Living By Faith

Episode 8: George Floyd, Life is Sacred, and Justice

May 24, 2020 Speaker: Josh DeGroote

Topic: Biblical Justice Passage: Genesis 9:6–9:6, 2 Corinthians 5:10–5:10, Exodus 20:3–20:3


Welcome to the living by faith podcast, my name is Josh DeGroote and this is episode number eight. Thanks for listening. This is a podcast where I take a look at some news items, theology, and history from the perspective of the Christian’s life of faith in Jesus Christ. Let’s jump in.

Why is every human life precious? What is it about human life that is particularly valuable? This is something that we need to think about. A big news story from a couple days ago was of the death of a black man at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A disturbing video surfaced on the morning of Tuesday, May 26, showing a man named George Floyd handcuffed on the ground, with a police officer’s knee on his neck while the groans and begs for breath. Eventually he dies. Why should this bother us? The video was breathtaking - literally - and stomach turning to watch. 

This is another instance of police officers seemingly unnecessarily using lethal force on a black man. Of course, there is so much we don’t yet know. But from the video, there does seem to be little regard for the life of this man being smothered to death on the ground. Again, as he is gasping for breath, asking for help there is a police officer with a knee on his neck and another officer standing there watching. It does not appear that these officers were in an ounce of danger, or even felt like they were. Did racism play a role in how Floyd was treated? Is there animus toward black people in the hearts of the police officers or in the policing policies of the city of Minneapolis. For some, the obvious answer is yes. I don’t know, and I don’t want to speculate. But what they did was wrong.

There is a call for justice, and every Christian should say a hearty “amen”. There ought to be justice for George Floyd. But not mob justice. There ought to be justice, real justice; there ought to be justice and only justice (Deuteronomy 16:20). Or to put it another way, biblical justice. This is a tragedy. And what makes it so weighty (going back to the original question I posed) is that George Floyd is an image bearer of God, who should have been treated with dignity, even if arrested, rather than cold indifference.

 But what does justice look like? What would it look like if George Floyd got justice? It certainly would mean more than these police officers just losing their jobs, which they did. Biblical justice would include a trial with evidence; and if the evidence points to a crime, these police officers facing the full weight of the law for their crimes. For the Christian, this has historically included even the death penalty for the crime of murder. In the Noahic covenant, God gave this command to Noah:

Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. (Genesis 9:6)

Do you hear the logic? If someone sheds the innocent blood of another, his blood shall be shed. Life is so sacred to God, that one who intentionally sheds the innocent blood of another, forfeits his right to life. And the reason given is that human beings are created imago Dei or “in the image of God”. That is why human life is so sacred - we bear the stamp of God.

This is not advocating for vigilantism. Later this truth is developed in Romans 13 where the apostle Paul says that the governing authorities bear the sword and are God’s servants, to punish evil and reward good. And so as we watch this unfold in Minneapolis, we should pray that as the blood of George Floyd is crying out, God would hear and His justice would prevail. And when injustice goes unabated in this world, which it often is, we should live in hope that it won’t be forever.

Some get away with unspeakable evil. But in actuality, they don’t. Because the Judge of all the earth sees everything, knows everything, and is keeping a record and we will all stand before him. His name is Jesus Christ. Every police officer, judge; every member of congress and president. And everyone else will appear before the judgment seat of Christ in order to receive what is due for what we have done in the body, whether good or evil. And Christ’s judgment will be perfect. Here’s the hope held out to us all, through faith in Christ, on that day we can face him not only as our Judge, but also our Savior. 


Catechesis section 

The next section is the catechesis section.  For centuries Christians gave themselves to the practice of learning the doctrines of the Christian faith by way of a catechism.  Catechesis simply means to teach orally or instruct by word of mouth.  This is a practice that is sorely missed in our day and I think we would benefit tremendously by taking it up again, and so I want to do my part to promote the practice of catechesis. 

