by Rev. Dr. Timothy James, associate general minister and administrative secretary of the National Convocation
“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 1 John 4: 7-8 NRSV
The consciousness of police brutality and violence on black men and women has always been in my awareness due to consecutive incidents reminding me through the years. It was deeply reinforced when our youngest son, Christopher, called home to tell Joyce and I that Tamir Rice, the middle school African American youth killed by a policeman in Cleveland, OH, was one of his students. His pain and grief became ours in a most profound way. Part of the American dream for African Americans is that our children will not have to face or endure the painful reality of America’s sinful shame, racism. The death of George Floyd, so inhumane, has opened the wounds of old. We remember Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Atatiana Jefferson, Freddie Gray and so many more. Dr. William Barber said, “Whether it’s police abuse of power or policy abuse of power, these deaths serve as a collective knee on the neck of people of color.” The public death of George Floyd shocked the conscience of America to acknowledge its complicity in and exercise of systemic and institutional racism. The response of major denominations and ecumenical bodies has been to honestly admit or confess the church’s role in perpetuating the myth of white supremacy and black inferiority. In the meantime, the world is facing the pandemic of COVID-19. Yet, protestors of the murder of George Floyd and the systemic racism that allows it, are willing to risk the coronavirus to have their voice heard and to seek justice. Protests are not in America only, they are taking place in Italy, Germany, London and other parts of the world.
This world filled with sickness and sin, heartbreak and sorrow, fear and anxiety, and jealousy and hatred; God loved enough to send His only begotten Son. This love was so amazing it proved that God was all in to go all out, holding nothing back, not even His own Son to save the world through Him. God loves everybody, the sinner, the racist, the rich, the poor, oppressor, the oppressed, the weak, the strong and people like you and me. This love is so underserving. The love with which God loves this world is the love given to us to love one another. God gives us the Holy Spirit, imparting to us love, to live the life of love. This we cannot do without God. “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” 1 John 4: 13.
This is where the church comes in. We must work within the church to have honest dialogue, confession and deep conversation regarding the narrative that needs to be adjusted to bring about a change and the dismantling of racism. We must work with our government and political leaders to bring about transformational legislation that will change policies of discrimination and bring reform and/or overhaul to our judicial system and mass incarceration. There is a lot of work to be done. We are loved to do some loving. The myth of white supremacy is based on racial hatred. Violent and destructive protests are seeking to distract the nation and the world from the real issue, BLACK LIVES MATTER! Disciples of Christ let us take our Anti-Racist/Pro-Reconciling initiative to the next level by doing tangible and significant work to expose and root out the systemic and institutional racism in the church and society. The world does not deserve this love with so much inequity and disproportionate grief. But God wants us to love, actively love the unlovable, the unlovely and even those who despise us. This is the true character of Christian love. We need to be agents of a love uprising through the church. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” The power of love, the Spirit of Christ in each of us, can do much more than we think. Let the work begin with you and me.