Over the weekend, protests in dozens of American cities were held as people continue to mourn the life of George Floyd and others who have recently lost their lives. On Sunday afternoon, another demonstration took place in the nation’s capital. But unlike other protests which have garnered national attention in recent days, this event was distinctly Christian in both messaging and tone.
I had the opportunity to march alongside thousands of Christian brothers and sisters through the streets of Washington, D.C., pointing our friends and neighbors to the love, compassion, and grace found in Scripture, as well as testifying to God’s love and concern for justice.
Like many cities across America—and even the world—Washington has experienced a great deal of social turmoil over the past couple of weeks, ever since the release of video footage showing the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. This turmoil is magnified by D.C.’s status as the seat of the federal government. Protestors have been marching through neighborhoods and assembling at the White House and the Capitol on a daily basis.
Before Sunday, however, most responses had been organized by nonreligious activist groups with a wide range of agendas. By contrast, the leaders and organizers of Sunday’s faith-based event were pastors and lay members from evangelical churches in the D.C. area. The organizers explained in the event announcement that the focus of the gathering would be lamentation and crying out to God in prayer.
Attendees were instructed to wear red and white (to distinguish themselves from other demonstrators), wear masks, and keep social distance as much as possible. The organizers also stressed the event was to be peaceful and nonviolent. The march began from two different starting points in majority-black D.C. neighborhoods, then merged into one group shortly before reaching the Capitol.
As we marched, we sang hymns. And when we reached our destination, we prayed. Thousands of us walked down East Capitol Street in the direction of the Capitol building, singing songs like “In Christ Alone,” “This Little Light of Mine,” and “Amazing Grace.” People lounging on picnic blankets in parks or on lawn chairs in front yards turned to watch the peaceful, joyful, and lamenting procession go by.
Participants carried signs bearing messages like: “created in the image of God” and “love your neighbor.” Many signs directly quoted Bible verses, particularly Micah 6:8: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
When the parade reached the Capitol Reflecting Pool, local pastors led those assembled in praying for the families mourning the loss of loved ones, for the governing authorities, and for the human dignity of black individuals to be respected—beginning from the womb and until death.
As the hour-long prayer session drew to a close, one pastor addressed any non-Christians in the crowd. He briefly shared the gospel, explaining if you do not know Christ as Savior, “you have an even bigger justice problem” than the problem of racial injustice. He encouraged anyone with questions about God or salvation to reach out to those around them. “As you are walking with us, you might find yourself walking in the light,” he explained.
Our nation is currently struggling to deal with the sobering realities of our fallen world. We live in a Genesis 3 world that is ravaged by the effects of sin (Romans 8:22). So often, people know no other way to respond to injustice and hatred than with more hate. But as Christians, we have an opportunity to show the “more excellent way” of love (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13). We can start by coming alongside those within our own congregations who have been most directly affected by racial conflict: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). After all, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Elsewhere, he instructed the Romans, “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).
As we grapple with our country’s current civil unrest—in response to recent events and old hurts that date back to the sin of slavery—we can take positive, practical steps to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31). Sunday’s Christian prayer gathering in D.C., and similar events around the country, are just one example. But you don’t need to wait for an organized event to start praying—you can start right now (read some suggested topics to pray about here). In addition to praying, another step we can take to love our neighbors is being politically engaged. You can read more about political engagement and what it has to do with loving one’s neighbor in FRC’s helpful resource: Biblical Principles for Political Engagement.
Finally, we can love our neighbors by simply being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19) and looking not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). As Christians, we believe that every person is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26) and possesses inherent value and dignity. Any devaluation of a particular people group should concern us. Although we live in a world torn apart by sin, we believe that the power of the gospel can make real and lasting change: starting first in the hearts of individuals and moving outward to our nation. As we move forward, we must remain committed to loving our neighbors, speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), and showing by our lives what it means to know and follow Jesus.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).