Anticipating the Chauvin Verdict
This week will bring closing arguments and a sequestered jury deliberating the fate of former police officer Derek Chauvin in regards to the death of George Floyd. We hold many different positions with respect to these issues right now. I remember where I was in college when the O.J. Simpson trial verdict was handed down, and seeing the reactions both of white friends and black friends, and how differently they saw that verdict. That same thing will happen this week. Christians will come down in different positions and places too. Here’s what I see in the Gospel for us as people of faith in God.
1. We hold the sanctity of life, for God created each and every one of us and called us good. That means that no matter who we think did what in this case, we believe that God created and loves both George Floyd and Derek Chauvin. God created and loves the people who think like us about this and other issues, as well the people who don’t think like us. None of us are more or less important than anyone else.
2. We hold the humanity and sacredness of each person and group of people. This means that calling other people names is not where we want to be. Labeling a group of people and seeing them as less than human is not faithful to our call as Christians. The phrases ‘people like that’ or ‘those people’ are ones better rooted out of our vocabulary. There will be protests regardless of this verdict, and they will be rooted in deep emotion. It’s important to acknowledge the feelings of others. In the Gospels, Jesus focused His time especially on the people that society mistreated and ostracized, to make a point for us. If Jesus loves them that much, then we need to love them too. Better, we need to ensure that they are no longer mistreated and ostracized.
3. We hold with treating each other the way we want to be treated, AND in the way God treats us. Scripture is clear: God might be angry with us but God doesn’t hurt us. God might be frustrated with our behavior, but God loves us anyway. Taking out our frustration in harmful ways on other people is not a reflection of Christ in the Gospels. Jesus called us to turn the other cheek. When someone needs something from us, add an additional gift. When someone needs us to walk a mile with them, walk two. When someone is struggling, give compassion, a listening ear, and understanding help. Go the distance for others to treat them well – that’s what Jesus modeled. Can we live that now?
4. We hold with refraining from judgment (really, we do – we just struggle to do it). When we’re frustrated with someone else’s sin, Jesus wisely told us to turn our attention to our own sin first. We might not see the log in our own eye as we’re focusing on the speck in someone else’s eye. But the only thing under our control is the log in our own eye. So when we react and feel ourselves starting to judge based on what happens from this trial, or what’s going on in other areas of our lives, take a breath. Let’s look at why we’re judging. What sin might we be avoiding or hiding from? What preconceived notions might be making it hard for us to truly see? For example, why do we assume that Derek Chauvin is guilty? Or innocent? What broader conclusions do we jump to – i.e. that all people who support police officers are racist, or that all people who see bias in policing are against public safety and the right to bear arms? ALL OF THIS is about who we are, how we’ve been shaped to see the world, and the assumptions we make. It’s all worth re-evaluating! If we’re tempted to judge, then we have things to look at within ourselves first. By the time we’re ready to come back, if we’ve truly done our work with God, we’ll see the world differently.
5. We hold with forgiveness. Jesus died and rose again for all of us, to redeem us from our sin and to give us new life in Christ. Jesus knew we would never be able to make all of the right choices, so forgiveness is there for us whenever we need it, which is just about every hour of every day! As we have been forgiven, Jesus and the Gospel call us to work to forgive others. Withholding forgiveness only makes it harder for God to work in people’s lives, and in our lives too. Forgiveness never excuses the behavior; it honors that God created and loves the other person, and releases us from holding resentment and hatred against that person.
Our country is divided in many ways, but if we can hold to these Gospel truths and practice them actively, we will have a chance to make this world a better place. We will have a chance to show how our Christian faith makes a difference. Remember: Christian faith is not a justification for our opinions; it is the call to live our lives as Jesus did, with love, integrity, and humility.