WE DON’T GO THERE: RACIAL RECONCILIATION AND THE GOSPEL

We don’t go there.” My mom told me this when I told her I was going to a local Southern Baptist church in my hometown for the first time. I knew what she meant. She meant that the church had a history of restricting black people from their services. She meant you would not fit in there. She meant people would look at you as if you didn’t belong there. Despite her warning, I said, “Well, I am going.”

Southern Baptists have a sinful past. Convictions about slavery resulted in the formation of the SBC. Our denominational leaders defended the right to own black people as property. We have a history of excluding African-Americans from our churches. Southern Baptists opposed and/or didn’t support the Civil Rights Movement.[1] 

There are still churches where African-Americans are not welcome. Churches continue to fire staff because of the church’s racism. Many churches are still reluctant to speak up for equality and injustice. In the past, we thought racial reconciliation was a social issue. We willingly gave the task to the secular world. Racial Reconciliation is a Christian issue, but more than that it is a Gospel issue.

The Gospel Speaks to Racial Reconciliation

In Antioch, Peter began eating and fellowshipping with Gentiles. Then the Jews came to town and Peter changed. He began to withdraw from the Gentiles. He feared his circumcised brothers, which even caused Barnabas to act hypocritically.  They were afraid the Jews would think they were associating with Gentile sinners.

Paul was so outraged by Peter’s behavior that he rebuked Peter in front of everyone. Paul comments about their conduct saying their “conduct was not in step with the truth of the Gospel,” (Galatians 2:14). This comment implies the Gospel speaks to racial reconciliation and racism.

The truth of the Gospel is that Jesus has broken down the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14) and now we are fellow citizens of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19). God has provided us with a message that brings together even those who have a history of hating one another. No philosophy or secular idea has the power of our Gospel. We have a message that reconciles. It reconciles people to God and people to one another.

Resolved

In 1996, Southern Baptist resolved “to pursue racial reconciliation in all our relationships, especially with our brothers and sisters in Christ.” [2] Racial Reconciliation begins with listening to brothers and sisters in Christ from various ethnicities.

Listen to learn.

One conversation is not the final solution, but one of many can help in discerning it. Are we resolved to do so? Church, we can’t change yesterday, but we can set the pace for tomorrow. We can’t allow the past and cultural differences to prevent the unity of God’s people.

When my mom said “We don’t go there” she wanted the past to prevent me from going to that church. After the warning, I attended that church. That day I had the opportunity to see an African-American deacon preach. I could have missed seeing someone who was once not allowed in the services preach there. We must remember the past but not let it prevent unity.

I know the SBC used to prevent my people from membership in their churches. I know they fought for the right to have slaves.

But I refuse to let that prevent the unity of the Body of Christ. I am resolved to pursue racial reconciliation. I urge you to join me in the pursuit of uniting God’s people through the power of the Gospel. This must be an intentional effort or it could be said about your church, ministry, or seminary that “We don’t go there.”

References

Resolution On Racial Reconciliation On The 150th Anniversary Of The Southern Baptist Convention Atlanta, Georgia – 1995

http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/899/resolution-on-racial-reconciliation-on-the-150th-anniversary-of-the-southern-baptist-convention

 

[2] Ibid

 

 

Originally Posted on Geaux Therefore

 

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To Stand or Kneel: 5 Thoughts to Consider About the NFL Protest

He should stand.” My wife told me this when Colin Kaepernick began sitting during the national anthem. We disagreed. The conversation revealed our cultural differences. Her people honored the country through patriotic songs and regalia. My people love the country but were skeptical of it. We didn’t celebrate freedom on the Fourth of July because our freedom came much later. I stopped pledging allegiance to the flag. I don’t agree with the introduction of the pledge at such a young age.

My wife and I explained our stances in hopes of understanding each other. I shared several thoughts with her, and I want to share them with you. I pray this is helpful in helping the church think through these issues. First, I acknowledge that many of the NFL players are kneeling in response to comments made by our president. Yet, Colin was not alone in his stances. So I am speaking of those who are kneeling because of the racial injustices in America.

The  Star-Spangled Banner Is a Diss Track

We don’t sing the entire Star Spangled Banner. The length is one reason the other reason is one of the following verses which is:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The mention of the slave and hirelings expresses Francis Scott Key’s bitterness. Key was bitter about the runaway slaves who enlisted in the British army and fought against him. The Star-Spangled Banner seems more like a diss track than an ode to our country.

