Hey Church Family,
Here we are again. Another week has passed. What a week it has been! Before I get to my pastoral letter for this week’s update I just want to remind you about the opportunities for gathered worship this weekend.
We have a service tonight at 5PM. It’s a traditional service and will go for about an hour. Children are discouraged from attending this service because we are trying to protect our more “at risk” population. We also encourage anyone who is sick to please stay home and watch the live stream.
Our Sunday morning service starts at 9:45AM. It’s a contemporary style worship service and everyone is welcome to attend. There are bags available upon entry to the sanctuary that can keep your kids occupied with color sheets and other materials. This will also last about an hour and will be streamed online for those who prefer to remain at home.
We are continuing to practice social distancing and masks are encouraged (though not required.) We strongly encourage their use when you cannot maintain the proper 6 foot distance between others outside your househnew. We also require there to be TWO empty seats between each househnew unit on each row in the sanctuary. You can register for the services using the link below.
Not everyone who attends has to register. We have made it so that there is a certain number of empty seats for walk-ins and new guests. That said, we encourage you to register so we can know when to add additional services and so we ensure our current setup maintains the social distancing guidelines. Thanks for your help in this matter!
Next week we will have a Family Room open up for those of you who have kids but don’t want to bring them into the Sanctuary. Children and preschool programming will start later in July. You can read last week’s update for details. There is also information about some new small groups starting up in that update as well.
Responding to Injustice
For this week’s update, I wanted to write down my thinking on the proper Christian response to injustice. If you’ve not yet seen it on the news, our nation has been set ablaze by riots, protests and cries of agony in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis Minnesota. We even had a march in our own city that recognized this act of injustice.
The death of George Floyd is one more in a string of recent events that’ve unjustly took the life of a black American. The other well-known example is that of Ahmaud Arbery. The details of each case are a little bit different but each case is an example of a death that could have been prevented and should have never happened.
While I want to be careful of assigning motivations of racial prejudice to the people involved, the fact remains that each of these victims were black Americans and each death contained injustices committed by white Americans. The video footage associated with each of the aforementioned cases make clear how horrendously wrong these two deaths actually were.
Again, it’s not my place to assign racial motivations to either of these perpetrators. Only God knows the heart and perfect justice will one day be served. Irregardless of the motivations, these acts along with others have sparked a nation-wide protest of other injustices experienced by black Americans.
How are Christians to respond?
This question has consumed my thoughts for the past several weeks. Now we are seeing an uprising of violent protests that are destructive and unjust in their own right. Violence only breeds more violence. And as these riots escalate in intensity, the violence and division is only going to worsen.
My heart is broken for these families. My heart is concerned for the future of our country. My heart is grieved over the many stories of prejudice that I’ve heard from my non-white friends. My heart is ashamed of being silent when I could’ve voiced these types of concerns but didn’t.
What makes all of this even more complicated is that racial tensions in America have become embedded in our politics. It’s difficult to take a stand on an issue without being pigeon-holed into a political movement that you may or may not wholeheartedly agree with. Pastorally, this is even more difficult because there are many who think that preachers should avoid politics all-together.
But just because something is a “political issue” doesn’t mean Christians should avoid talking about it. It doesn’t mean that GOD doesn’t have a clear view about it. It doesn’t mean that the Church shouldn’t have a clear voice in addressing it. And that voice shouldn’t be compromised by political allegiances whether they be from the left or the right.
Christians have long understood this as it relates to abortion. The Bible is clear that all people – irregardless of their stage of development – are created in the image of God. Abortion is the ending of a human life (not just a potential human life) and therefore it is wrong. Our politics should reflect that conviction.
But the theology that informs our Christian response to abortion ought to also inform the discussion around other political issues. Immigration. racial issues, proper policing and the criminal justice system. Often these discussions are seen as issues “for the left.” But they’re not just issues that matter to the left. They matter to God because ALL people are created in God’s image and are therefore inherently valuable and worthy of dignity and respect.
None of this is to say that the solutions proposed by the left or the right are the right ones. Political wisdom and civic solutions need to be biblically informed but are often not biblically prescribed (as much as I wish they were). The foundational principles are given to us in God’s Word but the construction and application of those principles to our civic life is for us to figure out together.
Why am I even bringing up the issue of politics? I bring it up because I think it keeps some of us from thinking biblically about the issue of injustice, racial or otherwise.
How then should a Christian respond to injustice? Here’s are a few thoughts to consider.
