In city where George Floyd died, minister emerges as key champion for justice
MINNEAPOLIS — To Russell A. Pointer Sr., feeding hungry neighbors…
A year has passed since the shock of seeing a man die under the knee of another man on national television.
For a year we have wondered what the jury would say. Was there a valid explanation beyond what our eyes suggested? Would the verdict further divide an already fractured nation, or worse, the Lord’s church?
George Floyd’s death reignited difficult conversations. Though neither the prosecution nor defense raised the issue of race in the trial, echoes of our nation’s past make it unavoidable, particularly for Black friends and neighbors.
The lingering effects of slavery and Jim Crow still haunt us. Laws have changed, but too many hearts have not.
Laws have changed, but too many hearts have not.
These difficult conversations have also unfolded in the church. In recent years, the church has faced its own failings. Undoubtedly, there were godly women and men who spoke boldly against the sin of racism, but their voices were often drowned out. Secular schools integrated almost 10 years before some of our Christian colleges. White and Black churches met on opposite sides of town. Bible lectureships, conferences and publications scarcely acknowledged the painful reality of racism, even at the the civil rights movement’s height.
The silence was deafening to the Black community, creating sincere doubts and mistrust that persist. If only we had attacked racism with half the vigor that we attacked denominationalism, where might we be today?
That said, some of these conversations have prompted meaningful actions. We praise God for Christians who — heartbroken over Floyd’s senseless death — have rallied for justice, put love above partisan talking points and asked God to help connect them with minority brothers and sisters.
These conversations did not begin with George Floyd, and neither will they end. But watching his death has amplified them.
As our culture and the church wrestle with these questions yet again, we wonder how Jesus might respond.
Would he focus more on the value of national symbols or the cries of a hurting community? Would he demand retribution or seek redemption? Would he parse the rhetoric of whose lives matter or simply minister to those hurting most? If we are willing to listen, the answer is right before us: “Love your neighbor as you love yourselves.”
Jesus refused to accept the social distinctions built by culture.
It matters how Jesus would respond because the church is his body, his presence in the world today. Jesus refused to accept the social distinctions built by culture. He ate with sinners, sat with Samaritans and healed a centurion’s servant. That is what it looks like to “love your neighbor.” When a lawyer attempted to create a loophole with his question — “Who is my neighbor?” — Jesus refused to budge.
“Neighbor” is all-inclusive.
The church must be no different.
Our commitment to Christ must make our voice sound different from other voices around us.
Our commitment to Christ must make our voice sound different from other voices around us. We tell a different story and work toward a better end. We do not ignore the cries of individuals or entire communities. We hurt with them and seek solutions. We do not gloss over the sins of discrimination and racism in defense of any system or structure.
We acknowledge those sins and work toward redemption. We seek reconciliation in place of cancellation. We are ambassadors of Christ sent to redeem everything we touch.
Thankfully, there are signs of hope. Churches once separated by race are uniting to worship and serve their communities with one voice. Christian schools once closed to Black brothers and sisters are now open to all and giving special attention to the work of reconciliation.
Related: A tragic death, a tough dialogue
Leadership in churches is slowly beginning to reflect the diversity of their communities. You are reading an editorial written by Black and White brothers and sisters, in a publication trying to tackle the issue honestly. Christians are fully recognizing the image of God in each other and listening to one another.
But much work remains as we keep building bridges and learning to trust, all while the world watches. More than that, God is watching. “Love your neighbor” is what Jesus did. It is what he sent us to do. There are no exceptions. — Jeremie Beller and Trindi Mitchell, for the Editorial Board
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