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What will you do with your breath?

What will you do with your breath? That’s the question of our times. That’s the question I hear our suffocating Savior Jesus asking us from the cross.

As I was meditating, praying for this world, and thinking about George Floyd’s last words, I started thinking of Jesus. George closed out his life here on earth with the words: “I can’t breathe, mama I’m done,” and he communicated a desire for water as he suffocated to death under the brutal knee of a white police officer pressed firmly on his neck for nearly 9 minutes.

Christ’s last words, as he too suffocated on the cross, came to mind. He too asked for relief for his thirst and closed out his life calling on a parent figure… “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit. ”

He too realized it was done… That “it is finished”.

The echoes of Christ’s experience of police brutality and unjust death at the hands of a system obsessed with violent power resonate in the caverns of our souls as we all watched George’s death with horror and heard his whimpering pleas… How could something this unjust happen…

I imagined Jesus’ mother Mary, being held by his best friend John, looking up at the cross with similar horror… Knowing who Jesus was and having witnessed his love, righteousness, justice, mercy, and goodness, and then watching his life getting snuffed out by the wicked empire of their day.

The parallels were vivid to me as I contemplated these two men from different times, both unjustly murdered.

I can’t pretend to understand what’s fully going on in all of the events transpiring in our world right now. I’m not really politically smart, like my friends over at the AND Campaign, and I’m constantly baffled by the divide I see in the visible churches in this country over justice issues. But one thing I do know, George didn’t deserve to die like that. His last breath shouldn’t have been taken from him in such a way, and this tragic public execution on display for the world to see should do something to change this world for the good… It better. We better let it.

I’d like to believe Jesus was there with him as he passed into eternity. The Jesus I know likes to show up in those places. He likes to be with the broken and weak… he tends to prefer the oppressed. I’d like to believe that Jesus was comforting him and reminding him of the solidarity they shared and the hope of the new creation where the racism and injustices of this world will no longer exist.

In Matthew 25 Jesus says that what we do to the least of these we also do to him… Jesus couldn’t breathe as George was suffocated… Jesus couldn’t breathe.

I wrote this spoken word in the video below in the early morning of 6.7.2020 while lying in bed imagining having my breath taken away from me. My heart grew anxious and I started to have a panic attack even just contemplating what Jesus and George went through. How powerless they must have felt… How dehumanizing to have your life choked out of you in such a way.

To think Jesus did that to save me from my sin. To save George Floyd from his sin. To save you from your sin. To reconcile all things, including the systems that govern this world, to God, making Shalom possible through his blood (Col. 1:19-22).

One day, all of us will take our final breath and leave behind this world of pain to give an account for our sin that contributed to its brokenness. We will face the God of the universe as either judge or Father. We will either experience eternal justice for our rebellion against God or be welcomed home into our true family made up of people from all time and all nations. This eternal beauty, truth, and goodness of the new creation made possible through Christ will be so much more glorious than we could ever imagine, and any pain we might have experienced. And every tear will be wiped away and death will be no more. It’s a promise God has given us and sealed with the blood of His Son. We can count on it.

That’s the hope of the Kingdom, but what does that mean for us now?

It means we stop suffocating Jesus…

It means we use the breaths we have left in our lungs, His breath, for something more than empty and arrogant words and selfish living.

It means we use our voice, to advocate for our neighbors, especially our black and brown ones, who are mourning and reeling from the racial violence toward them they have experienced for over 400 years.

It means we listen, lament, and learn from those who are feeling the knee of oppression on their neck. It means we leverage our resources to show the love of Christ to this world like never before.

It means we pray Kingdom prayers, and live out shalom activism that puts on display the City of Peace to come…

What will you do with your breath?

Jesus couldn’t breathe
He tried to inhale, but those thick nails, holding his arms stretched wide, ripped at his skin as he tried to pull his weight upon them.

Jesus couldn’t breathe
He tried to push up with his feet to catch a breath, but unbearable pain shot up through his legs from the spike driven through his feet into the wood of the cross

Jesus couldn’t breathe
He opened his mouth wide to desperately gulp for the air his lungs longed for, but instead, they filled with the blood running down his face from the crown of thorns jammed into his skull

Jesus couldn’t breathe
His thirsty swollen lips split open with a desperate plea for a drink to quench his burning throat, only to be answered with the pungent fumes of a vinegar drenched sponge forced into his face.

Jesus couldn’t breathe
His lungs hyperventilated, emotionally suffocating with anxiety as his unjust execution satisfied the justice of eternity.

Jesus couldn’t breathe
He used his last breath to call out to his Father…
He used his last breath to bless…
He used his last breath to forgive…

Jesus couldn’t breathe
Now we can…

What will you do with your breath?
What will you do with your breath?