Imperfect Justice Following Philando Castile’s Death

Philando Castile; Photo Courtesy of Star Tribune

There is no earthly justice that will bring back the life of Philando Castille. The world seeks justice as best it can, but even the world’s justice can’t turn back the clock and bring Castile back to life, or allow Officer Jeronimo Yanez to double check his instinctive reaction.

While perfect justice is unattainable on earth, there are real changes that Christians can be part of.

Be Compelled by Personal Stories of Injustice

Hear the stories of those personally affected by the preferential leanings of our criminal justice system. I appeal to my white evangelical colleagues to personally feel the weariness and discouragement of our African American brothers and sisters in Christ. It is only in hearing their stories that we will feel the need to defend and act for justice.

The detachment and disinterest historically seen in white Christians has long driven a wedge of separation in the body of Christ. Instead of offering a detached response of letting the justice system sort out the facts, we must engage the feelings of grief and sadness that another life has been lost.

Bear One Another’s Full Burdens

Scripture implores us to bear one another’s burdens. Mr. Castile’s girlfriend and his extended family are part of a church in St. Paul pastored by a friend of mine, Superintendent Celester Webb. I have witnessed Pastor Webb strive to carry the emotional, spiritual and physical burdens of these bereaved members in his flock.

As followers of Jesus, the call to help carry these burdens extends beyond grieving the death of Castile; we must work to end the perpetual sense of fear and suspicion under which our African American brothers and sisters constantly live. That burden is carried by fellow pastors and partners in ministry. It is a burden carried by colleagues, neighbors and friends who are African American.

In the unity of Christ we must enter into that burden with them. If you live in a community with very few people of color and have the luxury of feeling detached and unaffected, remind yourself that many who feel suspect and vulnerable are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Gain an Understanding of Society’s Imperfect Structures

Officer Jeronimo Yanez; Photo Courtesy of Star Tribune

As Christians, the tragic death of Philando Castile must drive us to look deeply into the imperfect structures of our society. Rather than simply passing harsher laws that crack down on protests, we must ask questions and get close enough to understand the frustration and anger that causes people to rally in the streets.

In some ways the guilt for the death of Philando Castile is on all of us and our growing dependence on “law and order” – on policing powers and the use of deadly force. I fear for my friends and colleagues who are police officers. I honor their service and I want them to be safe. And yet, we must change the practices and expectations society has of law enforcement in order to spare the lives of future Philando Castiles, Michael Browns, and Freddie Grays.

Zechariah 7:9-10 This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.’

Raise Our Voices

Sankofa Group of 30 Twin Cities Pastors in Birmingham, AL

Last February I journeyed with 15 African American and 15 white Twin Cities pastors through civil rights and slavery landmarks in the South. This past Monday our group met again and talked at length about the racial overtones that surround the tragic death of Philando Castile and the trial of Officer Jeronimo Yanez.

Our African American brothers and sisters in ministry have implored me and other white Christians to raise our voices on their behalf.

Together, the Christian Church must use our prayers, our voices and our actions to better seek justice and work for the good of all of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

“Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed.” (Isaiah 1:17)

Carl Nelson is the President and CEO of Transform Minnesota, the evangelical network. Contact him here.

PDF of Statement Responding to Officer Yanez Verdict

  1. Thank you for the post! I was in tears at the verdict and could only think of myself, my husband and my young children, as well as, so many other beautiful, brown skin people. But, then Holy Spirit reminded me of who we are in Christ and the authority He has purchased for us to overcome the world, to reveal His love and to be active in revealing what justice really is – the Father’s passion and a foundational quality of His children’s true nature. Surely, it is only His Body who can exhibit the Father’s heart for all.

  2. Carl your passion for those who lost their lives at the hands of our law enforcement is commendable but don’t forget to have compassion for the officers who also suffer as a result of a death! I am sure Officer Yanez and his family also have suffered as a result of this incident! Don’t be one sided in this issue, I don’t think Jesus would!

  3. Carl,
    We raise our voices in support. Thanks for your leadership.
    Ed and Joyce

  4. I stand with all who grieve in the loss of life, never mind color of skin, the difficulty of being an officer of the law, the disregard for law officers, the disregard for human dignity and sin that is running rampant in our society. I pray for ALL who are involved in this tragedy, all whose lives will never be the same. May God bring perfect peace, as only HE can in the midst of chaos. lml

  5. Thank you for writing about this. I have some questions that I hope you can give me an answer to that would help me to see where more compassion is what is needed. (I do have compassion for those who have lost family members – for that is always a terrible and painful thing.) I really struggle, though when I see people ignoring the role law-breaking played in the situations. I was shocked to read that Diamond Reynolds is a member of a church. Shocked because when I visited her FB page after the shooting, she her language was deplorable. She is/was also a drug user and I am sure she also is having sexual relations outside of marriage. How is it that she attends a church while smoking pot and using filthy language – and especially in front of her daughter- yet is a member of a church? And the Church is supposed to turn a blind eye to that? I don’t understand this. How is she attending a church while living a lifestyle that is in complete opposition to a holy life? And how is it that Transform MN defends that or ignores that? I just don’t understand that. I understand that people on the left don’t hold the same values as Christians. But I don’t understand nor can I accept when people who say the are Christians seem to think that living a lifestyle in opposition to what the Bible tells us is God’s will – a holy life – is just fine.

    For any society to function well, the citizens must abide by the laws. Of course laws must be just. But if people feel that they can ignore the laws they don’t like then society is weakened greatly and we will experience more and more degradation – which is what I see happening now. It seems to me that the people at Transform Mn feel that it doesn’t matter whether or not people abide by the law at all, and I am confused by this – coming from a Bible-based organization. You turn a blind eye to when an immigrant comes to the US illegally. I can not go to any country I desire and just walk in illegally and expect to be treated like a regular citizen of that country. I can not drive my car while high on pot and think others should excuse that behavior.

    Please help me understand why Transform MN does not seem to hold these values which are Biblical values; and which a so very necessary to any functioning society. It seems, as I said that you want me, as a Christian and law-abiding citizen to turn a blind eye to laws that you deem unnecessary. I can not do that. A holy life in obedience to the Lord is not “secondary” in importance to love. As James said, faith without works is dead. To obey is better than sacrifice. Where is the obedience to Christ? Love does not mean ignoring laws. A parent who loves their child does not ignore the child’s bad behavior or disobedience. Not at all.

    I want to see the Twin Cities transformed, too. But I want them transformed into safe cities with less violence and healthy families. It seems to me that that will happen when citizens love and honor God and live according to the standard of holiness that He has set forth. And that standard includes abiding by the laws, not using drugs, honoring marriage and the family etc. Without that society is doomed.

    Thank you.

    • Luke 6:37-39

    • Thank you for being brave enough to ask questions. I struggle with the same questions. I don’t see how the verse about not judging is an easy answer to these realistic questions. What about
      2 Timothy 3:16
      All Scripture is given by God. And all Scripture is useful for teaching and for showing people what is wrong in their lives. It is useful for correcting faults and teaching the right way to live.