A car driven by a black man named Walter Scott was stopped by a white policeman named Michael Slager last Saturday in North Charleston, S.C. According to a cellphone video made by a bystander, Mr. Scott ran from the officer, who fired eight times at him. Mr. Scott fell to the ground and was later pronounced dead. Officer Slager later said he feared for his life. After the video surfaced, Officer Slager was charged with murder and has now been fired.
I want to respond to this tragedy today, but am conflicted. On one hand, we are to "be subject to the governing authorities" (Romans 13:1), and we live in a nation that views its citizens as innocent until proven guilty. I do not want to judge Officer Slager before all the facts come out.
On the other hand, the video is horrific. It clearly shows the officer shooting in the back a man who appears to be no threat to him. In Tennessee v. Garner, the Supreme Court ruled that an officer may permissibly use deadly force against a fleeing suspect only if that person "poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others." Nothing like that seems to be the case on the video.
How does God view the shooting in South Carolina? (Tweet this) When we apply his word to what we know, we learn two important facts.
One: Our Father is grieving with those who grieve, and calls us to do the same.
According to his brother, 50-year-old Walter Scott was the father of four. Officer Slager said in a court appearance that he has two stepchildren, with a child on the way. The families of both men are confused and grieving today. Many African-Americans in North Charleston and around the country wonder if they and their families are safe.
Scripture commands us to "weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15). As the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27), we are to extend his grace and hope to those who are hurting. Have you prayed for Mr. Scott's family? For Officer Slager and his family? For all those affected by this tragedy?
Two: Our Lord is a God of justice who calls us to seek justice in his name.
We do not know all that happened in this tragedy, but God does. We don't know why Mr. Scott ran, but God does. We do not yet know the outcome of Officer Slager's murder investigation, but God does. And his word assures us, "Surely there is a God who judges on earth."
Our just God calls us to join him in working for justice. Whatever comes next in this story, violence is the wrong response to violence. Instead, Scripture commands us to "seek justice, correct oppression" (Isaiah 1:17), because "to do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice" (Proverbs 21:3). We are to "let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream" (Amos 5:24). Our Lord wants us to work for justice in North Charleston and wherever we have influence in the world.
After his brother's death, Anthony Scott said, "We don't advocate violence, we advocate change." In our fallen world, so should we all.
Publication date: April 9, 2015
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