Like many in America, the events of this past week in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, and Dallas affected me deeply.
I watched the videos online from Baton Rouge and Minneapolis on Thursday only to be glued to a the television that night while the tragedy in Dallas was unfolding. My heart is very heavy for our nation. Even heavier right now for “the church.” Our nation needs the church to be what the Scriptures call it to be. For too long we have been silent on issues, or on the wrong side of issues, that have deeply impacted and changed our nation into what it has become today (See R. Albert Mohler’s “We Cannot Be Silent”). I take preaching the Bible very seriously and consider it a joyous labor to spend hours upon hours to prepare to preach three times a week. While I do not believe that politics or agendas should be preached, or that pastors should endorse candidates from the pulpit, it is unavoidable to speak about social problems because the Bible does just that.
This past Sunday I addressed the tragic events from this past week and the deaths of Alton Sterling (Baton Rouge), Philando Castile (Minneapolis), and officers Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa (Dallas) and then I led our congregation in a special time of prayer. For context, my congregation is located in the South. We are predominantly white as a church and town. I can joyfully affirm that our church is not perfect but that our church is very loving and desires to be an obedient and biblical church and by God’s grace we will continue being an outpost of the kingdom of God in our community.
I deeply respect the men and women who put on the uniform and protect and serve as officers in our country. I have had the great privilege of pastoring bailiffs, deputies, detectives, and officers and I have spent many hours praying for their safety, for wisdom in day to day matters, and that the Lord would use them as a means of bringing peace in the communities that I have lived in (Jeremiah 29:7). Even in the midst of the uncertainty and unrest within out nationI have family members who have felt the call to put on the uniform to be apart of the process of bringing peace and stability. While I’ll admit my praying has increased and that I fear for them, I understand that it is the Lord is answering my prayers for our nation by stirring the hearts of men and women to serve and protect for such a time as this.
The Dallas Police Department has been heroic. Chief David Brown has been heroic. The nation has much to learn from this great department and their leader. When gunshots began to ring out Thursday night officers of the Dallas Police Department were selfless in protecting protesters and running toward the fire. The actions of the gunman were demonic and satanic and have rightly been denounced by even those who were there protesting in Dallas. We mourn with the families who have lost loved ones and the officers who have lost partners and friends and continue to pray for those who were wounded by this attack.
While we pray for those mourning in Dallas, and for all of our officers nation-wide, we must also remember to pray for the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile as they mourn the loss of their loved ones.
I confess that the first time I heard the phrase “Black Lives Matter” I responded the same way most White-Americans have by rebutting the statement with “All Lives Matter.”
I confess that I really never “listened” to the cry and the heartbeat of those who have been mistreated and oppressed.
I confess to being part of the reason why a movement such as “Black Lives Matter” had to begin outside of evangelicalism because I, as an evangelical, was silent.
I have been reminded of Zechariah 7:9-14 which states:
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the LORD of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the LORD of hosts. “As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear,” says the LORD of hosts, “and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations that they had not known. Thus the land they left was desolate, so that no one went to and fro, and the pleasant land was made desolate.”
Israel was called to by the Lord to be light to the nations (Exodus 19) and yet the failed. How did they fail? By being people who were unjust and disobedient to God’s Word. The prophets Isaiah (1:17), Jeremiah (21:12), and Micah (6:8) called out to Israel to repent and to show mercy and to be just, but as Zechariah recalls…the message fell on deaf ears. In the spirit of Cain, Israel said “am I my brothers keeper? (Genesis 4)” In Matthew 23 :23 Jesus issues woes to the Pharisees because they neglected the weightier matters of the law…”justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”
That is why I could no longer be silent.
Israel was judged and exiled for neglecting the oppressed. The Pharisees were issued woes by our Lord Jesus because while they were religious on the outside they neglected justice and mercy. John 8 and 1 John 3 make it clear that the Pharisees followed after Cain and after Satan. As those who claim to be followers of Christ we must not follow in the steps of Israel and the Pharisees and ignore the Word of God. We must seek justice and love kindness and mercy and we must walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).
