by Pastor Steven Bruce
These past few months, we have all seen an enormous amount of suffering, pain, anger, uncertainty, fear, and even death. We live in a broken world, we’ve always known that, but for many of us, this is perhaps the most vivid demonstration we’ve had to endure. We’ve seen physical, emotional, and financial suffering that this global crisis has brought. We’ve seen our lives and community disrupted. We know many continue to suffer, and over 100,000 have lost their lives due to COVID-19. This breaks my heart. But as a Christ-follower, I need to do more than shed a tear.
Right now, there are some of us who live in fear of our freedoms being taken away. For some, that means the freedom to move about as we wish, but for others, it’s the basic freedom to stay alive. My heart SHOULD be broken. But the world needs more than my broken heart.
It’s easy, when we are faced with these different situations, to do 1 of 2 things:
1. Lash Out
2. Tune Out (Ignore)
Neither one of these is right. And I want to speak boldly enough to say that both are sin. We are in a country that has enormous power and advantages, but with that power comes a responsibility to recognize that as a follower of Jesus Christ, I was never promised “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” My King is not here on earth, and I am part of a Kingdom that doesn’t have a flag as a symbol, but a cross. Nor was I promised freedom from pain or persecution or tyranny. What I am promised is that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12)
To that end, I want to say that my heart breaks. My heart breaks for the division that exists, even among believers. While we don’t have to agree on everything, we must agree to stand for the teachings of Jesus, the heart of the gospel and the mission of the church. Can we, as a collective church, across the miles, unite around our shared gospel mission and honor each other, even when we disagree? As a wise mentor once told me, “keep the main thing the main thing.” What’s the main thing? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength. Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31)
So my heart breaks. But the world needs more than my tears.
Last week, my heart broke again for those who face daily persecution that I will never fully understand, simply because of the color of their skin. The recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd are cause for deep grief for ongoing racial injustice. This isn’t a political issue (although I recognize it is often politicized). It’s a matter of right and wrong. Racism is wrong. It is evil. And I have been personally convicted that simply believing that fact isn’t enough. Not acting like a racist isn’t living in opposition to racism. As a Christ-follower, I am called to more. I grew up in and among, and being influenced by, people of color who were mentors, teachers, friends, who lived with a burden I will never have to bear. Yet, I have lived most of my life under the illusion, the ignorance, that today this “isn’t that big of a deal anymore.” I should know better. It’s so easy to ignore a problem that doesn’t seem to directly affect you. But that isn’t an excuse. I will call it what it is: sin. Racism is sin. Ignoring it is also sin. And I need to repent of that. Maybe you do too?
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.
You’ve probably heard that quote before. At a moment in history, these words helped bring about change. But they didn’t completely fix the problem. Perhaps those words can bring about change again.
I’m not saying I have all the answers. I’m not here to tell you the specific ways each believer in Jesus should respond to injustice. Each of us has a whole range of options for living in opposition to racism, including educating ourselves about racism, being involved in our communities, dedicating prayer time to this specific issue, speaking out on social media and in real life, and more. But while I may not have all the answers, I can’t keep avoiding the questions. Christ-followers have been called, all of us, regardless of our social standing, economic level, political affiliation, or the color of our skin, to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.
Proverbs 31:8 tells us: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.”
Ephesians 5:11 tells us: “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”
White people . . . don’t ignore this issue because you think it doesn’t affect you. Don’t ignore it because you haven’t seen it. A trusted friend posted this week that “Racism is a white problem that white people must fix.” It’s time to stop minimizing, justifying, blaming and ignoring racial injustice and insist on change. Again, I’m not here to detail how each person should insist on that change. But I believe it starts with each of us searching our own heart, repenting of anything we need to repent of, and then turning. That’s what repenting means: turn away; and not just turn away and ignore, but turn away and move towards the light. Move towards living and loving those who look different than you do. Ask questions. Make an effort. Don’t tune out.
I believe Romans chapter 12 is a word from the Lord for all of us today, and actually, chapters 12-15 in their entirety. No matter what your reaction is to what you’re seeing from a distance or experiencing up close, I believe this is for you. This is for me. This is for us.
1 “Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
3 For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. 4 Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, 5 in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. 6 According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the proportion of one’s faith; 7 if service, use it in service; if teaching, in teaching; 8 if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness.
9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. 10 Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Take the lead in honoring one another. 11 Do not lack diligence in zeal; be fervent in the Spirit; serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. 13 Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. 18 If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord. 20 But if your enemy is hungry, feed him.
If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing
you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.
21 Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.
ROMANS 12 (CSB)
May I, may we, not lash out, not tune out, but STEP OUT; into loving others as much as ourselves, with words and actions.
May we all do our part to overcome evil with good.