So this post is about to get real. There is a good chance that it will offend many of you. I’m at peace with that. Change never happens without people being offended and I feel very strongly that change is needed in our country, in our world, and most importantly in our hearts and minds.
There has long been a history in our nation of government/police violence and discrimination towards Black, Hispanic, and Native American peoples. This has most recently come to light with the killing of George Floyd during which a police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and fifty three seconds while his hands were cuffed behind his back. For almost three minutes of that time, Mr. Floyd was unresponsive. Three other officers watched this happen and failed to intervene. An autopsy revealed that Mr. Floyd died of a heart attack caused by asphyxiation.
This horrific murder has sparked outrage throughout the world. There have been thousands of Black Lives Matter protests globally to push for systemic change that would bring about true equality. In The United States, almost every major city and even most small towns have held gatherings to protest police brutality specifically towards black citizens. Several of these protests have turned violent with protesters clashing with law enforcement causing injuries to person and property alike.
While most white Christians were fairly quick to respond to the death of Mr. Floyd and decry the racism behind it, they have been even quicker and much more vocal to denounce the “looting and rioting” that have occurred. They talk about how they fully support peaceful protests but don’t condone violence of any form.
So how should Christians, and specifically white Christians, respond to this more violent form of protesting?
First, I think it needs to be said that white Christians have absolutely no context for how Black America feels right now. For centuries, they have seen their people mistreated, abused, and murdered. They’ve felt the weight of a system designed to keep them down pressing harder and harder on them. And every time another black man or woman is murdered, they’re told to protest peacefully, that our thoughts and prayers are with them, that change is coming. But change never came. They have constantly cried out for their burden to be lifted just to be continually ignored. The sadness that has led to frustration that has led to outright rage is something that white America simply cannot understand. So, as white Christians, we need to be careful about speaking into a situation and an emotion that we simply cannot comprehend. We don’t know the agony of not being heard. That cannot be emphasized enough.
Second, some Christians have posted things like, “Jesus was a man of peace, not violence.” And that’s true, except for when it’s not. To simple describe Jesus as a man of peace is far too simplistic. It’s more accurate to say that Jesus was a man of compassion. Compassion is defined as, “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” In other words, when He saw something wrong, He needed to change it. Many times that manifested itself peacefully in the form of physical healing or verbally speaking out. However, there are times when Jesus was violent. Actions that people might even call “rioting and looting.”
John 2:13-17 (ESV) describes such a time.
The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
Matthew 21:12-13 (ESV) describes Him doing it a second time.
And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
So there definitely is a biblical precedent for using violence or “rioting and looting” as a means to an end. The question is however, does this apply to now?
First, examine Jesus’ reason for violence. People were desecrating the Temple, the dwelling place of God. This desecration of of the Temple made Jesus so angry that He acted in violence to stop it. More to the point, they were desecrating the Temple for their own monetary gain. When Jesus died, the veil in the Temple was torn in two, symbolizing that God’s dwelling was no longer limited to that one physical place. 1 Cor 3:16, 1 Cor 6:19, 2 Cor 6:16, Rom 8:9, Rom 8:11, Gal 4:6, 2 Tim 1:14, among others, say that we are now the dwelling place of God. Our bodies are now the new Temple.
What we see in our nation now is a desecration of this new Temple. Our black brothers and sisters are being systemically repressed in almost every way; economically, emotionally, and physically. This desecration of the Temple should invoke in us a similar response to that of Jesus. We should be filled with the same type of holy rage that filled Jesus. If we see that peaceful protesting is still resulting in the the outright violation of the Imago Dei to which we so fervently hold, we should act more decisively until the desecration stops.
So, what am I saying? Am I saying to intentionally go out with the intention of looting and rioting? Not necessarily. I am simply saying that the desecration of the Temple (the repression, abuse, and murder of our black brothers and sisters) should outrage us immensely more than the loss of property caused by looting and rioting. Jesus, as I said before, was a man of compassion. By definition, the end result of compassion is a desire to alleviate the suffering/fix the problem. I know that it is uncomfortable to think of Him in this way, but it’s true. There is a verse in the Bible that is oft overlooked because, to be honest, most people don’t know what exactly to do with it.
In Luke 22, Jesus was talking to His disciples during what is known as “The Last Supper.” He was giving them instructions for what to do after He was gone. He said, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”
Is Jesus telling us in this to go out an buy guns? No, He’s simply calling us to action. He’s saying that there are some things that will require drastic action. That is what a Christian response should be in the face of such utter disregard for human life.
Once again, thank you all for taking the time to read this post. I know that it covers an extremely uncomfortable and controversial topic. If you are offended by it, I humbly ask that you ask yourself two questions. First, why specifically are you offended? Second, which offended you more, the death of George Floyd and the disregard for black lives or the destruction of property caused by the rioting? Thank you and God bless.