To my beloved Alameda church family,
Due to some health issues (I’m o.k. but I am sidelined for a bit) I will not be able to preach on Sunday, so I wanted to share a few thoughts here about what is happening in our nation regarding racial tensions and injustice. Last Sunday we talked about the Beatitude that says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Today, we are mourning the loss of innocent lives, our fractured society, the absence of love and peace, and the sin of humanity, including our own, that drives it all. And if you remember last week’s sermon, the “comfort” Jesus spoke of is the comfort referred to in Isaiah 61 that looks forward to the “year of the Lord’s favor” when the Kingdom of God comes in its fullness, of which the arrival of the Messiah is the “ushering in.”
In other words, the balm we seek for our hurting hearts and the healing agent our society desperately needs is found in the sincere embrace of Jesus and his teachings. Not only does God work through Jesus to set things right in a fallen and broken world, he invites his people to join him in that work. In fact, that’s what it means to be a Christian. As such, we have taken on the mission of God as the mission of our lives, determined to stand for and actively seek the things of God and the values of his Kingdom, including reconciliation.
So, how can we do that at this time and place?
- Go back to the very beginning of the narrative of Scripture to recall that every human being is created in the image of God for the purpose of “imaging” God. This means that we believe that each and every person has intrinsic worth and value, and we “image” God by treating each other with the respect that worth and value deserves.
- Creation teaches us that our primary source of identity is rooted in our Creator, not in the gender, race, ethnicity, or status into which we were born. We must first see ourselves and others as fellow human beings who share a common ancestry – we are the beloved creation of God.
- But we are born with different skin color and languages – and this is to the glory of God! Scripture presents the diversity of creation as evidence of an imaginative, wise, and multi-faceted Creator who delights in the diversity of the nations. So, race is not wrong. Identifying with one’s race is not wrong. Being informed by one’s race is not wrong. Race is something that should be celebrated the way God celebrates it, but we must be careful not to make race an idol that we worship above the One who created the races.
- God’s plan of redemption can only be fulfilled through all the races and nations. Genesis 1-2, Genesis 12, Galatians 3:28, Revelation 21:22-26, as well as other passages of Scripture, speak to this truth. Therefore, if God’s desire is to gather people from all races and nations to himself then this is precisely the posture that we, as the people of God, should take with those who are different from us.
- In 2 Corinthians 5:15 the apostle Paul wrote this about Jesus: “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” This tells us that Jesus lived, loved, and died for all people, regardless of the social distinctions that have become so pronounced in our day. It also tells us that the Christian life is about living for Jesus and not for ourselves, meaning that we are called to do the things Jesus did, say the things Jesus said, and love the people Jesus loved. Along with our submission to Christ, we have laid down the carnal “glasses” through which we used to view the world and have put on the “Jesus lens.” As 2 Corinthians 5:16 says, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.”
- This means that part of the transformation of the heart that Jesus initiates in the life of the believer is a transformation of how we view other people. This is why racism and the like is anti-gospel, as well as the antithesis of God’s will.
- It also governs how we navigate our differences as people. One of the many things we learn in Revelation is that the King does not “wage war” the way the world does. Instead of relying on violent expressions of power, King Jesus wins through acts of self-sacrifice that bring lasting peace.
- So, as Christians, we must make this our playbook when dealing with “the other.” As we stand for and work for the justice that marks God’s Kingdom, we must employ the methods of that Kingdom. Therefore, we must reject violent words and deeds.
- 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Sincere love for God manifests itself in sincere love for others (as the creation of God) which overcomes our fear of “the other.” In this moment, we must lean into our love for God, not our fear of the unknown. Fear can cause us to react to events in ways that exacerbate harm; love can cause us to be proactive in ways that help heal wounds.
- Jesus said that his disciples are “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14) and that they should “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). This brings us full circle to the first item on this list of thoughts: We were created in the image of God for the purpose of “imaging” God to the rest of the world. In these dark times, we have a great opportunity to shine the light of Christ brightly in a way that lets others see just how healing the love of Christ can be. This will indeed bring glory to the Father. So, please let your light shine in your personal interactions with all people, in your private and public comments, and in your social media posts.
If you’re wondering how any of the above statements fixes the systemic injustice and hatred that we are witnessing in our nation right now, remember that all things national start local. This is an opportunity for each of us to truly live out what we say we believe about the character and Gospel of Jesus Christ. And this is where change starts – with me and you doing what we can to “image” our Savior within our circles of influence. As Russell Moore recently wrote: “…structures and institutions are changed only by people. And people are only awakened to act when their consciences are enlivened to the moral stakes involved. That means that we can work for justice in the public arena as we learn to love one another in the personal arena, and vice-versa. The path ahead will be difficult, but it will require the Body of Christ – the whole Body of Christ – to call one another to moral awareness and action. That starts with acknowledging that we have a problem. When the videos are no longer viral, our witness must still be Christian.”
Alameda, consider this to be your call to moral awareness and action!
You don’t necessarily need that from me because you truly have a heart for being the hands and feet of Jesus in our community. So, let your mourning over our nation drive you deeper into the perfect love of Jesus that casts out fear so that you can shine the light of Christ even more brightly in the darkness.
I love you – every single one of you!