The US is on fire right now. Yet another black man has been killed by police brutality: George Floyd in Minneapolis, who died after a policeman sat on his neck, charging him with paying with a false 20 dollar bill.
Many of you have already seen the horrifying footage: Floyd groaning and screaming, saying that he can’t breath, and later becoming unconscious. He was later confirmed dead.
This has caused a huge uproar across the country this Pentecost weekend. While many protesters are nonviolent, there are also reports of destructive riots and even fatalities. And it doesn’t help that President Trump writes “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” on Twitter, echoing Walter Headley who said this exact thing in 1967 when he threatened to order his policemen to shoot black people.
At PCPJ, we care deeply about racial and social justice. We also believe in nonviolence and enemy love. So while we encourage those who make their voices heard, we cannot stress enough that it needs to be done without any violence. Jesus and Martin Luther King Jr. shows us that it is indeed possible to stand up for the oppressed without causing any harm to others.
As mentioned, it is Pentecost. We know that the Christian faith meant a lot to Floyd – he was called “bigfloyd4god” on Instagram and helped out in Christian ministries like the Salvation Army. His faith motivated him to do good for others and encourage them to do the same.
This is also what Pentecost is all about. While Christmas is centered on the incarnation, and Easter on the resurrection, Pentecost is centered on the language miracle of the disciples being able, through the Holy Spirit, to proclaim the Gospel in every single language:
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? (Acts 2:4-8)
You can read more about this here. Not only made this miracle evangelism easier, it shows us that God care for every single human being – regardless of nationality or ethnicitiy. Sadly, there were racists even in the apostolic church in Jerusalem, who refused to feed widows if they came from abroad (Acts 6:1). The apostles made sure to fire them and replace them with people who were “full of the Spirit and wisdom” (v. 3).
You see here how the Spirit compels us to love each other across racial lines. This was repeated when the modern Pentecostal revival started in the early 20th century. As I’ve previously covered on this blog, Pentecostalism doesn’t have one single origin: it was a move of the Spirit across many different nations around the world. And even the starting point in the US, which is the most famous one, was ethnically diverse.
The Apostolic Faith Mission on Azusa Street was led by a black man, William Seymour, and it was one of the first mixed churches in the country. Frank Bartleman reported of the revival: “The color line was washed away in the blood of Jesus.”
While many outsiders mocked the revival for racist reasons, others were drawn to it. That includes a white man called George Floyd Taylor, who went on to become an important Pentecostal leader.
With increased boldness, the early Christians proclaimed the Gospel, and they were persecuted as a result. We read how they, after being threatened with arrest and execution, come together to pray and receive a second Pentecostal experience:
“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. (Acts 4:29-31).
Thus, they did not give up as they faced opposition. Neither did they fight fire with fire, trying to kill those who were killing them. No, they invited and received the power of the living God.
While we have every right to be upset by the disgusting racism and police brutality in the United States, violence is not the way forward. Violence is at the core of the problem. To truly honor the memory and legacy of George Floyd, we should seek God during this Pentecost season, receive strength to oppose injustices from him, and boldly go out into the world proclaiming the good news that he, once an for all, has overcome all evil.
May the fires rising in the United States be the loving and righteous fires of the Holy Spirit.
Micael Grenholm is a Swedish pastor, author and editor for PCPJ.
Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!