Commentary regarding the Zimmerman verdict has flooded the internet and conversations nationwide. Amidst it all, I have observed most people exercising a level of judgment regarding the case that I feel they have no right to make. We must be honest enough to admit we don’t know all the details of the case, and we definitely don’t know exactly what happened in the moments prior to Trayvon’s death; and unfortunately, he is not here to share his testimony. You may be angry, pleased, or indifferent with the verdict, but I’d like to approach the shooting of Trayvon Martin and the Zimmerman verdict from a Christian perspective. When I say from a Christian perspective, I mean a “Christ-like” perspective. So brace yourself… what I have to share is different than what mainstream christianity is saying; due to the large gap between mainstream christianity and actual “Christ-likeness”.
Here are the major details of the incident offered as briefly as possible for those who haven’t taken the time to research the case “thoroughly”.
Trayvon Martin was staying with his father’s fiancée at the gated community where George Zimmerman lived. One evening, George was headed for groceries and noticed Trayvon walking between townhouses in the neighborhood, (not on the street or on the sidewalk, but in the grass between two houses) in the rain, with his hood up, “suspiciously.” (In the months prior, the Twin Lakes gated community residents reported dozens of attempted break-ins, which had created an atmosphere of fear in the neighborhood.) George called a non-emergency 911 number to report the suspicious activity, watched, and followed Trayvon to track his location until the police arrived.
At some point, Trayvon was on his cell phone and told his girlfriend that a creepy a** cracker was following him. Being frustrated with George following him, Trayvon “stared down” George, approached and circled his truck, at which point George rolled up his window to avoid a confrontation. Trayvon then walked away from the truck and began running to lose George. George exited his truck and pursued Trayvon until the dispatcher encouraged him not to do so… George agreed and hung up the phone, but not before saying “these a##holes always get away”. According to testimony from both George and the friend Trayvon was on the phone with… there was a period of time during which Trayvon and George were separated, Trayvon even telling his friend that he “lost” George. Trayvon now headed home, and George continuing to search for Trayvon’s location to notify the police, they met up again, at which time a verbal confrontation ensued, which led to a physical struggle. George testified that Trayvon tackled and straddled him, punched him, and began banging the back of his head on the concrete sidewalk. Several eye witnesses testify that George was indeed on the bottom during the scuffle… the back of his coat was wet, and the back of his head suffered lacerations and was bleeding when police arrived at the scene. During the fight, George reached for his gun, Trayvon saw it and tried to get the gun first. George claims that Trayvon then shouted… “you’re gonna die tonight motherf*#cker” as he reached for the gun, but George grabbed it first. He pulled the trigger once and Trayvon died in a few minutes.
Forensics scientists who studied the gunshot wound and powder residue stated that Trayvon’s sweatshirt was approx 4-6 inches away from his body at the time of the shooting, impossible if Trayvon was on his back on the ground. Later that night, George was diagnosed and treated for a closed fracture of his nose, 2 black eyes, lacerations to the back of his head, a minor back injury, and bruising in his upper lip and cheek before being questioned regarding the events that had just happened and passing a lie detector test. Trayvon had only two injuries… a scrape on his left ring finger, and the fatal gunshot wound.
Trayvon had been suspended from school at the time of his death, his third disciplinary suspension of the year. The first suspension was for tardiness and truancy (skipping school). The second for graffiti on school property, at which time police searched Trayvon, his bag and locker for the graffiti tools and found several pieces of women’s jewelry and a screwdriver which they classified as a burglary tool. The third suspension occurred when Trayvon was caught with an empty marijuana bag and a marijuana pipe. The night of the incident, police discovered two items in a bag Trayvon was carrying that he had purchased from a 7-11 earlier that night, Arizona Iced Tea Co.’s Watermelon Fruit Juice and Skittles, two of the three ingredients necessary for a codeine-based recreational drug called “lean”. Its main ingredient is prescription-strength cough syrup, containing DXM. (DXM is an abbreviation for the active ingredient in cough-syrup, which statistics show to be an increasingly common drug abuse substance.) In the autopsy, Trayvon’s liver showed symptoms consistent with abuse of DXM.
These details may or may not be fully and completely accurate… after all, this is the internet, right? Do your best research and come to conclusion for yourself.
That being said, let’s approach what we know from a Christian perspective. The incident occurred in a gated community that was dealing with recurring neighborhood disturbances at the hands of teenage thieves. I have experienced theft by the hands of teenagers on my property. Maybe you have too. At one point, some drug dealing teens and twenties moved in our neighborhood, two houses up the street from us. As homeowner’s goods began disappearing from cars and garages, you can imagine the state of mind and conversations that resulted among neighbors in our community. In a certain sense, I have had a “Trayvon Martin” walking the streets of my neighborhood, and likely, so have you.
Due to my Christian worldview, based on the work of the Holy Spirit within me revealing truths regarding God’s Word and His will toward all mankind, I never once imagined harming these thieves in any way. The power of Christ and the indwelling love of God for those young men and women far outweighed my love for any material possession of mine they might steal. Do I work hard for my paycheck? Yes. Do I have a family to take care of? Yes. Do they have a right to steal from me? No. Does it anger me when they do? Yes. Do I still love them with Christian love? Yes. I do not know if George Zimmerman considers himself a Christian, but the question George Zimmerman did not ask… and the question many Christians might not think to ask if they saw Trayvon sneaking around their community late one evening is this: “What does Christian love for this young man look like now?”
Here is where the answer may shock you.
Again, let us not forget that in living out our Christian worldview, we are called, above all, to be Christ-like. It is possible to formulate a doctrine or worldview all our own; which is contrary to the synergy of scripture, by fitting together certain passages from God’s Word to create a set of rules and principles to operate by that make the most sense to us. But Jesus is recorded, by Luke, as saying “if someone steals your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back.” (Luke 6:29,30)
What was the Christian response to Trayvon’s “suspicious activity”? What did Christian love look like for Trayvon that night? Perhaps ask him if he needed a ride… or maybe George should’ve told him that if he was looking to steal some jewelry, he had a nice watch and a few bucks that he could give him instead. The Christian response was to pray for the young man with a sincere heart, and if not at that moment, watch for a time to approach the young man with crazy grace and radical love. The Bible tells us in Romans that God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. We celebrate this verse when we receive it for ourselves, but we do not consider that God might call us to show His great love for others by making selfless sacrifices for them, while they are yet sinners. Like giving gifts to them, even while they may be stealing from us or our neighbors. I wonder how Trayvon’s night would’ve ended if he came home with a few gifts from George, along with the message that God loves Him and Jesus died that he could be not only be saved, but set free from the emotional pain of his parents divorce, peer pressure, and drug addiction to live a life of joy and victory serving others? We will never know.