Closing arguments were heard yesterday in the trial of Derek Chauvin following three weeks of testimony. It is now up to the jury to decide whether or not Chauvin is guilty of the charges for which he stands accused in relation to his role in the death of George Floyd: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
For many, Chauvin’s guilt was decided as soon as the video of the tragic event went viral shortly after Floyd’s death on May 25th of last year. Chauvin’s fate, however, is not in the hands of the masses but rather in those of twelve of his peers. As such, what they decide over the coming days will reverberate across the nation and around the world in a way that may shape much of the discourse on issues of race, police conduct, and justice for quite some time.
In light of those potential repercussions, today I’d like for us to focus on how we can best pray for those on the jury, the crowds gathered in anticipation of their verdict, and for our fellow believers to respond in accordance with God’s sense of justice rather than our own.
Why only God can be truly just
Justice can often seem like an elusive concept in our culture. Rarely will multiple people look at the same event or the same outcome and come away with a unanimous understanding of what a just response would look like. And while there are many reasons this is the case—varying degrees of personal proximity to the issue, differing views on the need for grace versus accountability, etc.—the chief factor is that God’s justice is measured out according to a fair and accurate understanding of our sins. We, as fallen humans, lack that ability.
The third chapter of Genesis offers a helpful example of this distinction.
In this chapter, we see God’s response to the sin of Adam and Eve. He addresses directly what they’ve done wrong, disciplines them in a way that reinforces the gravity of their mistake, but does so from a place of holy opposition to sin rather than a desire to see them suffer.
Now think back to the last time you were hurt or witnessed an event that filled you with anger and the desire to see justice done. Were you able to respond as the Lord did, administering discipline in accordance with the sin committed? Or did your reaction cross that boundary and come from a place of anger or resentment rather than holiness and the desire for redemption?
If it was the latter, the reason is most likely that when anger leads us to action, the result is often akin to a volcano that has been building toward eruption over a long period of time. Whatever or whomever it is that finally leads us across that threshold to action is likely to receive more than their fair share of our wrath.
As Dallas Willard remarked, “The explosion of anger never simply comes from the incident. Most people carry a supply of anger around with them.” As a result, it is next to impossible for us to justly judge the actions of one person or a group of people when our response is likely determined, at least in part, by the unrelated actions of others as well.
Owning those limitations enables us to better understand why we need the Holy Spirit to help us seek God’s justice for a given situation rather than rely on our own.
Embracing that reality will be essential to justice being done with regards to the outcome and aftermath of Derek Chauvin’s trial as well. As such, let’s close for today by looking at three groups for whom we must pray in light of the need for the Lord’s justice to be done, both in the trial’s outcome and in the aftermath that follows.
First, pray for the jurors
The first group for whom we must pray are the jury members who will soon render the verdict that will ultimately decide Chauvin’s fate. Even without the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the trial, determining if the prosecution has presented a strong enough case that the accused should be found guilty would be a challenging task. When factoring in the outside pressure to come to such a conclusion, their job becomes immeasurably more difficult, even if Chauvin should be found guilty.
Couple that with the temptation to judge Chauvin not just for his role in the death of George Floyd but also as a proxy for other high profile police killings, such as with Breonna Taylor, and, more recently, Duante Wright. Limiting their judgment to the case at hand will likely prove a monumental task.
As such, we must pray that the Lord will give them the ability to judge rightly and fairly based on the evidence presented to render a just decision.
Second, pray for the crowds
And the same is true with regards to the crowds in Minnesota and across the country who have gathered in anticipation of the court’s verdict.
Many see the current trial as an extension of the larger, and often valid, problems with police conduct in this country. To them, Derek Chauvin stands accused not just of killing George Floyd but as a representation of the officers who either have already been acquitted or have yet to stand trial for their roles in the deaths of others. As such, their understanding of justice in this case may not line up with that of the Lord’s, even if their assessment of Chauvin is proven correct.
Pray not only that God’s justice will be rendered in the trial, but that it will prove satisfactory to the masses of people who already seem to have determined what that justice should look like. It is an essential responsibility for us today.
That responsibility, in turn, leads to the last point of prayer we must discuss.
Third, pray for yourself and fellow believers
As followers of Christ, we are tasked with being peacemakers in an often unpeaceful world (Matthew 5:9). It’s important to note, however, that being a peacemaker does not mean simply attempting to limit the presence of conflict in a given situation, though we should seek to avoid actions that would escalate it. Rather, it means being the embodiment of God’s presence and an ambassador for his justice in order to help others look to him for the proper perspective in a given situation.
Over the coming days, it seems likely that conflict will escalate around the country and social media will once again be filled with people who feel the need to express their views on the situation. Our challenge as believers will be to pray before we post and make sure that we run any and all comments through the lens of Scripture and the Holy Spirit before they escape into the larger world.
So as we conclude, please join me in committing to make prayer a priority throughout the day. Pray for the jury, pray for the crowds, and pray for yourself and your fellow believers. Do so any and every time the Lord places them on your heart or the news brings them to mind.
Will you start right now?