1.) SEE THE INJUSTICE
“Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behnew, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them.” Ecclesiastes 4:1
This is where it begins. You can’t join God in properly responding to injustice unless you’re willing to see it. It’s easy to preoccupy yourself with your busy little world and avoid looking at the injustices that are all around us. So don’t. Stop. Look at it. Stare at it. Feel the weight of it so that you can properly empathize with the victims who are suffering.
Every victim has a backstory. They are people created in the image of God. They have families and friends who are grieving. In the case of George Floyd, he was used by God to open up a Gospel movement in Houston’s third ward.
It’s really easy to allow the discussion around injustice to devolve into numbers and statistics. In some ways, that’s inevitable. It’s a big problem and to wrestle with it you’ve got to do so at a macro level. But Christians ought to never become blind to what’s actually happening on the ground. We’ve got to be willing to see it.
2.) GRIEVE THE INJUSTICE
“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:22–23)
“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2)
There are several other Psalms that speak to this issues but groaning and grieving is a fitting response to injustice. So often we rush past this (especially if we are not ourselves the victims.) It’s important to weep with those who weep and to do so without explaining away their pain or rushing past their grievances.
“Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:26)
Related to this grieving is the issue of godly anger. We saw a few weeks ago how Paul encouraged us to be different as it relates to our anger. Like Jesus, our anger should be informed by a godly sorrow over the brokenness of this world and the devastating effect that sin has on people.
3) CONFRONT THE INJUSTICE
“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
This was written to a king by a king and was in particular reference to his ruling as a king. But it still applies for those of us who have the power to make a difference. We shouldn’t use our position or power to serve ourselves but rather the interests of others, especially those who cannot defend themselves.
“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Isaiah 1:16–17
This comes from a context where God is confronting his people about their dead religion. He does the same thing through the prophet Amos. They were consistent in attending church, singing, praying, even giving their tithes and offerings. But they were inconsistent in advocating for the oppressed and rebuking the oppressors. Part of righteousness is correcting oppression and seeking justice for all. Silence is not an option.
4) ENTRUST VENGENCE TO GOD
“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.” (Romans 12:17-21)
Violence and riots are a natural and easy response to injustice. But the Christian response should be different. This is why Martin Luther King was able to enact so much change without ever lifting a finger. He entrusted himself to the Lord and left vengeance in his hands.
This is incredibly hard to do, especially if you are the victim of injustice. But it’s a supernatural response that you can do with the power of the Holy Spirit.
This isn’t to say that protests are wrong in and of themselves. I think protests fit right in with number three on our list above. But violence steps over God’s design for responding to injustice.
Like most things, the Christian response to injustice doesn’t fit neatly within any political paradigm. It confronts us in our apathy and indifference and it moves us to a place of advocacy and sacrifice. It rejects man-made solutions or godless ideologies and centers our hope solely in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, the Christian response to injustice is DIFFERENT.
My prayer for us in these days is that God confronts us in our sin and moves us to a place of godly repentance and strategic action.
As our nation burns and the people rage may the people of God repent and submit ourselves to the perfect plan and design of God. May the church rise up and chart a course that others can follow. The loudest voices don’t have to direct our future. May God grant that the voice of truth lead the way through the witness of the Church.
We are just one small church among many. But the Church universal can be a powerful force for good. It was God’s “plan-A” for proclaiming the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the world. Our country needs the Church to step up to the plate and respond to injustice according to God’s good design.
Will you join me in praying for a heart of repentance? Will you join me in praying for wisdom from heaven? Will you join me in seeing the injustices that are there and grieving with those who are hurting right now (especially those in our own church family?)
Lastly, will you join me in confronting injustice wherever and however we can? Will you join me in rejecting movements or platforms that will only take us further in the wrong direction and instead join with God as he makes a way for a better future? Will you join me in praying for discernment on how best to reach that goal.
Consider how you can be a voice for the voiceless and join God in defending the defenseless.
Through it all, let us remember as broken as things may “seem,” God is still on the throne! All of this is working towards a triumphant end. The day is coming when our tears of grief over the injustice of sin will be wiped away by a just and perfect King.
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behnew, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behnew, I am making all things new…” (Revelation 21:3–5)
These words are trustworthy and true. God is faithful and he will keep his promises. Continue to pray for our country during these difficult days. Pray for the Church to be that bright and shining city on a hill that cannot be hidden. A city within the city, seeking the good of those who dwell within.
If there’s anyway I can pray for you in particular please let me know. If these recent events have caused a level of grief or anxiety in your own heart then please let us know so we can help minister to you during this time.
Even though this is on the headlines right now, those will eventually fade and the subject will change. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forevermore. Let us fix our eyes on him and move forward with confidence in his plan.
I hope I see many of yall tonight or tomorrow morning!
if not, I’ll catch you on the interwebs!