They Love this Country

The NFL players who are protesting are not terrorist. They don’t hate this country or want to see it divided. They love it. Their love for this country sparked their kneeling because they desire it to do better. They are hopeful. They have family in this country and want them to grow up in a better America.

I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.

James A. Baldwin

Hating this country would result in them allowing it to continue in its folly. But love motivates them to speak or kneel.

What Is A Better Option?

It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro with no alternative”

Martin Luther King Jr.

These players hate seeing black people suffer. How should they respond to their people murdered in the streets and no one is convicted? How are they to respond when they look at the wealth gap in America? What should they say when they see the education gap? How should they respond when they oppose violence?  

The conversation about racial equality has been going on for years in our country. It is why Frederick Douglass asked the question “What to the slave is the fourth of July?”  It is why Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists at the Olympics. Racial inequality is the reason Muhammad Ali refused to be drafted. It is why Jackie Robinson spoke about black equality. What are their options for issues we have evaded for years?

Who Are They Harming?

These players are kneeling and locking arms during the national anthem. The First Amendment gives them to right to protest. Veterans fought for their right to do so. No property is being destroyed. No people are being threatened. No one is being hurt. Are they seeking to divide the country or are they asking it to do better? Who is being harmed? 

Has Our Response Been Cultural Or Christian?

Nationalism is not Christian. Ethnocentrism is not Christian. No flag or ethnicity is higher than the blood-stained banner of Jesus. Our primary citizenship is in heaven. Though we are to seek the wellbeing of our nation this not home. We are exiles and sojourners in this land. Our concern ought not to be if people stand or kneel for a country, but our concern should be are they standing on the promises of God and kneeling down to pray. We ought to be seeking the kingdom and Jesus’ righteousness.

Scripture does demand we take care of the orphans and those who are in poverty. It does command us to take care of the foreigners in our land. By doing so we are reflecting the character of God. He executes justice and gives food to the hungry (Psalm 146:7). He is the one who watches over the sojourner and holds the widows (Psalm 146:9). He cares for the fatherless ( Psalm 146:9).

The players are kneeling to give a voice to the often unheard. Whether you stand or kneel you ought to seek to do the same.

Open your mouth for the mute,
   for the rights of all who are destitute,
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
   defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Proverbs 31:8-9

 

 

Food For Thought: How Tacos Remind Us of Jesus and the Church

All creation speaks of God even tacos. Animals tell us he is a creative Creator. The mountains tell us he is a strong Savior. Oceans remind us of how expansive our God is. What do tacos tell us about God? 

One fact you should know is that my personal conviction is tacos are insufficient without sauce. I don’t intend to offend my brother and sisters who are sauceless sinners. I do believe you ought to know that because it will affect how I exegete tacos. Tacos remind me of four theological truths. 

The Shell Defines the Taco: Jesus Defines the Church

What do you call the combination of meat, lettuce, and cheese? It could be a salad, a bunless burger or a lettuce wrap. Could we call it a taco? No. The distinctive aspect of a taco is the shell because it defines the taco. Shelless tacos don’t exist. 

Christ is our taco shell. He is the head of the church (Colossians 1:18). There is no church without Christ. An assembly without Christ as the head is an organization or institution, but it is far from a church. The culture has no authority to define what is a church. Numbers, ministries, and services don’t define a church, only Jesus.  Jesusless churches don’t exist. 

The Shell Holds the Ingredients Together: Jesus Hold Us Together

Tacos are filled with beef, shrimp, pork, fish, and countless other items. The ingredients inside the taco may vary, but all tacos are held together by a shell. The shell upholds the ingredients and prevents them from separating. 

Jesus holds all things together (Colossians 1:17). The Lord holds the universe in place with his righteous omnipotent hand. He also holds the church together. Christ is our cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6).  The body of Christ consists of people from various nations, tribes, and languages. Our differences could cause major divisions, but Christ holds us together. Sharing demographics doesn’t mean your church will stay together either. It takes Jesus to keep selfish sinners loving each other. Praise the Lord that his Church has not died out because he holds it together. Praise the Lord he can unite people from all across the world and hold them together. We worship in different buildings in different ways, but we share Jesus who holds us together.

