Breathe. One word. A word that usually signifies life but currently represents just the opposite as cities across our nation burn. It’s the word George Floyd uttered again and again as a Minneapolis police officer killed him. I don’t know all, none of us do, but I do know that as a nation we need to collectively stop the rioting – both in our cities and in our hearts – and take a deep breath.
As God would have it, today we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, the day Jesus was gathered with His disciples when suddenly a violent wind filled the house they were in. They became frightened but Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” He breathed on them.
Often depicted as “tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them,” the Holy Spirit reading presents powerful imagery today as we watch fires destroy cities and businesses; businesses that just started opening back up after COVID-19 closures. It’s an imagery not lost on me and one that speaks volumes.
The Holy Spirit is often thought of as the love part of the Holy Trinity; the love between Father and Son and the love bestowed upon those to share with others. In addition to love, the Holy Spirit works in us through the Fruits of the Holy Spirit and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit; the first being presence of God at work in us and the latter being the “matured fruits” and the Holy Spirit creating in us the good habits, virtues, and deeds for us to possess and demonstrate. Without getting too deep, the opposite consists of the “bitter fruits” such as jealousy, strife, anger, etc. And yes, these are Biblical, listed by Paul in Galatians.
Since George Lloyd’s tragic death, we have witnessed an array of “bitter fruits” displayed in cities coast-to-coast. Sadly, what started out as rightly deserved peaceful protests of a wrong-doing and long-standing injustice has enfolded into violence-filled riots that do nothing to advance a cause that so desperately needs across-the-board support. Looting, vandalism, and anger do not breathe life into it all. If anything, they deflate cooperation and breathe the life out of it.
Ironically, on that first Pentecost when the disciples “began to speak in other tongues,” the entire group was amazed and wondered how it was that they could all understand each other. You see, the gathering was one of very diverse people; many with their own native languages, customs, and cultures. And yet suddenly, they could miraculously understand each other even though they were different. They were different.
And got along.
If all of this doesn’t take your breath away, you may need to check your pulse.
Check your motives today as well as you watch the news. Then look in the mirror. Are you a builder of harmony and unity or a judger with words and stones? The voices of both the Holy Spirit and George Floyd are powerful yet gentle. Let’s be like them.
Webster defines the verb “breathe” as to draw air into and expel from the lungs; to inhale and exhale. We often say a wine needs to “breathe” in order to develop its flavor and bouquet by exposure to air. We also use the word to express or utter something as when we say “Don’t breathe a word about it.”
George Floyd was denied his right to breathe and we all need to stop not breathing a word about similar wrongs. By imitating the Holy Spirit and instead practicing peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, gentleness, and faithfulness, we can start breathing the flavor and bouquet of love and tolerance into a society so desperately thirsting for them.