In light of the recent events in our country, it is good and appropriate to publicly declare the biblical teaching on those issues which regularly fall under the heading of justice and race. The ideals must be proclaimed though the reality may fall short, for without ideals we have no target, no goal, no direction. This is not hypocrisy, but the reality of sinners who are still in progress. It is clear that after decades of attempts at “racial reconciliation”, the world is in a giant mess and in need of a better way. It is our prayer that the Church can be an example of that better way.
One reason we are in the mess we are in today is because of cowardice. To say what is acceptable only requires a coward. To declare what is true requires courage, because truth cuts on two sides and often severs one from the popularity of the world. The same cowardice that prevented preachers from declaring truth in the 20th century is the same cowardice that preachers of the 21st century hide behind. Too many lies have been told, and too many lies are being told. If a man is only willing to say what will not offend the sensibilities of the world, he is not worthy to represent Christ. We must stop lying to each other.
But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds. And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.Colossians 3:8-10
The cowardice of the 20th century was the refusal to acknowledge that in Christ, there is no bond or free, no Scythian or Barbarian, no circumcised and uncircumcised, but Christ is all in all. The refusal to identify more closely with a brother in Christ with black skin than an infidel with white skin was a terrible failure to live out the gospel. The church’s failure to break with culture and receive – in the full glory and beauty of that word – black brothers and sisters is the reason why the church is not shining like a city on a hill today.
The cowardice of the 21st century is to go along with the politically correct narrative used by politicians, race baiters, and leftist idealogues that only serves to pit women against men, white against black, and rich against poor. The sociologists demand a statistic and the politicians demand a voting block, but we preach Christ crucified: to the sociologists a myth and to the politicians a mystery. Cowardice still runs deep in our churches as we hide behind our whiteness in our refusal to address every lost soul as a marred image of God in need of redemption when apart from the perfect, infallible Word of God, not one of us is fit to offer one bit of counsel in any circumstance of life. We are not peddlers of social conventions or traders of philosophical fads, but heralds of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ and woe to the preacher who thinks that there is salvation in any other. Woe to the preacher who refuses to preach.
Cowardice got us into this mess and cowardice will not get us out of this mess. Refusing to speak truth because it was unpopular led us to this and refusing to speak the truth now because it is still unpopular will not lead us out. We do not apologize for the Truth. That means I cannot keep silent because I fear being insensitive, or tone deaf, or lacking in empathy. Perhaps if I have the courage to speak truth, someone might have the courage to speak it back to me.
Not A Skin Problem
Sin does not start in the skin, live in the skin, or grow in the skin. To attribute sin to the color of one’s skin is to deny the truth that there are only 2 races: those in Adam and those in Christ. We cannot repent of our skin, but we can repent of our sin. And repent we must, because we have all fallen short of the glory of God. That means that black sinners need to repent and white sinners need to repent, and the difference in the color of their skin matters not in comparison to their mutual need for holiness, without which no man will see God.
Justice is a real thing, and God is full of it. In recent days we have seen justice violated by those with badges and those with brands of fire. But no one has violated God’s sense of justice because of the color of their skin. You have to go much deeper than that to find the cause of sin, which is bound up in man’s rebellious and desperately wicked heart. The world separates by black and white, but all liars and murders are actually of their father, the devil, and Christ was manifested to destroy the works of the devil.
And since skin is not the problem, skin cannot be the solution. Which is why all secular attempts at reconciliation have failed, because secularists can’t seem to get beyond the color of skin and down to the heart. At the end of the day there is no way of putting to death the enmity between those who are “foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). A greater justice requires a greater solution than skin can offer. It requires blood.
Wrath and Blood
The anger, hatred, and malice in the world today is a pittance compared to the wrath of a Holy God. We pick and choose the sins over which we will get worked up, but God is angry with the wicked every day. It is only the long-suffering of the Lord that restrains his judgment. But His judgment was not held back on the day He judged sin at the cross, where the blood of His Son flowed freely so that those who were slaves to sin could be freed by it. Only the blood of Jesus Christ covers sin, and the blood of Jesus Christ washes every sin. Racism is not exempt. The same blood that can cleanse the sin of Derek Chauvin is the same blood that can cleanse the violence of the mob.
There is no end to the hatred of the world. There is no satisfaction. The blood of Derek Chauvin will not quench it. Even if justice is meted to the full extent of the law, the recriminations continue in an endless cycle of bitterness. That’s why the world is failing at reconciliation. That’s why no matter how much legislation is passed and how many buildings are torched and how much blood is shed, there will never be an end to it. But what is impossible with man is possible with God. Who could have imagined the fellowship of the Jews with the Gentiles? And yet Christ knocked down that wall.
There is too much sin in our past, too much sin in our present, and too much sin our future for us to even comprehend, much less atone for. I don’t write those words flippantly, but in sorrow and grief that weighs on my heart as hot tears hit my keyboard. There is simply too much sin for me to handle. So atonement was provided and wrath was propitiated by another on our behalf, because we were insufficient for such a thing. And because we are now reconciled to God, we can be reconciled to each other. This is the only basis of reconciliation with eternal potential. Again, apart from the cross there will be no peace.
So there is one solution and only one solution to the sin that is in the world, and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. But it’s not as though the gospel is this placard you hang in your church foyer. The gospel is a life altering message that actually does alter you. The gospel has feet and the gospel has hands and the gospel breathes joy and life into a world of death and darkness. How beautiful on the mountain are the feet of him who brings good news! Where will the gospel take you? Who will you reach out to? What light and joy will you carry into death and darkness? The gospel is the ministry of reconciliation and it has been given to us as ambassadors to carry forth. We are ambassadors, which means we have a side. We are for something. And we are not on the side of the whites or on the sides of the blacks, but on the side of the Lord Jesus Christ who is gave Himself for sinners of every tribe, nation and tongue.
I recognize that this does not address the messy specifics of any one situation. But it is the truth that keeps our compass steady as we live in a tumultuous world. Believing this equips us to handle that world. For too long the church has followed. We have baptized talking points with Christian jargon and pretended we were saying something real. We must stop following and start leading.