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How Should the Church Respond to the Zimmerman Verdict

george zimmerman verdict

I’ve been watching with great interest the happenings surrounding the Zimmerman trial and verdict.

Here are five important things to remember as we respond:

1. No one won – A 17-year-old is dead, a 29-year-old is sentenced to a life of watching his back, one family grieves, both families are forever changed & our nation is more polarized than it was a year ago. Everybody loses in a situation like this.

2. Only two people really know the truth – You may think you do, but you don’t. Think about what I just said. Some people are spouting off as if they have an inside scoop. They don’t. I don’t. You don’t. None of us do. Only two people know and one of them is dead.

3. Our justice system worked – Six ordinary people devoted several weeks of their lives and came up with a unanimous verdict after hearing all the evidence. Our system is based on presumed innocence, which means the prosecution will always be at the disadvantage. I’m glad they are. Personally, I’d rather see an occasional guilty person walk rather than an innocent one go to prison. I’m not making a judgement on Mr. Zimmerman’s innocence or guilt. I didn’t sit thru a trial and hear all the facts. I’m just saying the system worked, whether I agree or disagree.

4. The Trayvon Martin family were incredibly gracious and respectful in their response. I cannot imagine their disappointment and pain. I could only hope to be as courageous if I was in their shoes.

5. God can bring good out of anything. His promises are true regardless of circumstances. He could use this to draw people to him who are looking for truth, open up conversations on race relationships or do any of a number of things that my mind cannot conceive. I know that he cares and is a loving impartial judge with all knowledge and wisdom. I know that he is at work on solutions before we even recognize that there are problems.

What if we all prayed for His kingdom to come and his will to be done? What if we all acted with humility rather than hubris? What if we saw the world through lenses of “we” rather than “us versus them”?

What if?

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (The Gospel according to Matthew 5:9 TLV)

Editor’s note: What was your reaction to the Zimmerman verdict? How should pastors talk about this difficult issue in their churches? How did you handle it?

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Greg Surratt is the founding pastor of Seacoast Church, one of the earliest adopters of the multi-site model. Located in Mt. Pleasant, SC, Seacoast has been recognized by various media as an innovative and influential thought leader in future strategies for church growth and development. Greg is also a founding board member of the Association of Related Churches.