When I saw the video of George Floyd’s arrest and subsequent death there was a flood of emotion and a flurry of thoughts. In the wake of more terrible news across the United States of America, I realize there is little that I can say that will change what is happening. I also realize that many are wondering what this all means and how any of it will ever change. Some of you know what it means because you have experienced acts like these and you live in fear of those things. There is little that I can say that will change what has happened, however, I do think there are steps that we can take.
We have a race problem because we believe there are races.
We have a race problem because we believe there are race(s). There are not races. There is one race – the human race. Whenever we look at each other, treat each other, categorize one another, have bias for or against one another, over generalize one another and draw conclusions about one another based on the color of skin, the style we exhibit or even the lifestyles we have – we have played into the problem. We do not have multiple races. Yes, we have ethnicity, culture, and even skin tone, but those things do not define anyone like the word HUMAN! Each person is a HUMAN. So, when you treat or interact with someone, talk about someone, draw conclusions about someone or even generalize someone in your mind based on skin, you are demonstrating your heart struggle with the sin of partiality (more on that to come). God has clearly created us from one blood. The Scripture is full of references to this. Acts 17:26 states:
From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.
So what is the solution? First, believe that we are all from the same Father and we share commonality in that we are made in the image of God. Stop valuing or devaluing each other based on experience, skin tone, or anything else. Value one another based on one truth – we are made in the image of God.
Solution #1 – Believe what God says about our shared origin and act accordingly.
Second, we have a race problem because we have a heart problem.
The sin of racism at it’s core is favoritism or partiality. If you treat one person a certain way based on any number of issues – gender, skin, economic or social status, etc – you are practicing partiality. Now, here is where it gets hard – do you find yourself uncomfortable around people who are homeless? Do you get nervous and act differently around people from another culture? Are you willing to treat a person who is a refuge or immigrant different than someone you might consider “legal”? If so, those things reveal the real heart struggle of partiality. This is where we need to look at allowing the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and having an honest take on what He reveals.
Solution #2 – Honesty and Holy Spirit heart searching is required.
Third, the only solution with past, present, future and eternal ramifications is the heart change brought about by the gospel of Jesus Christ, but that interlocks with working toward justice.
Yes, we should speak out against injustice. Yes, we should hold accountable those that are doing wicked things. Yes, we should work to see structural change in our society, in our country, states and cities. Please hear me when I say this – yes these are important. However, the only thing that will bring lasting change – change with healing and hope – is the heart change that is brought by faith in the work of Jesus. This change is a work in progress and the church of the 21st Century is proof of that. We are not perfect, but as we lean into the gospel we see Jesus’ heart for listening to our brothers and sisters who are being mistreated. As we lean into the gospel and learn to apply it we see that we can serve those who are oppressed, depressed, downtrodden and even forgotten. We (the Church) need to remember that the solution is calling people to repentance of their sins and faith in Jesus Christ. Any other solution does not produce the full spectrum of change needed.
So, Christians, we need to make sure that we are working toward the spread of the gospel. We need to be building helpful and grace oriented relationships to point people toward Jesus. But don’t miss the call to work toward justice wherever possible. I love Tim Keller’s statement on the gospel and justice:
“To work against social injustice and to call people to repentance before God interlock theologically.” – Timothy Keller
So yes, God wants us to call people toward Jesus and I believe that is the primary calling of the church. But I also believe that there are many opportunities for us to work so that those who are the least of these (Matthew 25:40) know that we are for them and not against them and better yet – that God is for them and not against them.
Solution #3 – Share the Gospel, call to repentance and do justly.
One final note on this last point. Sometimes doing justly means holding people accountable. This is not fun or enjoyable in any sense, but it is imperative. I am a Christian leader. If I ever break the law, or have a moral failure of some sort, I expect to be held accountable. Other pastors and leaders have had failures, but that does not lessen my trust in other pastors or Christian leaders – it is only a sober reminder of the need to take heed to my own heart and the true teaching of God’s word. With that in mind, where other officials fail, I can decry the failures while still trusting the other authorities God has allowed. To declare the death of George Floyd unjust – does not diminish my respect for police officers – many of whom are my friends and I trust. My respect for the role – whether pastor, officer or government official does not stop me from speaking out when something is wrong – it actually encourages it. In other words, speaking out against injustice, does not contradict my deep respect for the role or those who put their lives on the line to carry it out.