This is a wild season to be a pastor. From pandemics to protesting, this year has brought a little bit of everything it seems. Most leaders in any field today are quick to acknowledge that leading through the heap of horrific realities of 2020 is beyond challenging. Every decision these days is highly scrutinized and put under a microscope, making many decisions extremely polarizing. This includes everything from how to re-open church buildings all the way to how to speak on racial tensions. COVID-19 remains an exponential heightener of emotions and only serves to multiply frustrations for people.
There are people frustrated with me regarding the ways I have spoken about racism in the past few weeks. This frustration has been targeted either at how I have spoken all the way to how much I have spoken, including things I have said in worship services to social media posts by me or my staff. I have had many conversations with other pastors and from these dialogues, I find with certainty that I am not alone. Therefore, I feel compelled and called to respond in love and truth to the expressed frustrations I have received. I do so in order to shepherd our church family well and to encourage other pastors and leaders with whom I share this weight.
I feel the full weight of each and every word especially during such a season as this, so recently our elders gathered to read, dialogue, contribute, and collectively stand together behind what I am sharing with you below. We wholeheartedly believe that if the church does not speak during such a time as this with the only true and lasting answer, Jesus Christ, then who will? We desire to shepherd and lead the Body of Christ to the heart of Jesus and ask you to humbly, prayerfully join us on that journey. If you haven’t already, we encourage you to listen to my recent sermon called “Choose Jesus, Not Sides” (link at the end of this post).
Below are six questions (or statements) along with my response:
Pastor, you’re talking a lot about racism. Why aren’t you speaking about other issues?
I work hard to speak God’s grace and truth into the many important issues as they arise in our nation and world. But I’ll do my best to answer this question with another question. Does giving special attention to one of my three children in need mean that I don’t care about my other two children? If one of my children is hurting, I don’t wait to help the hurting child until I first tell my other children that even though I’m going to help their sibling, it doesn’t mean I don’t still care about them, too. Doing something about one currently present real issue does not mean you don’t care about other real issues just as much.
Jesus demonstrated this frequently as He went from town to town meeting specific needs as they arose. In fact, Jesus tells a parable about a lost sheep in Luke 15:1-7 where He advocates for leaving the ninety-nine for the one. When Jesus stopped as recorded in John 8:1-11 to say, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” regarding the woman caught in adultery, it wasn’t because He no longer cared about healing the sick, teaching the crowds, or paying for the sin of the rest of humanity.
Those insisting that Christian leaders standing against racism today do so at the expense of caring about other issues are likely those who would have interrupted Jesus during the sermon on the mount. As Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn,” (Matthew 5:4) perhaps they’d have interrupted and said, “Hold on Jesus, blessed are the ______, too.”
Jesus frequently stood for those who were hurting and spoke up for those who would see no one else speak up for them. As Christians, we are called to do the same (Proverbs 31:8-9). According to the ministry and methods of Jesus, speaking to one timely, relevant issue does not disparage other issues. The time many are spending to condemn others for the stands they are taking could easily be used to create the capacity to both listen to them AND stand for any other issues God has laid on your heart in addition.
May we be known for what we are for, not just for being against the stands of others for godly causes that we perhaps just don’t fully understand. My heart breaks as I see so much so much social media sniping of people attempting to stand for what is right. That sniping is too often done without attention given to the message or methods of Christ. May we stop interrupting Jesus!
Pastor, why are you being political?
I am in no way being political. I am being biblical. I frequently remind our church family not to place hope in the kings or kingdoms of man but to remain focused on the Kingdom of God and the King of Kings. My hope is not in politics or legislation. My hope is not in the left or the right, red or blue, democrat or republican. My hope is solely in the Kingdom of God and in the name of Jesus Christ. Jesus is not returning on the backs of elephants or donkeys! That is the hope that I seek to proclaim in addressing any and every situation, challenge, or issue. I seek to be biblical, not political. The issue of racism is not a political issue, it is a biblical issue (Galatians 3:28).
One of the most intricately crucial biblical doctrines in scripture is the doctrine called Imago Dei – being made in the image of the almighty God (Genesis 1:27). Above all the rest of God’s creation, humans carry the highest of value. The human race is an expression of the very character and attributes of God. Based on this all-important biblical doctrine, every single person carries intrinsic worth and value and therefore must be treated with honor, respect, dignity, and significance. To do anything less is to disrespect the very character of God.
The videos of recent tragic murders like that of George Floyd are horrific, evil attacks on God’s own image. These image-bearers being brutally murdered regardless of the context is repulsive and representative of both current and decades-long realities that the black community has endured. Millions of image-bearing human beings are in agonizing pain due to these evil injustices that represent centuries of attack on the image of God. As believers, we simply must speak for those bearing His image. Further, we are called and commanded to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).
