George Floyd was not the first black man to be beaten or killed by police in Minneapolis, but it was his death that ignited an explosion felt around the world. Now the city is on fire. Riots have erupted. Looters lie in wait for nightfall. The chaos has begun to spread to St. Paul and other cities. A black man was killed and his blood cries out for vengeance.
But is it enough to demand justice for George Floyd? Will the arrest of a police officer calm his family's troubled souls? Will decades of unanswered complaints and corruption stop with the conviction of one police officer? Of course not. Institutional rot isn't easily rooted out. Racial tensions will remain, perhaps growing more strained depending on the verdict. More men like George Floyd will die; more cities will burn as a result; and we will continue to cry out for justice.
So after justice is served for the death of George Floyd, what do we do next? Can we hate the evil that has been done but go on to love each other in spite of our political, social, and racial differences? Have we drifted so far away from Jesus' teaching on love, so far from those who embraced his command to love even our enemies, that we no longer possess the courage to love in spite of our lust for vengeance?
Are we willfully ignorant of our Lord's command? Will we dishonor the lives and deaths of those faithful servants of God who not only embraced Jesus' teachings on love but lived and died for them? Do we have the strength, not just as Christians but as human beings, to stand together and condemn evil while simultaneously loving the ones who do evil?
To quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,
"It’s not only necessary to know how to go about loving your enemies, but also to go down into the question of why we should love our enemies. I think the first reason that we should love our enemies, and I think this was at the very center of Jesus’ thinking, is this: that hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and go on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum. It just never ends. Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that’s the strong person. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil. And that is the tragedy of hate, that it doesn’t cut it off. It only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. Somebody must have religion enough and morality enough to cut it off and inject within the very structure of the universe that strong and powerful element of love."(1)
Do we who bear the name of our Savior possess the strength and moral courage to stand together with people of every political and social creed, and every race, to defeat our enemies with love?
There is a time for justice. And there is a time for love. But love must always have the final word. Jesus must have the final word, because Jesus is God and God is Love. We will never overcome what divides us, never heal the wounds that are opened by injustice, and never embrace each other as brothers and sisters in Christ until we embrace Love. God's love has redemptive power.
That's why I invite you to look with me at Minneapolis, the United States, and the world and say to the people you are prone to hate, “I love you. I would rather die than hate you.”
I invite you to do this with me because, in Dr. King's words, "I’m foolish enough to believe that through the power of this love somewhere, men of the most recalcitrant bent will be transformed. And then we will be in God’s kingdom. We will be able to matriculate into the university of eternal life because we had the power to love our enemies, to bless those persons that cursed us, to even decide to be good to those persons who hated us, and we even prayed for those persons who despitefully used us."