It started during the 2016 American football pre-season, but it’s now sweeping the world as a response to the homicide of George Floyd, who was alleged to have tried to use a forged $20 note in a grocery store on 25th May (2020). He was restrained by police at the scene, and the video of a white police-officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck has gone viral. Autopsy findings point to the victim having died of asphyxiation, due to his neck and back having been compressed.
This sparked protests all across America, but also in Britain, in Spain, in Nigeria, in fact all across the world. Why has this struck such a profound chord? It seems to have been that phrase: “I can’t breathe.” It’s become the mantra of the suffocating evil of racial oppression. What’s more, it even resonates with the present pandemic and the breathing difficulties it causes, and so there’s the double dread of coronavirus AND institutional racism.
But the question was: what’s God’s view on racism? Let me approach it this way, by quoting to you from an anonymous essay. Try to picture the scene it describes:
“At the end of time, billions of people were seated on a great plain before God’s throne. Most shrank back from the brilliant light before them. But some groups near the front talked heatedly, not cringing with shame – but with belligerence.
“Can God judge us? How can He know about suffering?”, snapped a young brunette. She ripped open a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. “We endured terror … beatings … torture … death!”
In another group an Afro-American boy lowered his collar. “What about this?” he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. “Lynched, for no crime but being black!”
In another crowd there was a pregnant schoolgirl with sullen eyes: “Why should I suffer?” she murmured. “It wasn’t my fault.” Far out across the plain were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering he’d permitted in his world.
How lucky God was to live in heaven, where all was sweetness and light. Where there was no weeping or fear, no hunger nor hatred. What did God know of all that they’d been forced to endure in this world? For God leads a pretty sheltered life, they said.
So each of these groups sent their leader, chosen because he’d suffered the most. A Jew, an Afro-American, a person from Hiroshima, a horribly deformed arthritic, a thalidomide child. In the centre of the vast plain, they consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case. It was rather clever.
Before God could be qualified to be their judge, he must endure what they’d endured. Their decision was that God should be sentenced to live on earth as a man.
Let him be born a Jew. Let the legitimacy of his birth be doubted. Give him a work so difficult that even his family will think him out of his mind.
Let him be betrayed by his closest friends. Let him face false charges, be tried by a prejudiced jury and convicted by a cowardly judge. Let him be tortured.
At the last, let him see what it means to be terribly alone. Then let him die so there can be no doubt he died. Let there be a great host of witnesses to verify it.
As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the throng of people assembled. When the last had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence. No one uttered a word. No one moved.
For suddenly, all knew that God had already served his sentence.”
Indeed he has. Let me take you back almost 2,000 years to Jerusalem, or a little distance outside its city walls. Jesus, the man who’d claimed equality with God, the God-man, is dying … on a Roman cross, the cruellest form of execution ever invented by us humans. Death by crucifixion is usually by asphyxiation, but with his dying breath, Jesus Christ triumphantly commits his spirit to God, his Father. May I give the Bible’s own commentary on the life and death of Jesus, including its sequel …
“… being in very nature God, [he] did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.” (Philippians 2:6-10 NIV)
May I ask: ‘Do you respect what Jesus, the God-man, has done for people of every tribe and language and nation?’ Regardless of our ethnicity, we’ve rebelled in our attitude and actions against God. But God came near, came among us, and was prepared to be misjudged, and abused, while he made forgiveness possible for any one of us on an individual basis. He experienced rejection on earth, but God reversed the human verdict. He’s seated now at the right hand of power, and one day soon every knee will bow before him. But that includes those who are forgiven, and those who are still guilty who will be condemned. The forgiven, whom God will not judge, are those who have now, in this life, repented of their wrong attitude and received Jesus by believing in his name to be freed from the penalty their sins truly deserve (John 1:12).
May I ask: Have you already taken the knee – but meaning: bowing before God’s son and in recognition of who he is and of what he’s done for you?