June 6, 2020

Subject: The Greatest Commandment Isn’t to Seek Justice

Luke 10:29 “But the lawyer, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘Who is my neighbor?’”

Ed Croteau

The video taken by a bystander of George Floyd’s arrest is very difficult to watch. Subdued with both hands handcuffed behind his back, face down, by 4 Minneapolis police officers, the 46-year old Floyd has his neck knelt on with the full force of Police Officer Chauvin’s weight for nearly 9 minutes, during which time Mr. Floyd pleads for his life and bystanders urge the police to let up. Even with Mr. Floyd totally unresponsive for the last 2 minutes and 53 seconds, Officer Chauvin remains kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck.

As the investigation into Mr. Floyd’s death continues, it is most likely the graphic nature of this video that sparked riots across the nation. The criminal complaint filed against Officer Chauvin states “Police are trained that this type of restraint with the subject in prone position is inherently dangerous.”

In an online article entitled “Why do police put their knee on the back of your neck when cuffing you?”, a Deputy Police Chief provides this answer: “We know, absolutely, that it’s not normal for police officers to kneel on the back of people’s necks, because if that was normal then just about all of them would have broken peoples’ necks. The results of that officer’s actions illustrate exactly why we don’t do what he did.”

In his May 31 article for The Atlantic entitled ‘How Do You Kneel on a Neck for Nine Minutes?’, Graeme Wood tries to reenact what happens when you kneel on the neck of someone with your full weight of your own body for that long: “To understand what happened to Mr. Floyd, I tried to simulate the position of his killer. My crude simulator involved a stopwatch and kneeling on a rolled-up yoga mat, on top of which I placed a gelatinous pad used by medical students to imitate human skin.

I used the times noted in the coroner’s report: 5 minutes and 53 seconds of kneeling before officers declared Floyd unresponsive, followed by 2 minutes and 53 seconds of continued pressure. That totals just less than 9 minutes. At about 20 seconds, my knee started to throb… at about 1 minute, the throb turned decisively to pain. The next 3 minutes was the time during which Floyd transitioned from begging, gasping, and drooling to unconsciousness. I was more than halfway to the time at which Floyd stopped responding.

At 5 minutes and 53 seconds, my knee was numb. It stayed that way for the remaining minutes. I don’t see how anyone could remain in that position unless he was at best totally indifferent to the person’s survival.”

The first question to answer is Mr. Wood’s: how could anyone kneel on someone’s neck for 9 minutes? He speculates that the officers had to be indifferent to Mr. Floyd’s survival. I believe this has sparked the protests across our country. This is what I believe Mayor Quinton Lucas is trying to achieve – discussions that lead to changes that improve our community. This is also what our verse this week is all about.

The dialogue between Jesus Christ and lawyer began with the lawyer testing Jesus by asking Him “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” In His usual style, Jesus answers the question with a question: “What is your reading of the law?” The lawyer then quotes the Mosaic Law in Mark 10:27, by stating that true love for God means loving your neighbor as yourself. Jesus answers by telling the lawyer he got it right.

But then we get to our verse this week, which is the second question we must answer. The lawyer asks Jesus “Who is my neighbor?” The writer gives us some insight behind the lawyer’s question, by preceding it with the statement that the lawyer “tried to justify himself”. This is an insight into the lawyer’s heart. He wants Jesus to confirm his personal worldview that God’s love has conditions. Jesus crushes the lawyer’s interpretation of the Mosaic Law by explaining who is a neighbor with the parable of the Good Samaritan.

The ancient religious practice of the Samaritans mixed the worship of YHWH with pagan practices. In his book ‘Why Jesus?’, Ravi Zacharias explains the Jewish racism toward Samaritans during Jesus’ time: “To call a person a Samaritan was the meanest racial slur one could have cast in that day. The Samaritans were considered an impure race of an impure religion and were despised by the puritanical.” Jesus was exposing the true heart of the Jewish lawyer, who would never consider a Samaritan as his neighbor he should love as much as he loves himself. The heart of God our Father is to love all people unconditionally.

The dialogue we need, to make real change in America, is to affirm the biblical worldview that people are intrinsically valuable based on God creating each of us in His image. His greatest commandment is to love what He loves, which is each of us. He proved His love for us all at the Cross of Calvary.

Ed Croteau is a resident of Lee’s Summit and hosts a weekly study in Lees Summit called “Faith: Substance and Evidence.” He can be reached with your questions through the Lee’s Summit Tribune at Editor@lstribune.net.