What more can be said than has been said? – The state of our country is devastating. When we look at the physical, financial, and emotional trauma of the coronavirus, it felt like a crippling blow. Yet without hardly a breath between, we then witnessed the murder of George Floyd, and a pent-up frustration exploded across the nation.
We should in no way condone looting and rioting, but the protests bring before us something long simmering on the backburner that we must confront in all its forms: racism.
I understand that there are many out there who are turned off by what they’ve been seeing, and there are many who read politics into the situation. I, for example, fundamentally disagree with defunding and villainizing the police, and I disagree with the idea that America is inherently racist through-and-through. However, that is a different discussion. The reality is that while we may not be sitting in the 60s or the era of slavery, racism is alive and well, and it is an evil that corrupts everything it touches.
To be sure, there are few things that stand so directly opposed to the gospel more than racism. When the Scriptures opened by detailing God as Creator over all, and then telling us that mankind was created in His image (Genesis 1:27), it definitively put to rest any idea that one human could in any way be lesser than another. What gives us worth and value is not skin color or wealth or social standing. Rather, what gives us inherent worth is being “fearfully and wonderfully made” in God’s image (Psalm 139:14).
Now, I doubt there is any believer who would disagree with those truths, but to simply not disagree is not enough. Consistently, the Church has been called to action. We are the sent ones. Look, for example, at the calling of Abraham at the beginning of Genesis 12. There, he was told that “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). The idea there is that Abraham was blessed in order to be a blessing, called through God’s unconditional grace to unconditionally spread the life and dignity and salvation found in God alone. Look also at the great commission given by Jesus at the end of Matthew 28, a command to go to all nations.
Or, when we look at Jesus, we see this command fulfilled and best exemplified when he donned our likeness and did not sit to dine with the wealthy and powerful, but when he spent his time with the social outcasts. To the lepers, to the woman with the discharge of blood and the Gentile demon-possessed outcast man in Mark 5, to even the unschooled disciples, Jesus constantly subverted the expected norms of culture to reach those on the outskirts. The reasons why are many, but one thing it unabashedly confirms to us is that even those we would consider lesser are those held in high esteem by the Almighty Creator and Sustainer of Heaven and Earth.
There is no racial injustice in the Kingdom of Heaven. There is no separation of classes, and no elevation given to the powerful or wise. Instead, as we read in the book of Revelation, all languages, tribes, tongues, and nations will be around the throne of God (Revelation 7:9). He comes with healing in His wings not for some but for all who call on Him, because His grace is unconditional and indiscriminate.
So when we see the anger and frustration spilling out in the form of fires and destruction, you can be disheartened, and you can think that perhaps the response has been overblown. But that’s not the issue. Rather, the heart of the matter is that there is no revising of the system and no political answer that will bring unity to people, because racial injustice is not a political matter but a moral matter.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”. The Declaration of Independence did not seek to invent rights from thin air; they based them on the supreme Word of God. Thus, a political solution was never meant to be the answer to equality, because equality was admittedly based on something great than America: the Bible.
So when we approach the outpouring of pain and hatred in this country, we must understand that despite having it embedded into our very DNA as a nation that all men are equal, we have seen that the hearts of mankind have embedded into their very DNA sin and iniquity. Therefore, the solution can never be to point to what could be. Rather, it is to point to what is.
In Christ Jesus, all men, women, and children, regardless of socio-economic status, regardless of skin color, regardless of intellect or anything else, are equal and valued as children of God, to be united forevermore. The only answer to the rot of racism is Jesus, for apart from him we will never be rid of injustice and inequity.
So what can we do? – We must begin by praying. Politically, you may be turned off by phrases like “Black lives matter”, but spiritually, the fact that the phrase exists should be gutting. It is true that violence has been done under that banner, but it is all the more true that there exist people in the greatest, freest, most prosperous country in this world that truly do not feel like their lives matter. There are those who are under direct threat of racism, and there are those who – even if they may not be directly affected by it – are scared simply because of the color of their skin. It proves definitively that no amount of material prosperity can bring inward unity.
As such, we must begin with prayer. Prayer for forgiveness against this unending evil, and prayer for a unity not based in the ideals of man but in the unchangeable Word of God. We only find true unity and true equality when joined together by the blood of Christ, who “has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14), so that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
Second, we must listen and learn. While I have not personally lived in a culture of racism, that does not mean it does not exist. Likewise, the only way to speak the hope of Jesus and the unity found in him is to understand the wound that it will heal. Instead of passing an immediate judgment as people, we must listen as Christians. James 1:19 commands, “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger”. Our initial response is usually to make a snap judgement, but the goal of God’s Kingdom is not to pick the right situation over the wrong but rather to bring the dead to life.
The Church is the picture of heaven that everyone craves. It’s the place of equality, the place of racial harmony. It is the ideal embedded into every hopefully heart. Therefore, the hope of the nation rests in Christ alone. We may weep and mourn at what we see, but we cannot move on. Instead, we must pray, listen, and speak to the world of the unifying Savior. Black, white, brown and others will only be unified when covered by red – the blood of Christ.
