From Genesis to Revelation there are only two books of the Bible that have a chapter 8 and verse 46. The first 8:46 reference is found in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus is in the midst of a large crowd and declares, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.” This familiar passage describes the moment when a woman received healing by just touching the hem of Jesus’ garment. Not asking permission for access to His power, this woman with a debilitating and constant menstrual cycle is healed. In surprise, Jesus stops, declaring, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.” While this woman was healed, I can’t help but reflect on how all of us around the world stopped what we were doing to watch officers violently touch a black man. I am reminded of how they grabbed his arms without permission, threw his handcuffed body down to the ground, knelt on his legs, knelt on his back, knelt on his neck. I can’t help but reflect on how with the touch of brutality we all found ourselves forced to stop and watch power leave George Floyd’s body for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
The second 8:46 reference is found in the Gospel of John. Jesus is talking with the religious leaders and says to them, “which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?” This is a crucial moment in Scripture because Jesus is speaking with the Jews and religious leaders about the inconsistencies between their natural pedigree and their spiritual pedigree. In verse 37 Jesus says, “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.” Jesus continues in verse 39 declaring, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father.” He reveals to them who their father is in verse 44 saying, “you are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.”
Here, Jesus is declaring to the Jews and religious leaders of His day that even though they are the physical children of Abraham, their actions reveal that they are the spiritual children of Satan. For Jesus, sonship is not purely about your lineage. Sonship is also about who you emulate, whose image you choose to reflect.
Abraham was a man of great faith and obedience. To be a son of Abraham is to do the works of Abraham, it is to emulate Abraham, it is to reflect Abraham’s image. And according to Scripture, Abraham did the works of God, he heeded the Words of God with the utmost faith and acted on those Words with the utmost obedience. Therefore, to seek to kill the very Son of God, to seek to kill the messenger of God, the one who is speaking the Words of God in the flesh through speech and action, according to Christ, is to not do the will of God but the will of Satan. It is not to emulate their earthly father Abraham, but to emulate their spiritual Father the Devil.
White America has declared with confidence and assurance their sonship to Christ, their sonship to Abraham, and that they in fact are the ones who best emulate and revere the Fathers of the Christian scriptures. But while claiming sonship to Christ, they exterminated Native Americans; while claiming sonship to Christ, they enslaved Africans; while claiming sonship to Christ they exploited Latinos; while claiming sonship to Christ, they erased Asians; while claiming sonship to Christ, they expelled those in the LGBTQIA community; while claiming sonship to Christ, they excluded Muslims. With power and conviction, white America declared with confidence their faith in Christianity as they worked tirelessly to drain the power out of black bodies, while watching with pride and joy, even taking photos next to black bodies as power left them. These Christians, declaring Christ as their spiritual father, burned crosses and black bodies all at the same time. The continual expression of murder through white supremacist violence in this country has been pervasive for a minimum of 500 years. And the entirety of White-Euro exploration, extermination, enslavement, and exploitation has been under the banner of sonship to the Christian God.
Christ says in the 8th chapter of the Gospel of John that you cannot declare sonship without doing the works of the Father. You cannot seek to kill a man telling you truths from God and believe you are doing the deeds of God the Father. Native humanity tells the truth about the image of God. Black humanity tells the truth about the image of God. Latinx humanity tells the truth about the image of God. Asian humanity tells the truth about the image of God. And the murder and destruction of these bodies prevents a complicit white America from claiming sonship to Christ. The truth in John chapter 8 is that white Americans must reconcile their incessant attempts at killing the expressed humanity in black and brown bodies; they must reconcile their consistent attempts at murdering those who speak the truths of God in their very image bearing bodies.
Quite frankly, white America must stop declaring sonship to Christ while perpetrating the works of the Devil against black and brown bodies. As Jesus said in verse 41, “you do the deeds of your father.” And he explicitly asserted that according to their actions, their father was Satan, (verse 44). This means that every time you raped a black woman while preaching our inhumanity, you did the deeds of your father Satan. Every time you burned and bombed an all black community, you did the deeds of your father Satan. Every time you hung a black body from a tree, you did the deeds of your father Satan. Every time you denied a loan to a black family for a home or small business, you did the deeds of your father Satan. Every time you overlooked an African American for a position they were more than qualified for and gave it to a white person who was under-qualified, you did the deeds of your father Satan. Every time you redlined our communities, keeping necessary resources away from black residents, families, and children, you did the deeds of your father Satan. Every time you falsely arrested and convicted a black man, you did the deeds of your father Satan. And when you put your knee in the neck of George Floyd for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, you did the deeds of your father Satan. White America, you can claim Christianity all you want, but your deeds declare that you do the will of your father Satan.
And finally, in verse 46, Jesus declares, “which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?” In this moment I see Jesus pleading with them to receive the truth that He was the son of God, sent to do the work of His Father. And as He’s pleading that they receive this truth, I hear George Floyd crying out the truth that he too is a son of God. I hear him pleading about his pain. I hear him pleading for his mother. I hear him pleading he can’t breathe. And what’s sad, is that after we watched power leave this man’s body, we still had to listen to a host of people seek to do nothing but convict him of sin. Articles came out about his past arrests, stories were published about drug use and drug involvement, discussions were had about the counterfeit $20 bill, and assumptions were made that he was high on meth when killed. Lying on the ground, with power leaving his body for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, some ignored the Godly truth of this man’s humanity and sought only to convict him of sin. As though his sins justified his public execution.
On this Father’s Day, white America must wrestle with the truth that under the banner of claimed sonship in Christ, George Floyd was neither the first nor the last black father murdered at their hands. White America must wrestle with the truth that they have been silent while watching power leave black and brown bodies for centuries. Today, white America must wrestle with who their spiritual father really is.
8:46, when power left his body.
8:46, when they sought to convict him of sin.
8:46, when the revolution began.
Claudia M. Allen is the Online Content Manager for Message Magazine, holding a Bachelor’s degree from Andrews University and a Master’s from Georgetown University. Most recently, she completed the first certificate program in Theology and Racialized Policing with Sojourners and the Howard University Divinity School. She is a teacher, preacher, and writer on race, anti-racism, and biblical social justice who is passionate about activating the activist in all of us.
Image courtesy of the author.
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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10547