Jerry Blackwell was one of the prosecuting attorneys in the Derek Chauvin murder trial in Minnesota in April. He started appearing on several cable network news shows one week after the trial. His basic testimony is that he felt led by his religious conviction to serve in the capacity of a prosecuting attorney in this trial without remuneration.
He further stated that this was his first criminal trial. When asked to serve, he readily responded that he would. For those of us who watched a lot of the three-week trial, the almost flawless presentation by the entire prosecution team was mesmerizing.
Al Sharpton asked Attorney Blackwell a question about the responses of many political and religious conservatives and conservative commentators who felt Chauvin did not receive a just verdict. Blackwell said it should be very difficult for anyone who saw the videos of the police encounter with George Floyd to deny that Floyd died under the restraints of the policemen that day. To put it directly, anyone witnessing the events of that day would have known the true reason for Floyd’s death. To argue otherwise is to say that when a policeman shoots and a person dies that it was underlying health conditions that caused the person not to survive the bullet wounds. Or as in Breonna Taylor’s death, she died just before the policeman shot her.
Almost 2,000 years ago, the “religious right” of that day were very conservative and powerful religious leaders and rulers. Many of them witnessed Jesus’ healings, teachings and responses. Even when they acknowledged that Jesus was correct in his responses, the religious leaders chose to continue to look for reasons to get rid of Jesus.
Consider these things Jesus did to irritate them: Jesus had compassion for ordinary people; he ministered to the poor, outcast and downtrodden; he healed the lame, the sick and the blind; he raised people from the dead; he encouraged the little children to come to him; and he taught as one having authority. Indeed, Jesus was God come to live with the people of that time.
Eventually, the powerful religious rulers had their way, and Jesus was crucified. After Jesus’ resurrection, the conspiracy theories abounded about how Jesus’ body had been stolen so as to make it appear that he was alive. Jesus’ many appearances prior to his ascension seemed to have little impact on the behavior of the religious leaders.
“Every generation seems to have to come to grips with the living Jesus.”
Every generation seems to have to come to grips with the living Jesus. In our day, it seems that many of the “religious right” leaders have decided that achieving and maintaining political power is preferable to following the teachings and practices of Jesus.
There is no doubt that most Christian leaders open their Bibles on Sundays and read Scripture to their congregations. However, many congregants only hear words of sarcasm, ridicule and hate directed toward those whom these leaders choose to vilify for one reason or another.
All Christians should be able to recognize those who are not followers of Jesus so as not to follow them. Paul set himself up as an example for those who needed someone to see as an example of a Christ follower. Yet Paul was the first to acknowledge that he struggled to be that example. Today, we have Christian leaders who have chosen not only to follow pseudo-Christian political leaders but also to set themselves up as false prophets.
Despite the efforts of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, Jesus’ followers eventually would have great sway over the faith traditions of many generations to follow. As Christians, we have a hope the world does not have.
The problem with many Christians is that they do not seem to know how to show and express this hope because these Christians seem to think political power is the only way to carry out God’s will. I cannot find in my Bible that possessing political power is a function of being a follower of Christ.
“I cannot find in my Bible that possessing political power is a function of being a follower of Christ.”
This does not mean Christians should not serve in any official capacity in government. In whatever profession a Christian serves, he should be honest, truthful and humble. Dishonesty, untruthfulness, corruption and deceitfulness are some of the characteristics that never should be associated with a Christian.
I grew up in the Southern Baptist church. Even though it was segregated, I still learned that I should respect all people, be honest in all of my dealings, be truthful at all times, bring honor to my parents, love others and follow the Golden Rule. As times changed, these basic principles of living a Christian lifestyle have not changed in my life. If Christians find themselves straying from the foundation blocks of Christendom, then they must do all in their power to search the Scriptures and beseech the Holy Spirit for guidance to return to the way Christ would have them go.
I strongly suggest that following those who persist in living by conspiracy theories, white supremacy, neo-Nazism and other belligerent means is the devil’s way of dividing God’s people. As Christians, we can agree to disagree on many issues that seem to divide us. However, we need to acknowledge that “now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
It cannot be left unsaid that history has a tendency to repeat itself, over and over. The very vocal and prominent religious leaders of Jesus’ day were the ones who came to arrest Jesus on the Mount of Olives in the dead of night. Jesus was a threat to their power. The Bible reminds us that our focus should be on Jesus alone and not to make any mortal man an idol to be worshipped. May we tune our minds and hearts to listen to the Holy Spirit and follow the Spirit’s leading.
Earl Chappell lives in Virginia Beach, Va., and has been a member of First Baptist Church of Norfolk since 1977.