The Bible tells us that God hates all forms of oppression, prejudice, and injustice. It also depicts the day when people from every tribe, tongue, nation, and ethnicity will gather in heaven before the throne of God, united in praise. As a pastor, I aspire to the magnificent and rich cultural inclusivity of the heavenly church.
If we want an image that proves that heaven is not a place on earth, surely there is none as sobering as that of a white policeman kneeling for more than eight minutes on the neck of a black man. The video footage, widely available online, shows George Floyd pleading for his life before becoming unconscious, and then suffocating to death. The officer shows no concern, the pleas of onlookers are ignored. It is an act of shocking brutality with the undeniable overtones of racism.
I have no doubt that this is a seminal moment in the battle against racism and that positive change will come. But let’s be clear, racism will not be eradicated. All of us who sense a duty to speak up against racism (and I hope that is all of us) are signing up for a lifelong effort.
Despite the depiction of Jesus, in many western cultures, as a blonde-haired, blue-eyed white man, He was of course a person of colour. And our longing for justice, equality, reconciliation and freedom from the consequences of sin will only be fully satisfied in Him. The diversity of heaven in the future is built upon His unjust crucifixion in the past.
Taking a knee has become the symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement. Bowing the knee is also a posture of prayer before God. So, in unity with the victims of oppression, and in dependence upon the God of every nation, let each of us eagerly take a knee.