The Gospel for George Floyd
What is the gospel for George Floyd who was choked to death by a police officer’s knee in Minneapolis? How does the good news of Jesus Christ give hope to a man who was murdered by a corrupt cop? What message are we to proclaim to George Floyd? To his family? To his black community?
The man is dead. His family is grieving. His community cries, filled with righteous rage.
Where is the gospel in all of this?
Sadly, the simplistic message of “Christ died for your sins” does not seem to cut it. Please do not get me wrong. Christ dying for your sins is true, and I hope you believe it. I believe it in my core. Its one of the greatest truths my Bible teaches me. I hope George Floyd believed it too. Yet, if our message to George Floyd is simply “Believe in Christ so that he will take away your sins,” what hope does that bring him while being unjustly executed in broad day light for the world to see on camera? This is a great message for the cop who murdered him. But what about for George Floyd?
What would you say to him as you watched him being choked to death?
One might say, “Well if he is about to die (albeit unjustly), he does need to make sure he is right with God.” Absolutely. Like all of us, George Floyd needs a savior from his sins.
But he also needs a savior from the cop.
He needs a savior from the Minneapolis Police Department.
He needs a savior from a nation that, for 400 years, has demonstrated with words and deeds that his body does not matter.
He needs a savior from the demonic and hateful ideology of white supremacy that is in the air we breathe and the water we drink.
He even needs a savior from people like me.
But I’m afraid a message of “Christ died for your sins” simply will not do.
The gospel is simple. It is not simplistic. What do I mean by this? The gospel is so simple a child can understand it. It is this: Jesus lived. He died. He rose again showing that he is our Lord and Savior. He will return and make all things new. We are called to respond to this news by believing in our hearts and confessing with our mouths that he is Lord. That is the gospel. It is a very simple message.
But the gospel is not simplistic. It is like a diamond. A diamond can look very differently depending upon which particular side you are looking at. If you were never to move, but simply only look at that one side, you would have a rather limited understanding of that diamond. What would be needed is to move to see another side, and then another, and another. And finally, to take a step back and look at the whole.
My fear is that many in my evangelical stream has simply stayed too long on the “Christ has died for your sins” side of the gospel diamond. This is a legitimate view, but not the view that is needed for George Floyd or his family.
So what then is an appropriate view?
Jesus died to set George Floyd free. Christ not only died to save George Floyd from his sins, but he also died to save him from those who have sinned against him.
In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus announces the purpose of his ministry by quoting the prophet Isaiah.
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”
Jesus came to set the captives free. He lived, died, and resurrected to bring freedom from those under the bondage of spiritual and physical oppression. In Jesus’ ministry, he certainly called people to repent and seek forgiveness for their sins. But he also liberated. He set free demon-plagued men and women. He healed incurable diseases. He gave worth to those viewed as worthless. He humbled the rich, and gave value and dignity to the poor. On the cross, he was unjustly executed so that we could be free. Free now and free for eternity. As Paul says in Galatians, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
And Jesus does not stop there. Jesus’s first arrival came with a cross. His second arrival will come with a sword. Once and for all, Jesus will come back and crush the powers of white supremacy that have created such horror in our country.
I do not know why God allowed George Floyd to die. I do not know why he allowed people to idly stand by and watch him die. No one but God knows.
But I do know this: We have a liberating God.
That liberating work started in Jesus’ ministry and it continues today. His liberating spirit is at work in the facebook posts, in the marches, in the protests, in the work to change policy, in the work to change hearts, in the work to change our racial imaginations, and will be ultimately completed when Jesus returns.
I hope George Floyd trusted himself to a liberating God. Because if he did, one day he will be free.
He will be free from the knee on his neck, because his liberating savior will raise his dead body back to life. He will be free from the systemic injustices that plague our country, because our liberating savior will burn those to the ground. And he will be free from white supremacy that people like you and me perpetuate on any given day.
He will be seen.
He will be heard.
He will be able to breathe.