Pastor, we should be “colorblind.” It is divisive when you point out our differences.
Biblically speaking, there is only one race, the human race. I know that I have often misconstrued that truth into an attempt to live “colorblind,” saying I don’t see color. In studying God’s plan for His creation, I have learned that God certainly is not colorblind. We should not be either. He created the human race with intentional diversity that is beautiful. Unity does not equal uniformity. Our differences are what make our unity as God’s creation so uniquely powerful. Revelation 5:9-10 reminds us of how all of these unique differences will be brought together in Heaven. I believe we are supposed to practice for this now while on earth. I have learned to celebrate the variety that God has colored through His creation. A part of doing so means acknowledging what makes us all unique, especially our unique challenges, injustices, and pain.
Pastor, why are you joining a “cultural trend” singling out one race?
Every ethnicity matters to Him equally as we are all made in His image as a part of the human race (see the above about the Image of God). As stated previously, in giving intentional care to one part of God’s creation in a time of need, I am not neglecting the rest of His creation. If you are pro-life as I am, we must stand for all life. If all lives matter, then certainly black lives matter. I say “black lives matter” not as an endorsement of any earthly institution or seeking allegiance with political issues, but rather standing for and aligning with my Creator’s value placed on all human life. Dr. Voddie Baucham recently stated, “I won’t and can’t live in a world where before I can quote a right and true statement by someone, I have to retrace their life to be sure that I am confident they went to Heaven when they died.”
Such values go far beyond three words to me and to our church. For years, we have been partnering with other churches and organizations in our city not just with words but with deeds to demonstrate this same value. This is not a new venture for me or for our church family, just a season where awareness of it is heightened. While our culture seeks to tear us apart, I believe the God of Heaven desires to bring us together in His love. He wants to use His church to build the bridges necessary to do so. 2 Corinthians 5:18 reminds us of this all-important truth, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
Not every ethnicity feels the weight of oppression like the black community does today and has experienced for decades. Jesus constantly gave intentional time and attention to specific people who were in pain, spoke up for those whom no one else was speaking for, and interceded on behalf of all people. Further, the Bible is clear, we are called to mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15) and bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). That is not a gray area in scripture. The command to love one another as Jesus has loved all of us (John 13:34) is a mandate that I refuse to neglect. As followers of Jesus, we must insist that every person be treated with equality and respect. Doing so is following Jesus’ command, which is quite the opposite of getting swept away into some cultural, secular trend.
Pastor, what about those impacted by the looting, riots, and the police?
Police officers, business owners, or others impacted by the unpeaceful or violent protests are of no less value than our black brothers and sisters. All people deserve to be treated with honor and respect. To do all of the above simultaneously is not contradictory. It is not an either/or but a both/and. In 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke this truth during a season much like ours today. He stated that “riots are socially destructive and self-defeating” while also affirming that “a riot is the language of the unheard.” Our church has corporately prayed by name for everyone who has been impacted by this season of pain. We care deeply for our law enforcement while simultaneously standing with those who are in pain, listening to the cries of the unheard and mourning with those who mourn. When one of us hurt, we all hurt together.
Pastor, what should I do to help?
Fight for unity more than you fight for being right. Choose Jesus, not sides. I have shed many tears and my heart is truly broken over how I have seen so many in the Body of Christ, His Church, do things that sure seem to push aside the very love and grace we all desperately need and have received from God. We are called to love those around us as God has loved us, yet so many posts or comments I read or hear seem to be jumping to tear others down. May we as believers lead the way in seeking to understand, love, and be light in a world that is experiencing so much darkness. If we look for reasons to criticize and accuse before looking to love, it truly harms the bride of Christ. Thankfully, Jesus will make it all right one day but as we await that day, our call is to look for ways to build up, not to tear down. Galatians 5:13-15 reminds us of how to use our freedom, for loving not for devouring, lest we become “consumed by one another.” Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us about our heart, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” If we cannot even understand our own heart, we must be careful about judging the intent of the hearts of others. Show some grace because you, like me, require plenty of it!
What you magnify will multiply. That means if you look for reasons to throw stones, you will find plenty of targets. That also means if you look for reasons to find common ground, you will find opportunities to be unified just as Jesus prayed for in John 17:20-21. Look for conversations and stop hurling comments. We can’t lose the art of conversation in the age of clicks and comments. Look for opportunities to love, not to win an argument. Look for ways to be Jesus. Ask yourself, is this post, comment, thought, or deed one that Jesus modeled or would put forth today? Remember that you are not right about everything, nor am I. Remember that Romans 5:8 tells us that “while we were sinners” (that means we were wrong), “Christ died for us.” Jesus stepped into a world full of wrong people and loved us through it all. Let’s do the same and love people the way Jesus loves us (1 John 4:19).
Micah 6:8 NIV
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”