With Liberty and Justice for All

“…with liberty and justice for all.” Those words stand tall in the collective conscience of our nation. Most of us will recognize those meaty words as the closing refrain to our pledge of allegiance.  This week there were two events that gave me pause and a chance to reflect on those words. The first was our annual Memorial Day holiday and my time serving as the co-chaplain for the Nisei Veterans Committee. The second event was the horrible killing of George Floyd, an African American man by a Minneapolis police officer.

The Nisei Veterans Committee is an organization that began shortly after WWII to honor and preserve the legacy of the 2nd generation (Nisei) Japanese Americans that served during that global conflict. The story of these brave men is compelling, especially since they chose to fight and defend our country’s freedom, a freedom that was taken from them and their families when they were incarcerated in concentration camps just for being of Japanese descent. It was an amazing display of loyalty in the face of disloyalty. Families were uprooted from their homes, forced to sell whatever they couldn’t carry in their arms, loaded onto trains taking them to unknown destinations, and dropped into the most barren locations. The sparse, un-insulated barracks, provided little protection from the harsh elements of bitter winters, driving sandstorms, and unbearable summer heat. They were stripped of their dignity, having lost their livelihoods and their possessions and forced to eat in mess halls instead of their own homes. They were denied even the decency of privacy as their barracks were a single room where parents and their children all slept together and their bathrooms were communal with rows of toilets and showers without stalls. They were told that they were being taken away for their own protection yet the barbed wire that kept them in and the guard stations that pointed the guns toward them belied this disingenuous claim.

The video footage of the killing of George Floyd was disturbing. Floyd was handcuffed and face down on the pavement. The police officer had his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck as Floyd continued to cry out that he couldn’t breathe. In spite of the pleas from Floyd and bystanders, the officer refused to budge. Like a helpless prey with its neck in the jaws of an emotionless predator, Floyd’s life slowly drained away. This story seems to be repeated over and over again – a white officer or citizen kills a black man. No arrests are made or charges filed. The community is outraged, there are protests and calls for reform. City officials promise to do better – better training, better procedures, better community involvement.

These two events, though separated by decades, share the common thread of racism. Liberty and justice were suspended and not for all. Racism, like all sins, is the product of a deeply flawed heart. While righteous anger can fuel activism that leads to social reforms and a measure of justice, the greatest work of God is when He liberates a heart that is bound in prejudice and removes the scales from eyes to see all people as God sees them. Through the gospel, the dividing wall of hostility between all people and God was broken down, so that we might become one body made up of a diversity of races (Ephesians 2:14-16). When the message of God’s love for flawed people comes through messengers that are filled with love for flawed people, we go beyond reformation to transformation. A transformed heart isn’t color blind, but instead, sees the beauty and masterful work of God in the variety of people he created.

1 Comment

Karen - May 28th, 2020 at 9:09pm

Amen!!! Yes!!! I've has this sentiment for years as I serve on an equity, diversity, inclusion committee at work. I can't say this truth to those on the committee as we try to come up with programming to educate people, and I find this frustrating. No amount of education or training can change what is in the heart. Only God can do this!