It has been an interesting week here in Zambia as we are watching, listening, and praying about what’s going on in America. I have had several Africans ask me what is happening in America and hoping I can explain it to them. I feel a great responsibility as I may be the only white American some of these folks will ever see, and my words will greatly shape and impact their understanding of this situation.
So, it has caused me to sit, think, pray, and process before I said too much. I don’t want to speak out of emotions, feelings, my experience, or simply what I think. However, I do think there are thoughts worth sharing as it relates to what God thinks and His Truth, especially as it relates to justice and the death of George Floyd.
As I watched the video of the policeman’s knee holding down Mr. Floyd, my heart and stomach were sick. I wondered how a human being could do such a thing to another human being as he cries out, “I can’t breathe.” And perhaps with that question I understand at least some of the answer. Perhaps he didn’t view Mr. Floyd fully as a human being. He certainly did not honor, respect, and show dignity to him as a person created in the image of a Holy God. Sadly, there will always be people who look at other people and determine in their heart and mind, that these people are inferior. They are not worthy or valuable, and do not deserve to be treated with honor and dignity. The Bible would call this INJUSTICE.
Justice involves meeting the basic needs of what it means to be human. The forces which deprive people of what is basic for community life are condemned as oppression (Mic. 2:2; Eccles. 4:1). To oppress is to use power for one’s own advantage in depriving others of their basic rights in the community (Mark 12:40). To do justice is to correct that abuse and to meet those needs (Isa. 1:17). Injustice is depriving others of their basic needs or failing to correct matters when those rights are not met (Jer. 5:28; Job 29:12–17). Injustice is either a sin of commission or of omission. At the very least Mr. Floyd was deprived of his basic need for air, which for a human is the most critical need.
However, when we use the word injustice, we create a conundrum in the culture. In an attempt to channel my inner Ravi Zacharias, to use words like injustice, evil, and wrong, we presuppose there are things that are just, good, and right. Therefore, if there is just and unjust, good and evil, right and wrong, there must be a standard. If there is a standard, then there must be a standard giver. Herein lies the conundrum. What is the standard and who is going to be the one to determine the standard?
Ravi Z explains there are three types of cultures:
- Theonomous – the law of God is embedded in our hearts. He is the standard giver and He alone determines what is just, right, and fair.
- Heteronomous – the standard is dictated by the leadership at the top: dictators, Kings, Prime Ministers, Presidents, Chiefs, etc.
- Autonomous – the standard is determined by each person and he/she dictates their own moral absolutes.
The Theonomous culture is not the path America wanted to go. We do not seem to want God, nor do we want God’s standard. There may have been a time when America had her foot, or perhaps toe, in creating a culture that lived in part by God’s standard, even though she consistently missed the racial equality issue. But that day has passed. However, Jesus followers should be living in this counter culture.
The Heteronomous culture is certainly rejected by Americans. Our founders left England to abandon this type of culture.
The Autonomous culture is where we have landed. Each person dictates their own moral absolutes and prerogatives. When we look at just and unjust, good and evil, right and wrong, each person has determined their own standard. The problem is they will eventually run into a collision because they do not like another person’s absolutes or beliefs. When everyone is determining the standard, there is going to be consistent clashes between what is just and unjust, good and evil, right and wrong. It creates a society where there is so much talk about rights, and so little talk about what is right? We talk about being on the right or left politically but few are talking about up or down spiritually. It rarely allows us to get to real solutions because come to the table with an agenda.
Person A says – That police officer committed an evil act of oppression and violence against an innocent person of another race. (Unjust)
Person B says – That police officer was simply doing his job and it is unfortunate the man died. (Just)
Person A says – Since Roe vs. Wade in 1973, there have been 62,000,000 (Million) unborn babies aborted. We have created a culture of death. Of course, there will consistently be unnecessary deaths in our society. (Unjust)
Person B says – Since Roe vs. Wade in 1973, we can celebrate the rights of women being heard, valued and affirmed. (Just)
Person A says – The issue at our southern borders is a violation of human rights. Parents should not be separated from their children and treated as inferior people. (Unjust)
Person B says – The issue at our southern borders is what happens when you violate the law. (Just)
In this subjective, relativistic, autonomous culture we recreate Genesis 3. Satan told Adam and Eve if you eat the fruit you will be like God, knowing good and evil. Paraphrase, if you disobey the Standard Giver, then you can become the standard giver, and you can determine in your own eyes what is good and what is evil. So, we become god and each person decides what is just and unjust, good and evil, right and wrong. Like Israel “everyone did what was right in their own eyes,” (Judges 17:16), and chaos insued. Is there any wonder why we have so much disunity, division, and conflict? We cannot reject the God of justice and then wonder why there is no justice. We cannot reject the God of peace and wonder why we have no peace.
Ravi Z reminds us that God gives you the sacred gift of the prerogative of choice. But God does not give you the privilege of determining a different outcome of what the choice entails. The consequences are bound to the choice. If people, cultures, or countries reject the One True God and His Son, King Jesus, as the Standard Giver, and His Holy Word as the Standard, they will experience the consequences. While they have the freedom of choice to reject God, they do not have the freedom to choose the outcome of that choice. The consequences are bound to the choice.