing that we don’t have to start off thinking about global activism. Initiating a change in the world first starts in our hearts, which is why compassion is a necessary force. We don’t have to become Mother Teresa. Instead, think of something you can do on your level.
How can you promote peace and love for all people?
How can you implore others to understand the value of life?
How can you be an advocate for diminishing fear from the hearts of others?
How can you make it popular to protect the future of black people?
I encourage you to join me in saying this prayer and ask God what it looks like for you to show compassion, challenge the status quo, and implement change in this world. No matter how big or small, your actions matter.
Father, thank you for your love, grace, and mercy. Thank you for your Son’s sacrifice that saved my life. Let that love be a model for me to love others. Show me how to share that love in action with others, especially those who are suffering injustice. In Jesus name, Amen.