I have tried over the past week to sit down and collect my thoughts and try to write some of what has been running through my mind and heart over the last week as I have, along with the rest of the world, observed the events that have unfolded in our country. Especially concerning the shooting deaths of Alton Stirling, Philando Castile as well as the shooting deaths of five police officers in Dallas who were killed in the midst of a peaceful demonstration.
This blog post is in no way a statement of what side I am on regarding these horrific cases and the many like it. And whether we want to admit it or not, there are sides. But what we need to realize is the fact that these sides have existed and have been present long before these incidents. I am a pastor, the brother of a police officer, the friend of many who are from different nationalities and backgrounds and the son of two parents who were not born in this country, so all of those things seem to flood my mind as I try to discern and come to grips with events like this and I am sure it’s the same for many of you.
So again this blog is NOT about what side I am on. It actually grieves me that there even has to be a side. So for the sake of clarity I repeat, this blog is not about “my side”. In fact, part of what grieves my heart is that there are so many “sides” in events like this. I am seeking desperately to remember and remain on God’s side of these unfortunate events. I am praying that God keeps me in a place that is cognizant of the fact that ultimately in my life there were two sides…darkness and light, bondage and freedom, truth and lies, death and life and before the Gospel, I was on the wrong side. My life was filled with darkness, bondage, lies and death with my imminent reality being a Christ-less eternity, BUT GOD in His grace through His Gospel rescued me. I don’t ever want to lose sight of that and I desperately want to remain on the side of light, freedom, truth and life, especially in moments like this.
This blog post is also not an attempt to bring closure to these events as though to say let’s hurry up and turn the page, and go back to our regularly scheduled reading of statuses concerning people’s workouts, food and/or recaps of the latest Bachelorette episode. No, my heart and hope is to just set out a sober call to us as the Church and the people of God. I stated that I wanted to be on God’s side as I come to and continue to reflect upon the events of the past week and the real growing possibility of similar events or retaliatory type of events that may come in the future, because it’s only in the Gospel that I can find rest for my angst and peace for my troubled soul. So with that stated I humbly and prayerfully share these thoughts that I hope will in some way cause us to slow down and reflect, and then lead us to more earnest and deep prayer as the Lord brings us to a place of resolute hope in Him. As I consider and view these events from God’s side and through the lens of the Gospel I must remember that…
#1. The hostility between people due to race, color, religion, and/or ethnicity is not a new problem, (though it may feel like one because it’s become more relevant to us). But it is a real problem and tension that is part of the basis of Jesus’ mission.
The Apostle Paul in the Book of Ephesians tells us that the agent of reconciliation between people groups is in fact Jesus. He writes in chapter two verse fourteen, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,” (NIV).
There has never been “the days of yester year” whatever that means. There have only been two individuals in the history of humanity that ever experienced the reality of life without hostility and they blew it. Their names were Adam and Eve, the place was the Garden of Eden, the time was the beginning of the world, the result was sin and brokenness. Sin has given birth to all sorts of diseases, like racism and hostility. Trying to refute the reality that there is in fact a wall or trying to make light of others whose lives are in fact impacted on a daily level by the wall of hostility and racism is not the answer, and we must see that it only perpetuates the problem further. The answer for our growing problem is and will forever be Jesus.
I know what you’re thinking-“I know that, but…” and there in lies the problem. Our “but” if we are not careful can turn into a sign that we either don’t truly believe there is an actual problem, don’t think it can ever change or don’t actually care because we ourselves aren’t being impacted, or don’t care about those whose lives are dramatically effected by such a wall of division. The Gospel breaks down walls, and reconciles people together and we must never lose sight of that truth.
#2. God has and will never be silent on the issues of injustices in all it’s forms (whether it be the abuse of authority that results in the unfair treatment or killings of black males, any and all forms of unjust treatment of people or the assaults and murderous slayings of police officers) and God desires that His Church act as His voice of Truth while representing His heart of mercy and love.
The Church cannot afford to sit this one out, so to speak. This is not the season or time to fade into the background and hope the current narrative, temperature or reality of our time some how changes. We have been called by God to a relationship with Himself, through the finished work of Jesus Christ and we have been commissioned and granted power to be His agents of change, His mouthpieces and His ambassadors. God’s Word is clear, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). Now this is not a license to scream at the culture, but rather a command to be present in the midst of the culture’s weeping. It’s a call to move with greater intentionality towards those who are hurting, marginalized or mistreated and seek to bring hope and help in whatever form the Lord will lead or call us to. We have been instructed to speak Truth in the midst of the culture’s twisted agendas, fully aware that such a stance may draw critics as well as opposition. So through the power of the Holy Spirit, we must bring with that Truth both boldness and graciousness…The Apostle Peter wrote, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” (1 Pet. 3:15–17).
God has ordained us as His people to stand as those committed to being a conduit of His grace and love that ultimately brings reconciliation with Him and opens the door for reconciliation to be had with others. We must take to heart the words of the Apostle Paul, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:20-21)
I know the problem is so big…I get it, but we mustn’t allow the immensity of the problems we see around us be the excuse for our inactivity and disobedience. Be fully present, be committed, be sensitive, be vocal in both your words of Truth seasoned with grace and be LOUD in your selfless acts of love and service that speak to your love for God and more importantly His radical, furious love for people.
#3. A day is coming that is much greater than this day and the vision of that coming day is what fuels our missional zeal and aligns our hearts with the Father.
Hopefully you know the day I am referring to is the day that the tension of this now and not yet is finally lifted and the yearnings of our hearts to be home with Him will be fully experienced without hindrance or delay. That DAY in all it’s glory will surpass, trump and close out this Day of pain and suffering. That DAY will bring full understanding to all of the Father’s providential and sovereign workings in human history. That DAY will usher in a new day for us and will open for us the place and person we were designated to be in relationship with, God the Father. And as I close let this picture encourage you, break your heart and fan your passion to share the loving, victorious Gospel of Jesus Christ…
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” (Revelation 9:9-12)
Our hope is in the One who is the finisher of our faith. Our hope is in the One who reigns right now and forever, so let’s fix our eyes on Him and let’s seek to live as sent ones in a world that is desperate for hope, change, healing and joy. We may not know exactly what change needs to be brought, but we do know that the Gospel is relevant, is powerful and is the source of real change, so let’s speak GOOD NEWS. Let the redeemed of the Lord SAY SO…