Trusting In Justice: Trayvon Martin
‘Lord, during my darkest hour I wait on you. You are all that I have. At the end of the day God is still in control.’
These are the words of Sybrina Fulton after a ‘not guilty’ verdict was passed on Saturday evening. On 26 February 2012, her 17-year-old son, Trayvon Martin, was shot as he walked back home from the convenience store by George Zimmerman. Zimmerman’s defence was that he was ‘afraid for his life’ and that he acted in self-defence – despite the fact that Martin was unarmed.
The case of Trayvon Martin vs George Zimmerman has been one of the most controversial legal battles to date. With a contended ‘not guilty’ sentence passed, the case has tragically exposed the racial dynamics that surround the urban black man in the United States and Western society. It has ripped open the prejudice that still exists within a post-civil rights nation, making the world question the American legal system, and the degree to which racial discrimination still influences how we profile and prosecute members of society.
Yet, in the midst of the sorrow, anger, frustration and incredulity, Trayvon’s mother has declared: ‘Lord, during my darkest hour, I wait on you.’
In times of extreme tragedy, faith can easily become a comfortable fail-safe. Something to embrace to block out the pain that pierces the very core of one’s being as the world shatters.
It is equally easy in times of bereavement to rail against the heavens and watch ‘God’ transform into a cynical, cold hearted beast, whose idea of ‘justice’ is as fickle as a child’s favorite colour – it changes on a daily basis.
Perhaps God is all that Sybrina has. Perhaps the belief in a divine, just being is all she can rely on as she makes sense of her new world. When the protests have died down and the media struggles to remember Trayvon’s age on that fatal day, his mother will continue to endure. When we forget about the discrimination that simmers beneath the surface of a multi-racial society, or the prejudice that provokes violent community preservation, she will have to keep living.
Yet there is truth in her final statement. God is in control.
While we can all exercise free will for better or worse, Sybrina’s use of this gift has had a profound impact in the aftermath of this case. She hasn’t called for rivers of blood to swamp American streets. She hasn’t asked for vengeance or declared warfare. Instead, she has chosen to place her trust in a God that is a God of justice who ‘longs to be gracious to you […] to show you compassion’ (Isaiah 30 v 18).
Liberty is a state of freedom. It is a freedom that releases us from fear, anxiety and doubt. It releases us to trust that justice will be exacted because liberty, like justice, is part of the nature of God. And God is not fickle. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is a God of grace, of love and mercy. He has the capacity to forgive all sins, heal all pain. He is the giver of eternal life.
In the wake of such a gross personal, social and political tragedy, many of us might feel the need to rely on our own means to exact justice. Yet we should think closely on the words of Trayvon’s mother and exercise our liberty with wisdom, clarity and justice.
Our prayers are with the Martin family.
Isaiah 1:17: ‘Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.’
Words by Justina Kehinde