What did you feel when you saw the video of George Floyd’s death? Were you surprised? Horrified? Grieved? Disgusted? Sickened?
What did you think? What assumptions filled in the narrative in your mind? What story did you believe about what happened that day?
What did you do in response? What will you do today and tomorrow to ensure it never happens again to anyone else’s son, brother, father, or friend?
No one is righteous and George Floyd had his issues. Demons even. Besetting sins. Addictions. Just like the rest of us. And also like us, George Floyd was a believer, a Christian. He is described as having been a man of peace who paved the way for ministries that wanted to serve people in the community where he was revered as ‘Big Floyd.’
In the wake of his death we have learned about the wake of his life. He made a difference and his death has changed the world. There is disruption. Unrest. A wake.
If you’ve ever been to a lake you know the disruptive power of the wake of a boat speeding through placid waters. The deeper the boat cuts, the higher the wake.
There’s another kind of wake. The funeral wake is a vigil over the dead prior to the burial. If you’ve experienced a funeral wake as a gathering limited to immediate family and friends then let me invite you to widen the scope of your imagination. Funeral wakes differ widely around the world. Consider the scenes you’ve seen on television of the throngs of people across entire nations wailing and mourning. In our own recent history, consider the way crowds gathered in LA outside the arena where Kobe Bryant played.
Now, consider the wake created by both the life and death of George Floyd.
Every life is significant and touches other lives and that was true of Big Floyd.
His life created a wake.
Your life is creating a wake right now.
In the wake of the death of George Floyd, people gathered to rightly protest the action and inaction by police which resulted in his death. Protests devolved into riots and the storyline shifted away from seeking justice in the murder of George Floyd to a myriad of other issues – and just plain anarchy as well. Wakes are like that. They become unfocused the further they move from their origin. And they’re still big enough when they reach, they ricochet and bounce back and cross back over themselves and create chop.
We are living today in that kind of wake.
Two options lay before us: allow the wake to buoy us to find a new and better way or simply allow enough time to pass for the water to find its own equilibrium. Give it time and everything will settle back in. That is now our cultural pattern in the wake of so many deaths. Will this time be different? Will we be part of the people who keep the water agitated that real change might be fomented?
We have had several conversations with black American Christians in recent days. Individually they are interesting. Taken together a pattern emerges. They are grieved, exhausted, and frustrated. They are also clear that the steps which need to be taken are ours to take – white Christians in America, that is.
Here are a few of my conversations in the wake of the death of George Floyd:
What then shall we do about these things?
- Listen and lament with those who grieve.
- Press in, stand up, and speak up for the implementation of genuinely impartial justice for all.
- Be a bridge to resources by befriending and walking with a person of color in all the ups and downs of life.
- Leverage whatever power you have (hiring, booking, networking, etc.) to intentionally elevate people of color.
- Live into and out of the Kingdom reality that we are One people, under God – but the liberty and justice we espouse is not equally experienced. Let us work to change that.
Over all these, put on love. For we live not only in the wake of life and death here and now, we live in the wake of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And that changes everything.