I am a middle-aged Asian male. I have lived in five different countries and visited many more. My cross-cultural experience has shown me that my Asian complexion and eyes can sometimes be a target for belittling and mocking. So I think I know what it means to live ignored and occasionally despised for how I look, not for what I do or say. However, living slighted and neglected is one thing. Getting shot to death by a vigilante while jogging, or being choked to death by police primarily because your skin is dark, is another.
A 46-year-old African American man, Mr. George Floyd, was fiendishly choked to death by four police officers on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis. Had it not been for this gut-wrenching video taken by a passerby, those police officers would likely have gotten away easily. The too-painful-to-watch footage captures Mr. Floyd, handcuffed and pinned to the ground, begging for his life—more precisely, begging for air to breathe—which was entirely ignored by the white police officer who knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck for too long. What is even more egregious is the coldblooded apathy of the Asian officer who was complicit in the murder by doing nothing as he stood by watching Mr. Floyd suffocate.
I think it is hardly disputable that Mr. Floyd’s tragic death is connected to racism, one of humanity’s most deeply ingrained problems. Racism inoculates this absurd idea that difference in skin color unmistakably indicates difference in dignity and value. Racism is thus a daring rebellion against God who created people of all races in his own image. Racism is also repugnant arrogance because racists boast about what they have received freely, not what they have earned. Racism is an utter abomination to God because it leads us to judge, despise, and hate others for what they have received from God. Both Mr. George Floyd and Mr. Ahmaud Arbery were judged, hated, and brutally murdered for the black skin that God gave them in his pleasing will.
Both African American gentlemen lost their lives due to a racial stigma that they had to bear. We know we can by no means bring them back to life. But I would like to ask a painful what-if question: What if there had been a gospel-saturated police officer present on the scene that day?
If there was a police officer who knew how his sinful nature had been atoned for and that he was made right with God by faith alone in Christ alone, I think he would have confronted the white officer who dug his knee into Mr. Floyd’s neck, because it was evident that the evil inside the officer could easily kill Mr. Floyd without any justifiable cause. Gospel saturation opens our eyes to the horrific reality that human sinfulness can be uncontrollably evil any minute.
A gospel-believing police officer may have understood the universal vision of the good news: there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28). This vision is given by God who shows no favoritism (Rom 2:11). The officer thus would have stood his or her ground to stop the cruel white officer because it was obvious racist favoritism being displayed.
If there was a police officer who had truly been saved through faith alone in Christ alone, not by works nor by his or her own racial privilege, the officer would have attempted to stop the brutish man because his sheer intent to harm Mr. Floyd was his racial bias which had no place at all in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I do not think, however, that a gospel-saturated officer would have naively thought that this one act of defiance would solve every problem. Rather, the gospel would constantly remind him or her that this world is entirely broken and that we human beings are rebellious God-haters in essence. It also means that everyone is confined within their own linguistic, cultural, or racial boundaries. The gospel’s already-but-not yet framework will prepare him or her to face the fact that, until Jesus returns, racial bias will never cease to exist. The gospel-gripped police officer will thus neither be shocked nor discouraged by this jarring reality.
Notwithstanding the grisly status quo of our world, a police officer grabbed by the gospel would continue to embrace the glorious hope that the gospel offers (Rev 7:9–10). Such an officer may have learned that race had no place in the gospel of Christ. The officer may have learned that God’s ultimate gospel-vision was to save his people from every nation, tribe, people and language. I am therefore certain that such a person would have courageously and firmly confronted the white man to stop the murder.
The City of Minneapolis has fired the four officers. We know too well that it is far from enough. There must be a thorough investigation to find evidence for a criminal charge. If necessary, of course, all four must be held accountable for this despicable crime committed before the Maker of Mr. George Floyd.
The grim fact is that we human beings are racists by nature without exception. It is the undeniable reality of our fallen humanity. People only look at outward appearance (1 Sam 16:7). That is the reason that racism is everywhere, not merely in America. Racial bias pervades our entire being. The power of its evil is never to be underestimated. It thus seems to me that none of violent protesting, rioting, looting, angry tweets with #georgefloyd hashtags, or even peaceful candle vigils can bring the ultimate solution that we yearn to see.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only lens through which we can see how undeserving and broken we are and how marvelous God’s saving grace is. It is good news that our sins are forgiven by the atoning death of Christ and that we have been reconciled to God the Father. This gospel therefore humbles us and inspires us to love God with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our minds and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt 22:37–39). And the world is not worthy of the people of faith (Heb 11:38).