A man died on video. We all watched in horror as George Floyd, a black man, died while a white Police officers’ knee was on his neck. The video displayed not only the death, but the absolute indifference to it by the officer in question. I almost think it would have been better if the officer was angry and vindictive. But he wasn’t. It seemed like complacency. The indifference played to an already volatile situation in our country.
Normally, a video such as this would immediately skew the country left and right. Those on the left would cry foul and attempt to make out all police officers as evil and racist. Not only that, but that the system itself is beyond repair. Those on the right would not condemn, but defend the police officer and support his actions. But that is not what happened. Oh, the left did say these things, but the right did not. There was a universal condemnation of the actions depicted on the video that cost Mr. Floyd his life—for once, there was unity.
In fact, as protests began in Minneapolis, there was support for them. Everyone could understand the hurt and the anger. Everyone believed that something had to change. There was legitimate pain. The black community was truly hurting and needed a united America to come to their aid. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said:
“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
We had to learn that lesson and we did well at first. We began “living.” But then things took a turn. Instigators, agitators—people who rejected the basis of what Dr. King said. They came in with their individualistic concerns and forgot the broader concerns of humanity. Riots began. Fires. Burning down the communities that those who were hurting the most would suffer the most from. Riots. The police began arresting people and found that most of the people who were agitators and rioters were not from the area, but had come to the community from elsewhere to wreak havoc. They wanted to change things through a riot. Again, Dr. King…
“The limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is that they cannot win and their participants know it. Hence, rioting is not revolutionary but reactionary because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis, but it must be followed by a sense of futility.”Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Riots do not work. Why? Because they are meeting violence with violence. This does nothing but double the violence and quells the conversation. It throws water on the flames of change. It causes people to go to their corners and then to the fight. I am truly scared for my country. I am terrified for the nation. This violence will not change anything. The only thing that will is love. A Bible teacher that I absolutely love and respect named Gayle Erwin, who is the author of several books, and most especially a book entitled, “The Jesus Style” once said
“Love is written in our instincts, yet erased by our actions.”Gayle D. Erwin, The YHWH Style
It is worth noting that love loses its value, and indeed, it’s power, by what we do in its name. We can say that we love all people, then laugh at a racist joke or sit in silence when a relative uses the “n” word. That is not love and, in fact, will destroy any hope of love and reconciliation we might hope for our country. Scripture tells us,
“My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.”1 John 3:18–19
Love in action. Dr. King said,
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
True love transforms. It changes things. It makes a white man wrap his arms around a black man. It allows a police officer to kneel and pray in solidarity with a group of black protesters in Minnesota and around the country. Love must be something that is expressed through action. I have heard many say that we in this country have a social contract that should make us do certain things that at the very least make us civil toward one another. Then, in the same social media feed, mock those who do not obey their every whim. Then sit back and wonder why people are so angry. I offer that this social contract that we keep talking about is love. Love for one another that is so deep that we are willing to suffer for others. Jesus said,
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”John 15:13
Love involves torment some times. A lot of the time, the transformation that love does is within us. We are the enemy that love must change into a friend. Do we look at it this way whether we are black, white, red or brown, Democrat, Republican or Independent? The social contract is love. We must hold to it. We must be willing, in love, to control ourselves no matter how much we want to lash out at people—no matter how angry their Twitter post makes us? Self-control is love. Those on the Left must not mock the deeply held beliefs of those on the right and those on the right must attempt with every bone in their bodies not to hate the left with inflammatory rhetoric. We must understand that every time we say some wicked thing about the president of the United States, we undermine our country, and we must understand that people have serious grievances with what he does. But lets continue the social contract and love one another because in the end, we are all being played by politicians that want to do nothing more than keep the power they already have.
There is serious pain in the black community. I see it in the eyes of my black friends when we talk. I know it is real. A friend of mine explained “white privilege” to me as the ability for me to walk down the street, as a white looking person, and have no fear that a police officer will harass me. At the same time, he, as a black man, has more of chance being pulled over for being black. It gave me pause. I do not pretend to understand what that means and the fear that overcomes the heart and mind of a person who has to live with this daily. My answer to him was that it depended upon which neighborhood we were in. If we were in Watts or Compton, I’d be the one questioned about why I was in that neighborhood which is predominately black. To this, he just stared at me and told me it gave him pause. He started to rethink what it was that he believed.
