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Thinking Biblically About Racism, Riots and Protests

Almost two weeks ago, the United States, even the world, was shocked and horrified to see four police officers holding down a black man during an arrest for an alleged petty crime. One police officer had a knee on his neck for up to 9 minutes. George Floyd complained that he could not breathe but to no avail. The officer kept his knee on his neck until he murdered George Floyd. As a result of this horrific incident, our nation erupted into protests and then riots, with arson, looting and even murder. Since then, I’ve been asked a number of questions by people, hoping to find biblical support their political perspectives on recent events. So, what follows are three biblical principles that should guide our understanding of what has happened.

First, let’s keep in mind that racism is reprehensible. The Bible teaches that all humanity is made in the image of God. At the creation of Adam and Eve, the Bible relates, “God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female” (Gen 1:27). Just a few chapters later God declared His hatred of murder, basing that on the principle that “God made man in His image” (Gen 9:6). In the New Testament, it becomes plain that “God loved the world” of humanity so much “that He gave His One and Only Son,” Jesus, to redeem all people who believe in Him (John 3:16). Later, in the book of Acts, Peter relates learning a crucial principle, telling the Roman Centurion Cornelius that “God does not show favoritism” but accepts any person, regardless of ethnicity, who fears God and follows Him in faith (Acts 10:34-35). Ultimately, when the Bible depicts worship in heaven, it describes it not as some mono-cultural, homogeneous group worshiping but rather “a vast multitude, from every nation, tribe, people and language” celebrating God’s greatness (Rev 7:9). All this to say, that the murder of George Floyd and the systemic racism that African Americans deal with on a daily basis is reprehensible to God and should be to us as well.

Second, we need to keep in mind that protesting is permissible. A student wrote to me asking, “Is protesting a biblically supported idea? I thought we were supposed to support our leaders and live in peace. Romans 14 speaks about pursuing peace and mutual upbuilding.” It’s a mistake to consider a protest a violation of pursuing peace. In fact, the goal of a protest is to produce a more just and peaceful society, particularly, in this case, for our Black fellow citizens. Moreover, Paul the Apostle gives an example of someone who, when falsely accused of a crime, justifiably used his rights as a Roman citizen, to appeal to Caesar (Acts 25:10-11). This example shows that using our rights as citizens to resist injustice is permitted, even encouraged. The United States Constitution, in the first amendment to the Bill of Rights, grants freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful assembly. Citizens of the United States, whatever their ethnicity or race should use these rights to pursue a more just society, and that includes protesting the shameful systemic racism of our nation.

Finally, we must remember that violence is a violation of God’s Word. Sadly, there are some who actually used the just protests against police brutality as a pretense for violence, looting, arson, even murder. How shameful! Worse yet, some followers of Jesus have justified these unlawful actions by citing Jesus driving out the moneychangers from the temple with a whip cord and overturning their tables in the process (John 2:15). He did this to defend His Father’s house from a den of thieves. Since the temple actually belongs to the Messianic King, the Lord Jesus was using His rightful authority to drive out those corrupting it. In fact, when asked by the Temple leadership by what authority He took these actions, He claimed the authority of being the soon to be risen Messiah (John 2:18-22). This is completely different than the actions of a mob incited to rioting and looting.

Some have cited the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, “the riot is the language of the unheard,” as a justification for rioting. Yet, it dishonors Dr. King to quote him out of context. He said this merely as an explanation of rioting, not as an endorsement. Dr. King condemned both the riots and the racial oppression that caused them. He declared riots to be immoral, socially destructive and self-defeating. While condemning the racial hatred that sparked riots, he also said, “So I will continue to condemn riots, and continue to say to my brothers and sisters that this is not the way.”

We live in a politically polarized nation. Even followers of Jesus promote their partisan perspectives and only then, seek Bible verses to back them up. Let’s be different. Let’s start with the Bible and allow it to renew our minds. That way we can view every situation through the lens of Scripture, with a biblical world view, and promote biblical values rather than mere political perspectives.

10 Comments

  • Avatar David Withers says:

    Well said, thank you for the clarity….dbw

  • Avatar Ken Arcand says:

    Very much enjoyed the article. Way too often even Christians do not put their perspectives in light of Biblical Concepts/Truths.

    I have only one disagreement, the political cliche used in the last line of the first paragraph – “the SYSTEMIC RACISM that African Americans deal with on a DAILY BASIS” is at a minimum a gross exaggeration. What system? And DAILY? Because I’ll stand shoulder to shoulder with you and condemn it.

    • Avatar Katherine Workman says:

      As long as public schools are funded by local property taxes, low-income, primarily black/brown communities will have no choice but to send their children to inferior schools. They’ll have outdated textbooks while their white neighbors a few miles away will have Google Chromebooks. There are so many examples. I can search for my ancestors because I know a few surnames. An African-American who is a descendant of slaves has no idea what their true family surname was. Slaves were forced to abandon their language and even their names. Even someone like the Rev. Al Sharpton has the surname of the plantation owner who enslaved his great-grandfather. The fact that you don’t recognize that systemic racism exists is evidence of your own white privilege. We each have our own paradigm through which we see the world. Being able to see the world through someone else’s eyes is key to true biblical empathy.

  • Avatar Rodney Nottingham says:

    Thank you for your beautiful thoughts. I believe God has given THE CHURCH a wonderful opportunity in 2020 to show itself to be a healer, and in my opinion, we have failed miserably. We need to wrap our arms literally and figuratively around these hurting Christians and Americans and heal and love.

  • Avatar Shirley Meldgaard Vnuk says:

    Thank you! We appreciate your wisdom

  • Avatar Lowrie F says:

    Amem and thank you!

  • Avatar Joel Wilson says:

    Thanks for your work on this and so much more. I haven’t seen you in 20 years (MBI) but pray blessings upon you and your family!

  • Avatar Eleanor Gaines says:

    God bless you four rightly dividing the truth so that the captives can truly seek and have freedom in the messiah’s name amen shalom

  • Avatar Serene Hudson says:

    Excellent. Thank you, Michael.

  • Wonderful article! “Violence is a Violation” is a great phrase; of God’s word, opposite of peace, never brings change. Like Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, good managing, parenting, it has to be with with a calm, sound mind. Lord, help our country, bless our leaders, and pastors🙏🏼

    (Miriam’s friend in Atlanta)

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