BLM: A youth perspective by Pastor Ashley Gabriel

I recall praising my way into 2020. It’s been a tradition every year since I became a Christian in 2010 to attend the church building for the New Year’s Eve service. I remember looking around and seeing multitudes of people, from all different cultures, wearing 2020 Vision T-shirts as a declaration of the year ahead. 

Who would have thought that 2020 would see our world shaken by COVID-19 and the barbaric killing of Mr George Floyd, which stirred the hearts of countless people across the globe? 

For the last four years, I’ve made it a personal tradition to go for a walk on 1st January to spend time listening to God. This year, as I walked and talked with God, I saw the image of a baton and I heard the Holy Spirit say: “There is a baton being passed on from one generation to the next.” Immediately 

I perceived that the Lord is raising up the youth of today to invade this earth with the Kingdom of God. 

Towards the end of 2019, I went into full-time ministry but, prior to this, I was an RE teacher in a secondary school. I desired to inspire young people and spur them to achieve greatly. 

As I reflect upon my own secondary school experience, I was deprived of good teaching and a positive learning environment, as there were many inconsistencies: having ample supply teachers – a new on most days in fact – and teachers who were controlled by the class, rather than the other way around. The lack of sanctions allowed bad behaviour to thrive. On top of this, the curriculum was insufficient for preparing me for life beyond school. 

It is only the grace of God, heaps of self-learning, and incredible mentors later in my life that enabled me to press through many hardships in order to be where I am today, standing humbly as a husband, father, teacher and pastor. I say all of this to say we should prepare our youths from early on for life beyond education, to ensure they are well informed, educated, supported and encouraged. 

The brutal, horrific killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis was incredibly challenging to process, along with the outbreak of COVID-19.  Shortly before Mr Floyd’s death, I buried my uncle who died of the virus, and was being informed daily of numerous deaths, so close to home. 

However, Mr Floyd’s death stressed the racism present in this world and in the UK, and brought to light systemic racism, and the inequality Black people have faced for many years. 

I propose that the Christian response in light of the devastating pandemic and the current racial tensions is to proclaim the Gospel and seek social justice. The Gospel is for all people, all nations, EVERYONE! 

I am certainly not an advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement, but I am an advocate for social justice. 

So, whilst as Christians our first response should be for every person to hear and respond to the Gospel, to have a changed heart and a transformed mind, we should also seek for justice. Awareness should be proclaimed regarding racism, particularly subtle, systemic racism, and action must be taken for there to be equal opportunities for all people. More so, should this not also be proclaimed and lived out in church? 

Finally, Christians should be praying for the oppressors to encounter Jesus. In the Book of Acts, as a young man, the Apostle Paul persecuted and murdered Christians. However, he had an epic encounter with Jesus that completely transformed his life and became a Christian. What we learn is that we ought to be ready to see the Gospel transform people’s lives – even the worst of people. 

So back to the word I received on 1st January this year: “There is a baton being passed on from one generation to the next.” First and foremost, I pray for the youth of this generation that they will believe in the power of the Gospel and they will witness its effectual working much greater than the spread of coronavirus. I then pray for the youth to excel in every sphere of life, and that every barrier will be removed that holds back particular races from achieving and having equal opportunities. Finally, I pray for the love and influence of the Church, may we live in the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace, and for our love to be a witness to the world.

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