John M. Perkins, a civil rights activist and author once wrote,
“Throughout Scripture we read about God’s concern for people who are vulnerable or suffering – the poor, the widows and orphans, the foreigners in the land, and so on. All Christians should feel a sense of calling to where there is pain in our society.”John M. Perkins, Dream with Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win
I do not understand what it means to be black in America. Growing up in California in the 1980’s I never could understand racism and racist ideology. In Southern California we are a melting pot of people from all over the world. We did not see color. Which, right or wrong, caused us to be part of the dream, as Dr. King said,
“I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.”Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream
As I grew older, I learned to appreciate people for who they are, great Mexican food comes from Mexicans. Asian food comes from awesome asian restaurants. We see color. I remember having great friends who were black, including one of my best friends, who was a black girl that we almost dated, but we were just such good friends it felt weird—not because she was black and I was white, but because we were more like brother and sister. I remember her parents being just like my parents. Living a good life and wondering how their children were going to make it in life.
The reason I bring all this up is that I never experience racism, per se—until I came to Arkansas to plant a Calvary Chapel Church. We were so excited to be here. We loved the community. We loved the people. We met so many wonderful people in Fort Smith. One day we decided to purchase a used car from one of the dealers. Culture is so strange. Here we use sir and ma’am when speaking to our elders and when we are meeting a new person, we give our first and last name. In California it is so informal that a first name is good enough. But here, it was different. As we were looking around the lot, pushing one of our boys in a stroller, a man in a cowboy hat and boots came out to meet us. We thought this was so cool. A guy dressed like that was awesome. He was nice and friendly. He introduced himself as “First and last name” person. So, I said that I was Steve MARQUEZ. He immediately said, “Hmm.” and turned and walked away. We were waiting for him to return and he never did. We went into the office and found him at his cubicle. He wouldn’t talk to us, nor acknowledge that we were in the room. Another person asked us if they could help us. We said no and left the establishment. I must say that this was not the norm in the town. But what we experienced made us feel so powerless. We felt as if we were completely unloved.
I can not imagine living like this each and every day.
Now, to be fair, the majority of communities across the country are not indicative of this one at this time. We have grown a bit as a country. Remember, this is a country that has given us black members of the government all the way up to the president of the United States and the U.S. Supreme Court. We have grown, even though we have a long way to go.
That being said, we must understand what Mr. Perkins and the scriptures tell us. God is for the poor, the marginalized and the weak. He loves them and looks after them. They are not to be oppressed. The growth that we need is not more political power for minorities. Power corrupts, no matter who has it as we see on display each and every day as politicians use rhetoric to divide us all rather than unite.
We must acknowledge a few things. First is that what we are dealing with is systemic, but not in the way you might think. It is systemic in the heart of man. It is something called sin. It must be dealt with first. It is the root cause of selfishness and causes us to lose dignity for one another. Again Mr. Perkins wrote,
“There is no reconciliation until you recognize the dignity of the other, until you see their view- you have to enter into the pain of the people. You’ve got to feel their need.”
John M. Perkins
We must love one another enough to enter into their pain. We must have a great desire to see reconciliation. But that reconciliation can not be one sided. The parties must meet together at the table of sin and repentance. There is plenty of sin to go around. And turn that sinfulness into love. If we are ever to regain our nation in dignity and justice, we must love one another.
I offer this as a white man trying to figure things out and in no way saying that I have all the answers, but I know where they begin. They begin in love. If we find ourselves with an inability to love one another, then we must go to the One who asked us to do that in the first place. We must get our relationship—our reconciliation—right with Christ first. Then we will learn from Him and be handed a new heart big enough to love our enemies and, as much as depends upon us, be at peace with all people. God can change us from violent protester and violent racist into a Gentle, peace-filled person who loves all. Mr. Erwin wrote,
“Gentleness is not apathy but is an aggressive expression of how we view people. We see people as so valuable that we deal with them in gentleness, fearing the slightest damage to one for whom Christ died. To be apathetic is to turn people over to mean and destructive elements, to truly love people cause for us to be aggressively gentle.”Gayle D. Erwin, Spirit Style
So let’s be gentle. Lets be loving. Lets be at peace.
I had the chance to visit with a few attendees at the Black Lives Matter protest on Rogers Avenue in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Some offered me water. Others, were cleaning up trash. They were peaceful. They were respectful. They were truly attempting to get their voices heard and wanting to get things changed.
One of the protesters, Sarah, told me that she was out protesting because as a white person, she wanted to be an example and give a voice to the voiceless in these dark times. Another, told me she grew up in Greenwood in an all-white school without ever meeting or seeing black people. Then she went to college and met people that did not look like her and it changed her. She wanted to advocate for those who could not be there because they feared protesting because they would be targeted.
Perhaps at some point we’ll be able to live and love one another in such a way where we appreciate our differences and love in a way that changes us from enemies into friends.
God bless you and I am praying that reconciliation comes soon.
For more photos, please click here.
Photos from the May 31, 2020 Black Lives Matter protest in Fort Smith, Arkansas.