A woman holds a sign quoting George Floyd’s last words, “I can’t breathe,” Friday at the intersection of West Main Street and Jefferson Park Avenue in Charlottesville.

Things that don’t work:

» Labeling every incident of police violence against a black man as racism: That doesn’t work because it isn’t always true. Sometimes a good police officer uses very poor judgment. Sometimes a bad police officer uses excessive force but not because the person he’s brutalizing is black. And sometimes a cop is a racist and has been looking for a reason to get heavy-handed with a black person. Let the details and facts of each separate instance speak for themselves.

» Tearing up your city in protest: That doesn’t work for several reasons, but the one that stands out to me most is often when peaceful protest escalates to violence and rioting, the cause being fought for gets lost on the public. The focus shifts from what is being protested to how the protest is being carried out. Soon, the riot steals the headlines from the cause, defeating the whole purpose of the protest.

» Prayer alone: Let me explain before you curse me on this one, Christian friend. Prayer works and prayer is the first thing we need in our fight against wickedness and injustice. Action is required too, though. We pray, then we do. When we pray rightly, the Lord leads us to act rightly, justly and lovingly. Prayer is essential, but it is the means, not the end.

» Trusting flawed man to carry out justice: Our judicial system serves a great purpose, but even the best judicial system is comprised of sinful, fallen men and women. Placing our hopes for justice in them doesn’t work because judging fairly and rightly is something only God can truly do. I believe our judicial system is the best course of action to take in pursuing justice, but we should never count on it.

» Taking matters into our own hands: We ourselves are just as flawed as the judicial system and too blind to know it. Sure, we think that our idea of justice is right, but so does everyone else — who’s to say who’s right? That’s why God has clearly said, “Vengeance is mine.” He is the only one who will always rule fairly. He might rule today, or he might wait till tomorrow (or later), but one day he will indeed judge all men, and he will judge justly. We often will not.

There are several things that we are tempted to do right now that don’t work. We are grieved by the brutal murder of George Floyd by the men who took an oath to serve and protect, but we must be careful not to be consumed by our grief to the point that we are no longer helpful.

We are enraged by the lack of expediency on the part of a court system that should have served warrants for these men’s arrests much earlier than it did, but although our anger is justified, we must not sin in our anger. Truly, this whole abomination is evil to the core and another picture of the darkness of sin. We have every right to grieve and rage. Even so, we who bear the name of Christ and have been called as his ambassadors, are commanded by God to conduct ourselves in a manner befitting our King Jesus at all times, not only when it’s easy.

We must pray. We must speak out. We must demand better. We must listen to the voices of those victimized. We must stop acting as if there isn’t anything going on. If the murder of George Floyd was an act of hatred because of the color of his skin, which seems very likely, then God will judge these men accordingly — they will be held accountable. If the murder was not race-driven, it is still an abomination in the eyes of the Lord, who hates murder, and God will still hold them accountable for their sins. We need not worry that they will go free, even in the unlikely scenario that they won’t be held responsible by judges in this lifetime.

I pray these men are tried, convicted and sentenced as their crimes warrant. I pray the family of this man who died find peace in God, the only place true peace can be found. I pray we Christians will speak out against injustice and never allow ourselves to be part of it. I pray for the day that Jesus comes to make this earth new and all sin is finally eradicated.

Pray. Trust. Do.

Mark Wingfield, pastor of First Baptist Church in Grottoes, is a columnist for The News Virginian. His column is published Sundays.

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