Our Nation Needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
I was a sophomore in college the first time I encountered 'it.' I was studying for final exams with a friend who played on the football team. He is a black man. The condos I lived in hosted a 'snack break' for students living in the complex. There would be soft drinks and water and food and snacks and coffee during this one our 'break' by the pool. Each unit could bring up to 'two guests' to the snack break.
I brought my friend. One guest. While we were putting all we could on our paper plates, a security guard walked over to us, just us. There were guests all over that party. The guard knew I lived in the complex.
She said called us over.
'There's a charge for guests.'
With that, she turned over a coffee can in her little guard hut and tapped out the remaining coffee granules and then pushed it toward my friend.
I protested. I knew what was going on.
My friend opened his wallet and grabbed five ones. I told him 'no, this is wrong!'
I can still see the smug look on the guard's face.
My friend said, 'Kevin, doesn't matter. It happens.' He put his money in the can and we walked back up to the unit to study.
I was angry. I wanted to find a way to get back at the guard, to report her. Say a few choice words to her. My friend focused on finishing his food and said, 'that won't change anything. It happens. Have to get back to studying.'
He has his PhD in education now after a successful career in the NFL.
I had never seen anything like that.
Later on, still in my 20's I was living in Garland, a seminary student serving a church in Dallas while commuting to seminary in Fort Worth. The church was in a rough area of town. Ethnically it was about evenly split between anglos, blacks and hispanics. The church was about 90% anglo with some hispanics in the congregation.
Our youth group was very representative of the community for a period of time. I was naive to the dynamics I was dealing with in the church as a whole. I never once thought or knew that there was any 'concern' about the ethnicity of the group.
I drove by these housing projects on the way to the church every day. One day I saw a group of black youth playing football outside and I pulled my car over and introduced myself. I ended up throwing the ball with them. I was the 'all time quarterback' so the two teams could be equally divided. We had a blast.
I started asking the kids to church. Many of them took me up on it. In time, I started using the church van to pick up several from the projects.
They got along with the kids in the youth group because they went to school together.
One day I came home from school to change clothes and head over to the church when I checked my answering machine. Remember the old answering machine with the tiny cassette tape? It said I had messages.
The first couple were forgettable. I don't remember what they were. It was around the third message that I heard a muffled male voice with a strong country accent tell me that if I kept bringing those (n word) to church , he would blow my (explitive) head off.'
Oh yes. 'It' is very real.
Talk about a big decision. But, I knew what I had to do: that which Christ would expect me to do. I kept bringing them. I looked over my shoulder a lot, but God preserved me.
I later found out that there was a small group of men who would stand outside the church, in the parking lot, some older men, deacons mind you, who, if they saw a black person drive into the parking lot, would wave them over and lean into the vehicle and say, 'you'll probably be happier at that church down the street.'
That black church.
Don't tell me it's not real. It is.
It still is.
And don't equate a Facebook post you made to 'take a stand' with actually standing against that darkness and knowing such a stand may cost you greatly. Those two are not the same.
We have enough social justice warriors lamenting and pontificating and emoting from their computer screens but doing absolutely nothing. Words posted and reposted change nothing.
Pray. Love. Stand. Share the gospel and engage. Act. Do what Jesus has commanded.
The gospel is powerful. It changes and transforms lives and structures. Do you believe that? Is your Jesus and gospel powerful enough?
And 'it' is not the 'problem' of any one race. Any time any person doesn't love others or considers others 'inferior' or 'less than' or 'enemies' simply because of their skin color, that is racism. That is hatred.
For quite some time I lived in a part of San Antonio where my family and I were distinct minorities. Most people were really kind. We all got along. I think of my Christian brothers from the gym and in the community. I think of how the gospel allowed blacks and hispanics and an old white guy to pray together and encourage each other.
But, every now and then, I was hated simply because I was the white guy.
Whether it was the group of black young men in a car slowing down to threaten me (using some choice racial epiphets) or the woman who swerved her car at me while I was running on the road, then yelling at me to, well, let's just say 'live somewhere else,' because I was white.
It' is a very real problem and is rooted in the human heart, and only Christ can change that.
And, don't tell me the gospel doesn't change things.
I've met a former white supremacist who came to faith in Christ and Jesus changed his heart completely. I've met a hispanic man who admitted before Jesus saved him, he hated anyone who wasn't hispanic. Jesus changes us.
And don't tell me the gospel isn't enough. Don't tell me as a Christian that Jesus is not able to change all of this. The gospel is either true or not true, powerful enough to change us or it's not.
