These recent days in American life have truly been difficult. We have witnessed with our own eyes, in the streets of one of our major cities, a black man being murdered slowly and cruelly. Over the course of a long eight minutes, George Floyd cried out for help and mercy while a white police officer continued to place his knee over this black man’s neck as his face was forced onto the pavement. The end result: George Floyd died in a cruel, demeaning and needless way.
This has poured fuel upon a nation that is already angry about many things. On top of the COVID-19 pandemic – which has claimed more than 106,000 American lives since January – we have now witnessed another horrendous act of racial injustice. The racism that plagues our culture today is inextricably tied to the past, and continues to disproportionately impact the African American community.
Across many of our cities this past weekend, there were peaceful protests of citizens expressing their freedom of speech. Unfortunately, those peaceful protests have been drowned out by the actions of a few wanting to incite destruction. Consequently, violence has erupted, resulting primarily in the loss of more human lives but also secondarily damage to properties at an already very difficult economic moment in America. I call upon Southern Baptists to join me in praying for an end to this violence.
We are extremely grateful for our law enforcement officers who risk their lives daily to protect us in every way; we are also saddened when any misuse of authority causes harm to the very people they are to protect.
I want to remind us today that the Southern Baptist Convention believes and stands upon the infallibility, inerrancy and sufficiency of the holy scriptures, and we believe those scriptures are very clear regarding how we are to treat others. The Baptist Faith and Message states in Article XV, “In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism,” and “We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death.”
Southern Baptists must not only be known to stand for the sanctity of human life, but we must also be known to stand for the dignity of all human life regardless of the color of skin.
To our African American pastors and churches across America: We stand with you, and we mourn with you. We will commit to the truth found in Micah 6:8. We are called to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with God. We commit ourselves to be doers of the Word by pursuing racial reconciliation in all our relationships.
Racism is sin. It is blasphemy against the God who created each of us in His divine image. We cannot justify or rationalize racism, bigotry or prejudice in any way. Each is ungodly, inhumane and stands arrogantly against the life and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ.
There is no way the government can fix this problem. Nor can one’s politics provide healing. It never has and never will. This is a problem of the human heart. It is a spiritual problem.
Acts of criticism and cynicism that result in calling each other names and classifying one another will just divide further and intensify the moment even more negatively. We may make statements, but change will only come through the choices we make each day. We may say things through tweets or posts, but real change will only be seen through our conduct toward one another. None of this will go away with violence, but only by developing relationships with each other, working together, and resolving to press forward together in the spirit of Christ, who is the Prince of Peace.
This is a moment when church after church and pastor after pastor must stand for righteousness and holiness. One church at a time, one town at a time, one city at a time, we must look into the mirror and see in complete reality where we are individually and collectively. We, the churches in America, are the ones that must be faithful to call upon God to come and to give us His guidance and provide His pathway to healing in our nation. We are the ones that must answer this moment.
Jesus Christ is the only answer to this problem, and we must start with ourselves. We need to return to Jesus Christ in deep repentance of sin. Until we repent and change the way we are looking at one another, talking to one another, and treating one another, spiritual revival and awakening will not come. Without relationships and conversations, we will never understand one another. Silence is not the answer and passivity is not our prescription for healing. Pastor after pastor, preacher after preacher, evangelist after evangelist, teacher after teacher, must boldly and forthrightly call upon each Christian to love God with all of our heart and to love our neighbor even as we love ourselves.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Our Southern Baptist Convention must not be silent.
We must stand in solidarity with one another.
We must continue to work with compassion until justice is served.
And we must commit to eradicate racism in all its forms.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Ronnie Floyd is president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. These comments preceded the SBC Advance livestream June 2.)