A Biblical Response to Racism and Riots

In light of the tragic and brutal death of George Floyd and the subsequent protests and riots across our nation, I want to give a measured and biblical response. In times like these, we can be tempted to be driven by emotion or by politics. Instead, I want to address this issue with a biblical worldview. More than ever, Christians need to think biblically with godly discernment and filter everything through His authoritative Scripture.

First of all, racism in any form is evil and should be condemned. God created all humans in His image and therefore every single person has inherent dignity and worth.  The Bible teaches that there is one human race, not multiple races. We have all descended from the one man Adam. Acts 17:26: “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.”  This does not mean that there are not different ethnicities or skin colors, but fundamentally, all humans share the same heritage from the one man Adam and we are all created in God’s image. Any form of racism, whether ethnic bias, discrimination, segregation, and hostility toward a person or group of another ethnicity is patently sinful, wicked, and has no place in the heart or actions of those who claim the name of Christ.

Tragically, our nation has a terrible history of racism most grotesquely expressed in both slavery and Jim Crow laws. The Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s under the leadership of Martin Luther King made excellent strides in bringing equality among all ethnicities. Since the emancipation proclamation to the civil rights movement in the 1960’s, the United States has passed laws in our nation that ended systemic racism. Yet, due to the sinfulness of the human heart, some people in our nation still have racist attitudes and actually practice outright racism.

I do not believe that America is fundamentally a racist nation nor was founded on racism as some claim, but I do believe there are some individuals who practice racism and they should be called out, condemned, and silenced.

Second, brutality (whether by a policeman) or by any person in authority over someone who is weaker or helpless is evil and criminal and should be condemned and prosecuted. Police officer Derek Chauvin acted with malicious brutality that showed no regard for human life. He used his position in authority to murder another person. The issue is not whether Floyd was innocent or guilty. The issue is that Floyd said he could not breathe, did not resist arrest, was helpless on the ground in handcuffs, and Chauvin and his fellow officers held Floyd down for 9 minutes. This is not only sinful but criminal. Chauvin has been justly arrested and charged.

Any person in authority who brutalizes, oppresses, hurts, or abuses another person who is weaker or helpless acts sinfully and criminally and should be arrested. This includes an adult who abuses a child. This includes a husband who abuses his wife. This includes a teacher or coach who abuses a student or athlete. Brutality, abuse, and subsequent death in the case of George Floyd is criminal and justice demands conviction. Psalm 106:3: “Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!”

Third, we should empathize with those who have been disenfranchised, ostracized, oppressed, discriminated against, and marginalized, and who sense that there is injustice whether we have experienced it or not. It’s very easy for me as a white, middle-class male who has grown up in the suburbs to be clueless when it comes to discrimination or oppression. I have no idea what other ethnicities in other areas with different backgrounds have experienced in their lifetimes and are going through right now.

More than ever, we need to take time to listen to those with whom we disagree. We need to put ourselves in their shoes and try to empathize. We may not agree politically or socially or theologically, but human decency and Christian love motivates us to listen and try to understand their point of view. Ecclesiastes 4:1: “Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. “

Oppression is real. Racism is real. Police brutality is real. I do not have the statistics to prove that it is widespread or systemic or that our nation is inherently racist, but I do know that many people of color have shared that they have experienced these travesties in America. I can choose to not believe them, or I can try to empathize and learn from them.

Fourth, there are appropriate ways to protest injustice with civility and respect. We have a First Amendment right to gather peaceably to express grievances and outrage at what we perceive to be injustice.  We must make a distinction between individuals who are exercising their Constitutional right to peaceably protest and others who have taken this to another step and instigated rioting, violence, vandalism, destruction of property, physical brutality, and in some cases murder. The current confusion lies in trying to distinguish which group is which. Thankfully, many African American leaders across our nation have decried the rioters and violence. These rioters have betrayed any sense of civil disobedience and peaceful protest that occurred under Martin Luther King in the 60’s.