In the New Testament, Jesus sums up the law by stating we should “…love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31). Paul echoes this in Galatians 5:13-15 and Romans 12:
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
The problem with our nation is not a skin problem, it is not a political problem, it is a sin problem. The Church has THE message to address this sin problem…it is the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-6). This message must be preached (Romans 10) but it must also be lived (Romans 12).
In my sermon I echoed the words of Mika Edmondson who states that while “the church cannot affirm [the] Black Lives Matter leaders’ view of sexuality. We must maintain a biblically rooted sexual ethic. Nevertheless, we must critically engage the ethical questions they raise and decry the injustices they’ve highlighted.” Edmondson also stalest that…
…Black Lives Matter does not mean “black lives matter only.” It means “black lives matter too.” It’s a contextualized statement, like saying “children’s lives matter.” That doesn’t mean adult lives don’t matter. But in a culture that demeans and disparages them, we understand we have to say forthrightly and particularly that children’s lives matter. In the face of a historic and contemporary context that has uniquely disparaged black life as not worth valuing or protecting in the same way as others, they are saying black lives matter just as much as every other life. Ironically, saying “Black Lives Matter” is really a contextualized way of saying, “All Lives Matter…”
“The Black Lives Matter movement is best understood as one modern expression of a 350-year-old struggle to affirm the dignity of black life in a society that has systematically and historically denied it. The black church has been its most consistent champion, providing the theological foundation and often the only platform for the full affirmation of the humanity and dignity of African Americans.”
Edmondson is helpful in pointing out the main goals of the “Black Lives Matter” movement are
- To make the suffering of the oppressed visible and unable to be communally ignored
- To see black liberation as a key to communal liberation for all peoples.
- To reject social passivity on the one hand and violent militancy on the other.
In these, the church should agree and should proclaim more loudly than any movement of its kind. To this end Edmondson states”
“There are enough major differences to say Black Lives Matter is not an extension or rebirth of the Civil Rights Movement. Still, I strongly recommend full engagement with the concept and critical engagement with the movement, especially since there’s no evangelical alternative to Black Lives Matter. It grieves me deeply to say there’s no evangelical movement robustly, consistently, and practically affirming the value of disparaged black people. So we must be careful how we criticize Black Lives Matter in the absence of an evangelical alternative.”
To that end I called our church to engage. Not to blindly affirm all actions or statements made by the leaders of the “Black Live Matter” movement, but to speak louder and more passionately that black lives really do matter.
So how do we respond to the events of the past week?
We do not respond like Cain by asking “am I my bother’s keeper.” No, instead…
We weep with those who weep…we be open to correction…we engage racial tension…we submit to the entirety of Scripture…we pray to Jesus, who is the only one who can empathize and bring healing…we preach and live lives that reflect the coming kingdom of Jesus…and we love because Christ first loved us.
Take time and read from some very helpful resources listed below.
****“Is Black Lives Matter the New Civil Rights Movement?”
****“Ugly Stain, Beautiful Hope: My Response to Mika Edmondson”
“How Can Blacks and Whites Stand Together on Racial Injustice?”
“The Recent Shootings and What to Say This Sunday”
“How to Pray in Our Time of National Crisis”
“Police Shootings, Racial Justice, and the Church”
“Can We Weep Together? Bringing Peace to Racial Pain”
“5 ways to respond to recent violence”
“Weeping with those who weep”
“How Pastors Can Address the Shootings This Sunday”
“How to pray for the police”
“A pastor’s thoughts on the recent tragedies”
“Black and Tired, Blue in the Face: An Evangelical Response to the Shootings”
Per the Facebook page of the Dallas Police Department donations to assist the families of the officers who were slain and wounded can be made at http://atodallas.org/; http://www.dallasfoundation.org/; or www.dallasfof.org