Think Outside the Bun: Hold to the Fundamentals

For years Taco Bell has had the slogan “think outside the bun.” Taco Bell’s menu has changed many times over the years. They continue to introduce us to new tacos and burritos. Several of their menu items have been outlandish, but they haven’t had a bun. They have changed, but they hold fast to their fundamental beliefs.

Beloved, the culture has changed. Church attendance has decreased, but don’t shape your service for unbelievers to feel comfortable. We must update our evangelism strategies, but don’t try business tactics to win a soul. 

Church, remember the gospel.  Hold on to the fundamental truths of the gospel. The culture is changing.  It is tempting to change the fundamentals to get a bigger crowd, but the gospel is the only power unto salvation (Romans 1:16).  The ministries and the services may change but don’t let our gospel.

Don’t Forget the Sauce: Remember the Holy Spirit

Several years ago I took a trip to taco bell and forgot to get sauce. I ate my tacos but all I could think about was “I wish I had some sauce.” The sauce adds flavor to the taco. The sauce sinks into the open spaces within ingredients of the taco and fills them. Any taco that lacks sauce is incomplete.

I am aware each analogy of the trinity falls short and this one will also. Before you label me heretic hear me out. Christ is the shell and the Holy Spirit is the sauce. Christ upholds the church and the Spirit empowers the church. The Spirit sinks into every part of our lives. The church is led by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:14). The Holy Spirit fills the church (Ephesians 5:18). The Spirit gives us words to speak (John 16:13). He gives us the power to not live by the flesh (Galatians 5:16). The Spirit of God gives us flavor.  Believers, remember you have access to the Spirit of God. In conclusion, brothers and sister don’t forget the sauce.

Photo by Christine Siracusa on Unsplash

Our Inadequacy and Christ’s Sufficiency

How do you handle feeling inadequate? Recently, someone asked me this question in reference to my clinical practice. But I have recently become a parent, which has revealed my insufficiency. I can’t distinguish her screams. I can’t get her to sleep when I want her to. I don’t know what is wrong with her sometimes. I feel inadequate.   

It is antithetical to our sinful nature to admit our inadequacies. According to Elliot Aronson, our brain labors to convince us our actions are right, despite contrary evidence. In the words of Paul Tripp, we have an “inner defense lawyer.” Our inner defense lawyer argues for our competency. Before the judge of life, it offers various excuses as to why we are sufficient.  Although, that is not what the Bible says.

Sinful Inadequacy

Russell Moore was asked by Anderson Cooper about a tweet in which he was called “a nasty guy with no heart.” Moore said he agreed with the tweet and “we sing worse things about ourselves on Sunday mornings. Our hymns contain harsh language about us, which aligns with Scripture. We are born in sin and by nature, we are children of wrath (Psalm 51:5; Ephesians 2:3). We are unrighteous and our righteous deeds are like filthy rags (Romans 3:10-11; Isaiah 64:6). Our hearts are deceitful and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9). Evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, and adulteries are within our hearts (Mark7:21). Sin touches every word, deed, and thought. Sin makes us inadequate.

Christ Is Sufficient

Nothing is outside the power of Jesus Christ. Christ created everything and he upholds it (Colossians 1:15-17). The Lord has the power to change hearts (Proverbs 21:1).

In other words, “He’s got the whole world in his hands.” Nobody has the power to stay his hand (Daniel 4:35).  In him, there is no darkness or trace of sin (1 John 1:5). He is perfectly pure. He has no equal. His power knows no end. Sin and Satan are subject to him. Christ is sufficient.

Look to Jesus

We lack the ability to have completely pure motives. Sin contaminates every aspect of us. It makes our service, worship, and work impure. Compared to Christ we are inadequate. Apart from Christ, we can literally do nothing (John 15:5). This is our reality until Christ comes or we go to meet him.

Let your impotent state cause you to look to Christ. Jesus sanctifies every aspect of us. He makes our impure service, worship, and work pleasing to the Father. Whenever you see your inadequacy gaze at the sufficiency of Christ. Robert Murray McCheyne says “For every look at self—take ten looks at Christ!” How do I handle feeling inadequate? I embrace it and let it lead me to gaze upon Christ.

I don’t have the power to sway the hearts of men, but Jesus does. My words don’t hold the power to save, but His word does. I am powerless on my own, but he is almighty. My intelligence has its limits, but he knows all. Beloved, don’t trust yourself. We are weak, foolish men. Trust in Jesus with all your heart (Proverbs 3:5).  Trust God is more than enough even in your inadequacy and He always will be.