Fifth, looting, stealing, rioting, destroying property, berating law enforcement, beating and killing other people is sinful and criminal and against the Ten Commandments. The most fundamental human right we have is the right to life and personal property. When persons violate those rights by stealing, vandalizing, destroying property, beating others, and actually committing murder, they are acting in the height of lawlessness, sin, and rebellion against Almighty God. Exodus 20:13: “You shall not murder. Leviticus 19:13:  “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him.” The looting and rioting in these inner-city areas is actually destroying the businesses and livelihoods of predominately minorities and those with lower incomes.

This lawless unrest and criminal behavior should be immediately stopped by law enforcement and the national guard. Unfortunately, many mayors have tied the hands of law enforcement and told them not to act swiftly.

Sixth, this is the truth that no one wants to readily admit; but the events in our nation is evidence of God’s judgment. When a people wholesale reject God’s laws, God will give them over to a depraved mind to do lawless deeds. 1 Timothy 1:8–9 says,Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers. 1 John 3:4 reads,Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.

God can executive His wrath in active and dramatic ways like pouring down fire on Sodom and Gomorrah. Or. . .  God can executive His wrath in passive ways by letting lawless and sinful people continue to do what they want to do by giving them over to a depraved mind. In other words, God can take His hand of restraint of a nation and allow the people to get what they deserve. For people to rebel against God and go their own way. The tragic reality is that sometimes God allows this to happen as an act of judgment.

Romans 1:28–31 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”

Is this not what we are seeing flash before our very eyes in America. In cities across our land, mobs are acting in covetousness, murder, boastful, heartless, and ruthless ways. God has given them over to a debased mind. I can’t say this any clearer: God has given America what it truly wants—a nation without any concern for His law or standards of righteousness. God has said to America: “If you want a nation without Me, then go for it and see where that leads you. I’m hands off! I’ve given you over to your own lawlessness as an act of My justice.”

So, what then is the answer to this tragic unfolding of events in our nation? Let me suggest a few responses.

First, only the life changing gospel of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness He has won for us through the cross and resurrection can overcome human evil in all forms. Hearts have to change first, before society can change. Politics cannot change hearts. Laws cannot change hearts. Social programs cannot change hearts. Economic policies cannot change hearts.

I am not saying these things are not important for our nation and we need to have some healthy discussions on public policy, but only Jesus can change hearts. More than ever, let us be bold in our witness to Jesus and His power to forgive and cleanse and make all things new. 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Second, please take personal responsibility to listen, empathize and communicate with those with whom you disagree. Don’t engage in reposting memes or posts that are shallow, inflammatory, or simplistic to a very complex issue. Take the time and the risk to learn, listen, and educate yourself on what others believe and why they feel the way they do. You may not ever agree with them, but as a Christian, our obligation is to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Be a peacemaker. Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Romans 12:17–18: ‘”Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all”.

Third, if you are in a position of authority or decision making (whether at your job or in some capacity) please take personal responsibility to address injustice and do what you need to do to change it. You may not be able to change things on a huge scale, but you can change what you can change. You can address what you can address. You can take leadership and make sure you’re acting with biblical justice.

Fourth, please pray for wisdom for our leaders. Pray for mayors of these cities. Pray for governors of these states. Pray for our president. Pray for leaders. Pray for police officers, fire and rescue workers, national guard troops and others who are on the front line. Pray that God would grant them patience, wisdom, and courage to do what is right. Pray that they can protect life and property and that they would be protected as well.

Fifth, pray for God to relent His wrath and judgment if that be His will for our nation. Unless God intervenes in His sovereign grace to restrain evil, we will experience dark days ahead as a nation. God is under no obligation to relent His judgment upon us as America is getting what it deserves. Please pray for spiritual awakening and revival. Pray for repentance and contrition among believers across the land. Pray for churches to be lighthouses of hope and love in a cruel and heartless world.

Pray like Jesus taught us to pray: Matthew 6:9–10: “Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”


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