Op-ed: A biblical response to Tyre Nichols’ death

by Seth Udinski

Seth Udinski, FISM News

For the past week, the tension surrounding police brutality in America has been reawakened to post-George-Floyd levels in the wake of the killing of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tenn.

FISM News previously reported that Nichols died in a hospital in early January from fatal wounds he received in a police altercation. He was allegedly resisting arrest by five Memphis police officers when he was beaten and denied life-saving medical attention.

In a similar situation to George Floyd’s death in May of 2020 at the hands of police officers, many have expressed outrage at what they see as an act of racial injustice against a black man at the hands of police officers.

But unlike the Floyd incident, all five of the policemen involved in Nichols’ killing were also black.

FISM News further reported that these five officers have been relieved of duty and subsequently charged with second-degree murder. Their trials will commence in the coming months.

For Christians, how do we respond to such a tragedy?

There are many levels of nuance we have to navigate. I believe it would be horrendous for Christians to downplay the seriousness of this event or the wickedness committed at the hands of these police officers.

In full transparency, I generally support the police. I believe law enforcement officers are a gift of common grace from God, who knows we need a justice system to keep us from self-destruction as a society.

I also believe that we must not cancel the whole when a select few have acted in wickedness. There are many morally upright policemen, and we must not assume that all are corrupt. Simultaneously, I believe these particular officers should be punished for what they did.

There is a second level, one that gets especially tricky when we consider the perpetrators and prevailing narrative. Many on social media argue that this killing was racially motivated, arguing that the police systems in general are racist against black men.

But again, all five men who committed this crime were also black.

For Christians, this leads us to a sobering, humbling, saddening, and, without the grace of Jesus Christ, eternally damning reality: We are sinners, living in a sinful world, and none of us is good enough to get to God.

This was not a racially-driven crime. This crime was committed because someone (in this case, the officers involved) ignored several direct commands from Almighty God: Love your neighbor (Mark 12:31), and do not murder (Exodus 20:13).

This was not an issue of racial injustice. This was an issue of failing to love one’s neighbor, as one loves himself.

And ultimately, the sin behind hating our neighbor is hating the God who created our neighbor in His image.

Friends, apart from Christ, we are hopelessly wretched sinners. It is no surprise that people kill each and make war and gossip and lie and steal and rape. This is who we are.

But I do not want to leave us there. Without Christ, that would be our reality, and it would truly be hopeless. But, Praise God, He sent us His Son to deal with our sin.

In His death on the cross, Jesus Christ took our sin on His shoulders and gave us His righteousness instead, so that when the Father now looks at us, He does not see sinful wretches and reprobates. He sees adopted children, grafted into His family because of His beloved Son, with whom He is well-pleased. When we trust in Jesus Christ, our Father looks on us the same way.

Believer, never become calloused to the depth of your sin. At the same time, never let go of the hope you have in Christ and the far greater depth of His grace.

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…  – Ephesians 2:1-5