George Zimmerman was found not-guilty of all charges related to killing Trayvon Martin in February of 2012. Zimmerman, who has no known history of hatred toward African Americans, was told by 9-1-1 responders not to pursue Martin while on watch in a Florida neighborhood; however, Zimmerman proceeded to fight with and to eventually shoot the unarmed young man.
According to the “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida, a person is not required to retreat from an assailant in a lawfully occupied location and can use deadly force to defend themselves. Zimmerman, who was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges, says he does not believe he was wrong to shoot Martin. John Piper, a well-known Christian leader, disagrees; in an interview on DesiringGod.org, Piper says he thinks that Zimmerman should not have followed Martin because he had been told by police not to do so.
Piper maintains that Zimmerman’s ‘not guilty’ verdict doesn’t mean that he is not guilty of sin for his actions. He says that the church has an opportunity to share the Gospel with those incensed by this trial - “Christians, who have a high view of the Bible and high view of God’s justice, and that Jesus Christ is going to be the judge of all people someday have a very important message because justice will be done…either the sins of George Zimmerman will be on Jesus on the cross because George Zimmerman has humbled himself, repented of his sin, trusted in Jesus, and made Him his Lord and Savior by faith, or he will suffer in hell, forever, for all of his sins, including these – that’s the choice in front of all of us.”
He also believes that there is a historically “disproportionate finding of guilt for blacks and less guilt for whites” when cases are tried. Piper has written a book on racial reconciliation called “Bloodlines,” and he also wrote an article entitled “Trayvon Martin, Race, and the Gospel” after the young man was shot in 2012.
President Obama also addressed the issue in an extensive statement from the White House: “The African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away,” he said. The President explained that many African American men have been demeaned because of the color of their skin – for example, they often hear doors lock when they cross the street in front of a car. “Those sets of experiences inform how the African American community interprets what happened one night in Florida,” he said.
Piper thinks that Christians ought to respond to this tragedy with much empathy. He cited Hebrews 13:3 -“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (English Standard Version). Christians should mourn over this loss as if it were their own son or daughter whose life was suddenly taken, he said.