Looking back at that church in Dallas and those men in the parking lot, and the person who threatened me, clearly they didn't know my King. Clearly they hadn't encountered the power of the Gospel.
Because the gospel changes us.
When the gospel advanced across the Roman Empire, there were awkward and tense moments, but the gospel addressed all of those issues. Jews and Gentiles worshipping together, being in community together? Scandalous. Impossible. But it happened.
Because the gospel changes everything, they were able to do what they would never do otherwise: love and call one another brother and sister.
Roman soldiers and officials who came to faith in Christ would worship and learn to love and call free, slave, Greek, Barbarians, all brothers and sisters in Christ. Those old distinctions were gone in Christ. Christ changed everything. Christ formed a new family comprised of people from every nation, tribe and tongue.
Pentecost started it and we see this new people, this new family being formed throughout Acts and then, church history. We still see the power of the gospel on display today around the world. Jesus changes everything.
Yes, there were dark moments and still are, where people misrepresent the Name of Jesus. But, time and time again, we see the power of the gospel changing lives and social structures, societies and communities. Jesus is that powerful.
Do you believe?
Paul did. He wrote these words, this former Pharisee of Pharisees, this Jewish scholar and learned man who, before Christ, would have had nothing to do with Gentiles.
"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
Did we forget that truth? Do we believe this? Really? If so-then we should be shouting this gospel from the rooftops.
This is the power of the gospel. The power of the gospel calls us to pray and work toward and model for a lost world living in darkness what love looks like. We don't isolate ourselves or stay in our tribes and factions, rather we proclaim Christ crucified and the good news of Jesus Christ to every person in creation, and we ask God to help us grow as a people who truly 'love our neighbor as ourselves.'
Because we have abandoned our post, not proclaimed the gospel, not demonstrated it, isolated ourselves and at times, to our shame, acted more like the lost culture than the people of Christ, we have allowed the secular mind to shape the cultural conversation and that has only made things worse.
The secular mind thinks in terms of life without God, so it doesn't and cannot address the real problem: the sinful heart that needs to be saved and changed. Instead, it postulates new theories and possibililties and developes more and more categories of people and systems and oppressors and victims and lists more grievances and casts more blame with the result being more and more distrust and anger and alienation.
So, where is the hope? What to do?
I would ask you, church family, to pray and to think about acting in the following ways:
1) If there is any part of your heart that doesn't love your neighbor for whatever the reason, repent of that. Ask the Lord to give you the love He has for your fellow image bearer.
2) Pray for our nation. Pray for a Great Awakening. Pray for revival in our churches. Pray that the Lord would transform us to be the people He calls us to be. Jesus is our nation's only Hope. That has always been and will always be true.
3) Engage. Yes, we are still social distancing. Yes, these are odd times, but, you and I can all engage our neighbors. Talk to people. Develop relationships for the sake of the gospel. Develop relationships with your neighbor to show them the love of Jesus.
4) Dive into the Word. The Word of God transforms our minds. We need to think biblically, not culturally. Then, act on God's Word.
5) I am also asking us as a church to pray about something very specific: I believe we must model what the gospel can do and does do in us. That truth from Paul in Galatians 3:28 is so radical and foreign to our culture that it must be seen to be believed. There are two things I specifically ask us to pray about and model:
One: We must ask the Lord to help us reflect His kingdom as a church. I praise God that we are multi-generational and multi-ethnic, but I also pray that we grow in these categories, in love, as a witness to a lost world. That means we must be deliberate in reaching out to our community and we must always welcome those God brings. I rejoice that our church is a loving church and that you all already do this. We must continue and we must pray for more opportunities to engage.
Two: I would like to ask that we pray about developing a few strategic 'sister' church partnerships in our city and globally. This has nothing to do with finances or giving money, rather it has everything to do with saying-we are churches who affirm the same things about God and the gospel, that we are brothers and sisters in Christ, and we want to model what Christ-like love looks like. Perhaps that means we share pulpits, or we worship together from time to time. I do not know, but I know I am to pray about this and I'm asking you to do the same.
Three: we ask God to put make the gospel a 'fire in our bones.' We must proclaim the greatness of our King and the Hope we have in Christ. As people hear and see the Good News, as they come to faith in Christ, hearts will change. Let's be about the business of proclaiming the gospel and making disciples of people from every nation, tribe and tongue.
Times are turbulent, but our God still reigns. I believe in the power of Jesus and the gospel to save us, to change us, to heal us.
I know you do.
Let's be about His business.
May God have mercy on our nation.
Grace to You,