The words are emblazoned on the founding document of the nascent American independence movement. They form the aspirational template for what we as a nation seek to be when at our best.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [and women] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
As citizens of the United States, we have been repeatedly seared by the sin of racism and racial injustice. Individually, our experience and awareness of this sin differs greatly. Within this wide spectrum of understanding, the agonizing visage of a murder on the streets of Minneapolis haunts us both collectively and individually. Now, with the conclusion of the Derek Chauvin trial, the rule of law has prevailed, and appropriate judicial accountability has been taken.
In our catharsis, may the family of George Floyd find some small measure of comfort. However, let this not become an excuse to unfairly denigrate the work of police and other public servants, nor should we allow this to become a triumphant celebration. Unjustly, a man has been murdered. Unfairly, a family has been pierced with grief. The people of Minneapolis and all our nation, including the police, are still wrestling with the impact of lives disrupted, destroyed and ended by this tragedy. This includes Derek Chauvin, for he too is a child of God just as George Floyd was and still is a child of God.
End Racism in Our Lifetime
The result of this trial is not, cannot, and should not be the end our collective pursuit of justice for all. The battle to defeat the sin of racism in our lifetime is not over. The need is far greater and the aspirational intent of the United States of America’s founding is far better. For us as Americans, may the tragic death of George Floyd and the resulting struggle over appropriate accountability lead us to higher resolve, deeper understanding and greater healing.
Our pledge of allegiance contains the soaring commitment “with liberty and justice for all.” Someone has written “For all. No small print. No exclusions. For all. Regardless of race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, national residence, citizenship status, or geographical location. Every human personal has equal human dignity. All means all.”
For Christians, we take “justice for all” a step further. We are a people governed by the teaching of Jesus Christ to love God and love the neighbor, every accessible human being we may reach.
“One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)
We wear the prophetic mantel as a guide to holy living.
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
What shall we now do? We should do what George Floyd so desperately longed to do at the tragic end of his life. Breathe deep. And, as we breathe, remember that Jesus is Lord. He is our guide and ruler. Evil may have its day, but it does not sit on the throne of Grace. Let us link prayer and action in the greater pursuit of love, justice and mercy in the name of the holy and reigning Lord of the universe.