When a Guilty Verdict Isn’t Enough

Justice and the Hope of the Resurrection

CJ Green / 4.26.21

The verdict of Derek Chauvin has elicited celebration and grief and everything in between. Celebration, because there is a feeling that justice has been served. But grief has swiftly re-asserted itself, too, because the trial did not, could not, bring about actual justice.

There are some tragedies for which no earthly comeuppance could ever be enough. Not simply due to the US system of law, which some have taken to calling “the injustice system.” But because when someone’s life is taken, no verdict can reverse the damage done.

This is why the words of Pastor Patrick Ngwolo resound with such sanity. Ngwolo, who knew George Floyd as a friend, is the lead pastor at Resurrection Houston. On Friday, Here & Now host Tonya Mosely asked Ngwolo what he was planning to say to his congregants on the Sunday following Chauvin’s verdict. Nwgolo’s words are powerful and amazing:

PN: If peace is a circle, when that circle has been broken by either sin, or immorality, or injustice if you will, justice is what closes that circle. I mean, what do you do when what was taken is not money? You can give money back. But what do you do when what was taken is a life?

I think that the Christ story, it provides answers. A Palestinian Jew is slaughtered at the hands of a government that enacted state-sponsored terror and humiliation by crucifixion. On this person, this Palestinian Jew — it’s Jesus Christ — God reverses that death sentence and raises him from the dead. We call that resurrection. We call that justice. And so in the case of Brother Floyd, we hope that when he is raised, he will receive justice. And those of us who are still here, we can continue that process of resurrection, that recreation process that God started when he raised Jesus from the dead. That resurrection gives us hope that one day in America, justice will roll down like waters and righteousness will roll down like a mighty stream. And it provides us the motivation to keep pressing on even if we lose our lives. […]

So many people think that faith is all about perfection, but I think the Christian faith is about redemption, and here is God redeeming this man.

TM: Pastor, what is your message, though, for those who are feeling weary?

PN: Yeah, what’s interesting is that in that same story of brutalization at the hands of state-sponsored terrorism, formally called the crucifixion, there was a three-day pause. There was a Friday, Saturday, and part of Sunday, and in that pause there was weeping, there was lamentation, there was grieving on behalf of someone who was killed. Because often we rush onto Sunday. But we forget that there were three days for people to pause and to grieve. And I think the resources that are provided in Scripture help us to see that we are to pause, and we are to go through the grieving process and lamentation process, and it’s okay to be angry. But as the writer would say, weeping may endure for a night, but joy definitely comes in the morning.