Ken’s Thursday Blog
Racism & Our Response – 6-4-2020
I am sure that you are as frustrated as I am about our nation’s events over the last week and a half. It is unbelievable to me that such behaviors are still a part of our world. As my friend, Pastor Paul MacPherson, stated, “The absolute disregard to the life and good of others is sickening.” What happened to George Floyd (and others) was wrong. Police brutality and excessive force are inexcusable, in my opinion. The lack of human value and respect is abominable. Racism and injustice are evil. Rioting and violence are also not the right response.
However, fellow believers, the writers of our scriptures, remind us that social justice is a mandate of faith and a fundamental expression of Christian discipleship. Social justice has its biblical roots in a triune God who time and time again shows His love and compassion for the weak, the vulnerable, the marginalized, the disenfranchised, the disinherited. Tim Dearborn in Reflections on Advocacy and Justice writes, “For Christians, the pursuit of social justice for the poor and oppressed is the decisive mark of being people who submit to the will and way of God.”
Isaiah cried out to the nation on behalf of God, “Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow” (Isaiah 1:16-17 NIV). The prophet Jeremiah also exclaimed to the nation of Judah, “…your officials and your people who come through these gates. This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor, the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place (Jeremiah 22:3).
To be clear, this is what we believe as a Church: “We believe that each individual, regardless of race, color, gender, or creed, should have equality before law, including the right to vote, equal access to educational opportunities, to all public facilities, and to the equal opportunity, according to one’s ability, to earn a living free from any job or economic discrimination.”*
Giving preference to one group or race of people over another is unacceptable. The Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28, “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.” Admittedly, Paul was writing to the churches about the problem of Jews accepting Gentiles and Gentiles accepting Jews. But the basic premise is the same. All are created equal and are one in Jesus Christ.
Is this a political problem? Or is it a sin problem? Brute force is not the solution to this problem. Our leaders are not the solution to this problem, including mayors, governors, and even the President of the United States. Our solution is found in the persecuted person called Jesus, mistreated, crucified, died, and rose from the grave. Christ, and Christ alone is our solution.
When Christ Jesus was in the Garden, and the mob came to arrest Him and take Him to a trial and execution, we see a proper response to unfair treatment. The Apostle Peter did what many of us might do. He reacted. With violence, Peter took his sword and cut off the ear of the High Priest’s servant. Jesus instructed Peter to put his sword away and said, “No more of this!” And he (Jesus) touched the man’s ear and healed him (John 18:10-11 and Luke 22:51). And we who have been loved unconditionally by Christ must continue to express love as Jesus did.
Biblical references to the word “justice” mean “to make right.” Justice is, first and foremost, a relational term — people living in right relationship with God, one another, and the natural creation. From a scriptural point of view, justice means loving our neighbor as we love ourselves, and this is rooted in God’s character and nature. God is just and loving, so we are called to do justice and live in love. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated it well, “We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.”
Understanding “…that there is no reconciliation apart from human struggle to stand against and to overcome all personal, institutional and structural prejudice responsible for racial and ethnic humiliation and oppression,” * what do we need to be doing? How do we need to be responding?
Here are a couple of thoughts to guide us as we move to a biblical response to our present national condition.
1. Embrace all people, along with their God-given diversity. Welcome all voices and perspectives, and treat everyone with respect, compassion, and integrity.
2. Respect and care for everyone with whom we share life in this community we call home. Work to combat our own implicit biases and refrain from engaging in reactionary and judgmental behavior.
3. Listen actively and be continuous learners. Former President Bush stated it well this week when he wrote that this is not a time for lectures, but a time for us to listen and understand. Listen, hear, and give allowance for each other’s preferences and opinions.
4. Stand with those who are being ostracized, marginalized, persecuted, misunderstood, and unfairly judged.
5. Pray for our nation, the local and national leaders, the protestors, the shop owners, and yes even the rioters.
Adam Taylor wrote, “Social justice is about creating kingdom space in the here and now, giving witness to the ultimate just society yet to come. So, every time we use our voice and influence to get in the way of injustice — whether it’s human trafficking, economic exploitation, human rights abuses, or infants dying needlessly from disease and malnutrition — we provide a foretaste of God’s kingdom to come.” May God help us to live into that great kingdom of God.
Pastor Dale reminded us on Facebook this week of a quote by Walter Brueggemann, “Hope is the deep religious conviction that God has not quit.” And to affirm that thought, Will Willimon wrote, Christ has made our history His. He has changed and is changing our histories.
Praise be to God!
*(2017-21 Manual, Church of the Nazarene, Paragraph # 915)