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Crowds march for justice at a protest in Cincinnati, Ohio, following the death of George Floyd.
Photo by Julian Wan via Unsplash.com

Looking for an army of Good Samaritans

One by one they passed him by. He had been beaten and battered. He needed help. A priest and a Levite crossed the street to avoid the man. But when the Samaritan saw him hurting, he came to his side. He cared. 

It’s the story Jesus tells in Luke 10 when he asked, “Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus uses the Good Samaritan parable to demonstrate the way he expects us to respond to the pain and trauma of others. The power of this parable is seen in the fact that the Samaritan was able to reach across ethnic lines, despite his lifetime of being mistreated. He responded to this man’s misfortune with generosity, care and benevolence. He was empathetic. He was genuine. He chose to love his neighbor. 

In our current climate of civil and moral unrest, this attitude is what we need. 

The recent, horrific murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd have gripped the nation. 

As a black man, I identify with these slain men. In the eyes of many, I am no different than they are. When I look at their photos, I can’t help but think this could have been me. It could have been one of my sons, my father, my brothers or any other black man in my life. This reality frightens and enrages me. 

Without rightful authority, a segment of our population presupposes the protection of their community and their way of life at the expense of the lives of black men (and black women, like Breonna Taylor). Amy Cooper used her cell phone to call in a fake personal attack against Christian Cooper, a black man. She showed brazen disregard for his life. Two Georgia men, Gregory and Travis McMichael, took the life of Mr. Arbery for jogging while black. They teamed up on him and shot him twice in the chest. Acting as his judge and jury, they declared him guilty and put him to death, yet he was convicted of no crime. Officer Derek Chauvin planted his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck, cutting off his oxygen and ultimately killing him. This is where we are as a society. We need help. We need it badly.

This is where we are as a society. We need help. We need it badly.

Arbery and Floyd were killed based on accusations of misdemeanor offenses — theft and forgery. Let that sink in. They are dead due to matters that would more than likely have been addressed through minor jail time, a fine or probation. This has grown to be a common problem, and it is one of the many reasons that Minneapolis is exploding with protests and riots. 

People are upset, angry, frustrated, tired, bitterly exhausted and tired of the injustice. 

Ahmaud Arbery (left), Breonna Taylor (center), and George Floyd (right)

Ahmaud Arbery (left), Breonna Taylor (center), and George Floyd (right)

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.”  I understand King’s position, but I believe there has to be a better way.

First, I would say that we must stop denying the obvious. The truth is, in our society, we see excessive and unwarranted violence against black men. 

Say it with me: We have a problem. 

Say it with me: We have a problem. 

Until we admit this crisis, deliverance and healing cannot begin.

Second, we must work toward stripping and cleansing ourselves of thinking violence is the best way to respond to what we perceive as defiance or a lack of compliance. We must seek more peaceful and safer remedies. For instance, rather than threatening looters with being shot, we might consider sitting down with them and exploring their thinking as to why they feel that this unlawful action is the best way to respond to their pain and their grief.

Third, we need to rethink the concept of our being “policed.” I believe that most of our men and women in blue are good people. A national best practices search reveals that in many parts of our country, police brutality is rare. However, a minority percentage of our police force is problematic. 

Police departments must be held to a higher standard regarding the execution of their duties to protect and serve the entire public. We need to scrap our present model and call out the officers who embody poor professional behavior. 

See the hurt your “neighbor” is experiencing, and help find a way to heal it.

Finally, we must look at these victims as though they are our own children. Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd were our children. We cannot let them die in vain. Shed a tear. Host a vigil. Send a card. Go to a protest. Reach out to your local officials and police departments and ask them what you can do to protect our children from future violence. Show kindness. 

Let’s not be like the society around us and pick and choose when we want to behave like Jesus. Perhaps the greatest crime we as Christians have committed is that we’ve acted like the other men in the Good Samaritan story. Don’t be the priest or the Levite. Don’t pass by on the other side of the street. Don’t glance at the suffering and silently move away. Don’t hide behind your own privilege or your own safe havens. That will only intensify the injury. 

Instead, be the Good Samaritan. See the hurt your “neighbor” is experiencing, and help find a way to heal it. Pledge to be united as one voice and in one hope. Let’s become an army of Good Samaritans.

JOHN EDMERSON is an elder and the senior minister for the Church of Christ at the Vineyard in Phoenix, Ariz. He is also a well-known song writer among Churches of Christ.

Filed under: #ahmaudarbery #blacklivesmatter #breonnataylor #GeorgeFloyd Ahmaud Arbery black Christians black lives matter Breonna Taylor Church of Christ George Floyd good samaritan John Edmerson News Opinion responding to the death of George Floyd Top Stories white Christians

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