Friday, May 29, 2020

my brother's keeper?

As I write this, an event that has the country up in arms is the death of George Floyd, who died while being held on the ground by a police officer whose knee was on his neck for approximately 9 minutes. Despite pleas from Floyd and onlookers, and Floyd's obvious physical distress, the officer didn't relent until Floyd was dead.

Here is a link to an article about it that also contains a video of this horrifying incident:

There were four officers on the scene; one had his knee on Floyd's neck and the others stood there while it happened.  All four were fired from the force. The kneeling officer has now been arrested but not the other three.

There appears to be no excuse for choking this poor man to death, regardless of what he had done. And, there is no excuse for the other three officers to have stood there, allowing it to happen and doing nothing to intercede on the victim's behalf.

Did any of them have a conscience?

It is as if God was asking them, what are you doing?  And they're responding, am I my brother's keeper?  You're probably familiar with the first recorded incident of this, but if not then take a look at the account of Cain murdering his brother Abel, in Genesis chapter 4.

Many years hence, after the account of Noah and the flood took place, we find this passage in the Bible:

Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him. So he said,
“Cursed be Canaan;
A servant of servants
He shall be to his brothers.”
Genesis 9:20-25

Noah got drunk, which he shouldn't have done, and passed out, naked, in his tent. Ham, one of his three sons, saw his father in this state but instead of doing anything about it, he went out and told his two brothers, Shem and Japheth. I'm thinking he probably found it amusing.

Ham's two brothers did not see the humor and as you can read in the account, they rectified the situation by covering up their father while looking elsewhere instead of at his nakedness. In other words, they did the right thing. Instead of joining with Ham as an onlooker, they honored their father even though he shouldn't have drank so much in the first place.

I suppose if you asked Ham why he did nothing, he could have replied, am I my father's keeper?

Watching that video was hard. It's heart and gut-wrenching and it made me really angry that anyone could be so callous as to keep his knee on Floyd's neck that way, and also that his fellow officers could be similarly callous to allow it to happen.

But in my life I know I am not innocent of the same thing. Perhaps not as egregious as this recent incident in Minneapolis, but I've stood by, silent, instead of speaking up against a wrong I knew was taking place.

It's too late to do anything about those times in the past, but may God grant me the wisdom to recognize situations like this going forward, and the courage to do what is right when they happen. 

Yes, we are called to be our brother's and sister's keeper.

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