Protests and riots are taking place in cities all across America. Thousands are protesting in the aftermath of the death of a Minnesota man at the hands of a police officer. This event has once again brought the issue of police brutality to national attention. I have intentionally avoided researching the specifics of the events in Minnesota. Nothining I say here is intended to justify or condemn George Floyd or any involved in his death. Regardless of the facts of this particular situation police brutality is an unavoidable reality. How should the child of God respond when any government official abuses his authority?
Excessive force must always be condemned. Force is often required in the enforcement of law. Not all force is wrong. Romans 13 says that God has given governing bodies the sword to use against evil doers. The violence of the sword is intended by God to restrain evil. However, force that exceeds the demands of the situation, force that exceeds the requirements of justice or force that is driven by hatred must be condemned.
Even though some officers of the law act violently or murderously the Christian must always treat all governing authorities with respect. Peaceful protests are not necessarily unchristian, but violent uprisings always are. 1 Peter 2:17 says simply, “Honor all men. Honor the king.” No matter what the actions or abuses of officers of the law, they must always be treated respectfully.
Christians may be wise to call for changes to laws so harsher measures will be meted out against officers who abuse their power. The Bible teaches that those who have greater authority are held to a higher standard. In Scripture, authority always brings greater accountability. A Christian is not unreasonable to seek to influence our justice system to impose greater accountability upon those who have greater authority.
The Christian should speak up on behalf of the innocent and the powerless. Psalm 82 calls for the defense of the fatherless and widows and for justice for the afflicted. If the powers of the state are being used to persecute the innocent, then the Christian should do everything legally possible to halt such abuse of power. The Christian, British statesmen who brought the English slave trade to an end is an excellent example of Christians using all legal means to bring about justice for the afflicted.
Be careful responding to events like the death in Minnesota. Information is always limited. The temptation is to see a video and think the clip tells the whole story, but there is always more. No news report is able to give all the information. No cell phone video or body camera can tell the entire story. Be careful to not jump to conclusions or to assume what cannot be known. Proverbs 18:13 says it is “folly and shame” to answer a matter before giving it a full hearing. A fool reaches a full conclusion on half-information. A Christian must not condemn or acquit a person without first gaining a deep, first hand knowledge of the situation.
The Christian must always remember that those who govern are God’s servants appointed by Him for the terrorizing of evil. Whether the government be tyrannical or democratic, just or unjust, each one who serves to uphold the law is a servant of God for our good. Never forget that. Pray for the government. Consider the unrest of the day and pray “for all that are in authority; that we may live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”