All that said, I’m making my way through a modern catechism called New City Catechism.  It takes the form of 52 questions and answers with scripture - so one for each week.  You can buy the book online or you can download the app on your phone for free. So we are on question 8 this week:

Question 8: What is the law of God stated in the Ten Commandments?

Answer 8: You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below—you shall not bow down to them or worship them. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Honor your father and your mother. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony. You shall not covet.

There you go, that is the ten commandments - or the decalogue. And historically, it has been seen as having two parts, or two tables of the law. The first table is the first four commandments which deal with how we relate to God and love God. And the second table is commands five through ten, which have to do with how we relate with other people and love our neighbor. Now it would be easy to focus merely on the externals of these commands and think, “I’m doing pretty good”. But there are two problems with this view. First, Jesus ups the ante when he gets to the heart of the law, which is not about external obedience merely, but internal, heart obedience… Sermon on the Mount… - You have heard that it was said… “murder, commit adultery, etc.” And so obedience to the law cannot be just external conformity, but internal transformation.

The second problem is that we are born in bondage to sin… slaves to sin. It is not that we are sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are born sinners. We are born in sin and so we sin because we want to. Jesus says in John 3 that men love the darkness because their deeds are evil. And so we need something to happen to us in order to wrench us free from the prison cell of sin. Well, for all who are born again, that is exactly what happens. Ephesians 2 says that when we were dead in our sins, God made us alive together with Christ, for by grace you have been saved. And when by the grace of God, one is born again, the powerful pull of sin is broken and we are enabled by the Spirit to obey from the heart out of love for God. This leads to the scripture for question and answer 8.

Exodus 20:3 - You shall have no other gods before me.

It all starts with loving God. 


History Section 

In the history section, I want to talk about a man who helps us think about how we should fight for social reform and justice as Christians. His name is William Wilberforce.  William Wilberforce was a man who labored long and hard for social reform... while keeping the gospel central. In fact, he was the tip of the spear in the battle to abolish the slave trade and later slavery in Great Britain in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Wilberforce was converted to Christ at the age of 27 and one after his conversion he wrote in his diary the high purpose he felt God had called him to: "God almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners (or morals)". And he would give the rest of this life - 46 years - to see the reprehensible practices of the slave trade and slavery abolished. 

Soon after he wrote those words in his diary, Wilberforce, a member of the British parliament made it clear to his colleagues that the next session he would bring a motion to end the slave trade. It would take 20 years for the aboltion of the slave trade to be made law. Not slavery itself, but the slave trade - or the horrific practice of stealing, selling, and buying slaves, which was a huge industry in which owner's of slave ships profited tremendously. For Wilberforce the battle wasn’t over because African men and women were still enslaved. 

But it would take another 26 years to see slavey abolished in British-controlled lands. Three months before his death, Wilberforce put one final petition to end slavery and the decisive vote came just three days before Wilberforce would die. Slavery was finally outlawed on July 26, 1833.  

What fueled Wilberforce’s passion for social activism? It was undeniably the gospel and the joy he had found in Christ through the gospel. And he believed the fundamental problem of his day which led to the toleration of slavery, the slave trade, and many other vices, was a mistaken understanding of the gospel. In his own words, speaking ungodly, lost people he wrote:

They consider not that Christianity is a scheme "for justifying the ungodly", by Christ's dying for them "when yet sinners", a scheme "for reconciling us to God – when enemies; and for making the fruits of holiness the effects, not the cause, of our being justified and reconciled.

That is an amazing admission, for a politician no less, and one that is charged with making laws. He is saying that in order for people’s sinful behavior to change, they have to grasp the gospel of free grace through Christ and to see that holiness is the effect, not the cause of God’s grace. Amazing. Well, he lived it. The grace of God through Christ, fueled him for decades in the fight to see slavery abolished and just three days prior to his death, it was. 

Paul too was fueled by the grace of God too. In 1 Corinthians 15:10 he said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” May we be able to say this as well and live to do as much good as we can as long as we live.

Thanks again for listening to the living by faith podcast.  If you found it helpful, please subscribe, like, and share.  Until next time, “may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Spirit be with you all.

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