The pain and division coursing through our country right now is deeply heartbreaking, and for this blog I simply want to say two things. The first is that the racism that can sit in the heart of all humans should cause us to mourn and grieve. All politics aside, both racism and the rioting, looting, and destruction we're seeing are antithetical to everything Scripture commands. As such, I urge you to pray. Pray for unity in this country. Pray for healing, but a healing that comes from God. Pray for the Church to speak decisively into this pain, but that we will eagerly listen and learn how and when to speak. Pray that God will crush racism and racist ideas, for even a whiff of racism stands completely opposed to the gospel. Pray for our government, but pray that the Church will be active in supplying a place of grace and healing. Finally, pray that God’s will is clearly visibly throughout even this.
Our hope is not in a unity structured by borders and leaders, but a unity established by the blood of Christ. “9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen’” (Revelation 7:9-12).
The world does not need our politics or opinions; it needs our Savior.
The second thing - which I almost hesitate to include with the above - is entirely unrelated. However, a hot topic today is how to approach today's politics as Christians. I posted my thoughts in a previous blog, but to offer more clarity on what I was getting at, I’ve included an excerpt from a question-and-answer time with John MacArthur, who – as always – states the idea quite clearly.
QUESTION: “Do you believe it’s biblical when some pastors in America are continuing to hold services even though the government instructs them not to?”
MACARTHUR: “Yeah, let me make very clear this question because it keeps coming up. If the government told us not to meet because Christianity was against the law, if the government told us not to meet because we would be punished, fined for our religion and our religious convictions, we would have no option but to meet anyway. And that takes you to the fifth chapter of Acts where the leaders of Israel said to the apostles, ‘Stop preaching.’ And Peter’s response was very simple. He said, ‘You judge whether we obey God or men,’ then he went right out and preached.
If the government tells us to stop worshiping, stop preaching, stop communicating the gospel, we don’t stop. We obey God rather than men. We don’t start a revolution about that; the apostles didn’t do that. If they put us in jail, we go to jail and we have a jail ministry. Like the apostle Paul said, ‘My being in jail has fallen out to the furtherance of the gospel.’ So we don’t rebel, we don’t protest. You don’t ever see Christians doing that in the book of Acts. If they were persecuted, they were faithful to proclaim the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ even if it took them to jail; and that’s been the pattern of true Christianity through all the centuries.
But this is not that. Might become that in the future. Might be overtones of that with some politicians. But this is the government saying, ‘Please do this for the protection of this society.’ This is for greater societal good, that’s their objective. This is not the persecution of Christianity. This is saying, ‘Behave this way so that people don’t become ill and die.’
Now you may not think that you’re going to have that impact on somebody, you’re not going to be the one that becomes a carrier and causes something to be passed on to somebody else down the road and somebody dies. You may think that’s going to be you. But you cannot defy the government. And I don’t think pastors should do this. You cannot defy the government and say, ‘We’re going to meet anyway because God has commanded us to meet, no matter what damage we do to people’s lives.’
I mean, what should mark Christians is mercy, compassion, love, kindness, sacrifice. How are you doing that if you flaunt the fact that you’re going to meet; and essentially you’re saying, ‘We disregard the public safety issue.’ You don’t really want to say that. That does not help the gospel cause.
What helps the gospel cause is to say, ‘Of course, we don’t want to be the cause of anyone’s sadness, anyone’s sorrow, anyone’s sickness, and certainly anyone’s death. So we will gladly comply.’ This is consistent with what Scripture says, that we are to live quiet and peaceable lives in the society in which we live. We don’t rebel, we don’t do protests, we don’t fight the government, we don’t harass and harangue, we don’t march, we don’t get in parades, we don’t stop traffic; we lead quiet and peaceable lives, and we pray for those in authority over us, and we submit ourselves to them.
In Romans chapter 13, Paul says, ‘You submit yourself to the government, the powers that be.’ But Peter adds to that, ‘You submit yourself to the governor and the king,’ whoever that personal authority is. I’ve heard people say, ‘Well, this isn’t constitutional.’ That’s irrelevant. That is completely irrelevant. When you’re told by an authority to do something and it’s for the greater good of the society physically, that’s what you do because that’s what Christians would do. We are not rebels, and we’re not defiant, and we don’t flaunt our freedom at the expense of someone else’s health.
How do we back out of that to communicate the love of Christ? Look, Jesus came and basically banished disease from Israel. He was a healer. The last thing the church of Jesus Christ would want to be is a group of people that lived in defiance and made somebody sick, caused somebody’s death. So you restrain yourself from that.
Again, the issue is so clear that even going back to Richard Baxter back in 1600s, Richard Baxter has a great section in one of his books where he says, ‘If the magistrate,’ as he calls it, ‘asks you to refrain from meeting because of a pestilence, you do not meet. On the other hand, if the magistrate tries to force you not to meet because of persecution of Christianity, you meet anyway.’ I think that’s the dividing line.”
(This excerpt from MacArthur can be found roughly halfway down the following website: https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/70-48/bible-questions-and-answers-part-72?fbclid=IwAR06-EEdgfmcy-WMDXS2UyMOMSyfcsc26ElCeTO7JJ4THtkSeYz_w_bagc0)
My name is Bryan Lanting. I am a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary, and I am presently serving Mt View CRC as their pastor. I am married to a wonderful wife named Sydney, and both of us are loving life, loving Lynden, and loving the Lord!