By Willie McLaurin
Vice president, SBC Executive Committee
In the disturbing video of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis on Memorial Day while in police custody, words are really hard to come by. A bystander’s cellphone video showed a former police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Floyd’s neck, while Floyd repeatedly stated “I can’t breathe.”
In the future, Memorial Day will not only be about honoring the men and women who died while serving in the United States military. It will be remembered as the day my third cousin’s life was ended.
I do not recall my interactions with George as a lad, but our journeys are similar. We were born in the same year. We are black men in America. We were created in the image of God. And we live in a society that is dangerous and deadly for black men.
If we remain silent, George’s death will just be another statistic. We cannot be silent about racism, we cannot be silent about injustice, and we cannot be silent about the gospel that teaches that all racism is a sin.
Each of us is given a voice. How will we use our voices? Will we promote our own agendas or make a positive difference? As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
You may be wondering what you can do today and tomorrow to make a difference.
Lament: We must lament for our personal sins and the sins of the nation. When we hear and see the destruction in our land, it must move us to tears. This week — and every week — take time in your homes and in your public worship gathering for lamenting.
Our lamenting and mourning must move us toward taking a stand for righteousness and holiness. Our lamenting must not stop until justice is served and Jesus is proclaimed. When Nehemiah heard about the suffering of his people, he sat down and wept. He mourned and fasted and prayed for days before the God of heaven.
Robert Smith, who holds the Charles T. Carter Baptist Chair of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School, put it this way: “In America, we don’t have a skin issue, we have a sin issue.” Mourning over our sins is the first step we can take to move toward a better future!
Listen: Every person has a story. There is power in sincerely listening to others. Find time to engage a person of a different ethnicity and get to know them.
I have the privilege of connecting regularly with whites, Asians and Hispanics. Part of the beauty of those relationships is learning about their heritage, culture and their specific challenges. Equally valuable is the opportunity to share my story with them. Our country would do well to take a moment to listen to each other.
Love: What the world needs now is love! The Scriptures teach us: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8). If we could recover our God consciousness and our ability to love others unconditionally, we would value every life regardless of skin color.
Lead: The pandemic of racism has been around for hundreds of years and it continues to disproportionately impact the African American community. Now is the time for every pastor, every church and every person of influence to do whatever is necessary to end this pandemic. Now is the time to lead.
Leadership is more than just a moment; it must be a movement. The difference between a moment and a movement is sacrifice. We must all be willing to make the sacrifice for a brighter future. To lead is to speak truth to power — and as Christians, we have the truth. The teachings of the Bible are countercultural to our society. Thus, we must be willing to lead with courage.
As God said to Joshua: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
Let’s remember this moment — my third cousin’s death — as the moment when together we began to lament, listen, love and lead. B&R — McLaurin formerly served on the staff of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.