June 5, 2020

Church and Race

Thomas Becker

A message from your pastors and Elders about the Church and race

Dear Church family,

Several events of the last few weeks have brought the question of racism to the forefront. This is an important conversation, and while we don’t wish to offer political interpretations of these events, we do feel like it is important to speak unequivocally about what the Bible has to say.

Jesus was born into a world rife with hate, into a people downtrodden and despised. He came from Judea, was a refugee in Egypt and grew up in Galilee. He walked dusty roads, knew hunger, pain, and grief. He preached the Gospel of the Kingdom — a Gospel of repentance and faith, and a Kingdom that welcomed despised Samaritans, people of ill repute, Jewish fisherman, Roman centurions, and Syro-Phoenician women. His own first public words about His ministry came from Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
   because he has anointed me
   to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Luke 4:18-19 (NIV)

Jesus began His ministry calling out hypocrisy and was to the very end zealous for all nations to worship in a house of prayer. He was betrayed by His countryman and hung on a tree by an oppressive, occupying force, and He said “Father, forgive them.” He died without sin, to pay the just penalty for our iniquity, so that every single person, everywhere, for all time, who puts faith in Him could have life, and life to the fullest.

But there was a secret that He kept, something that had been hidden for ages past and only made known after Pentecost, a great mystery revealed, at last, on the pages of the New Testament Epistles. That wonderful secret is…. the Church. More specifically, that gathering of the redeemed where the walls are torn down, the barriers broken, the divide bridged and where finally — after millennia of sin-fueled misunderstanding, strife, hatred, war and murder — where finally many people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds are made one (Eph 2:14-3:10). In this new thing called the Body and Bride of Christ hate is gone, humility rampant, offenses forgiven, service mutual, and each one’s highest interest is for the good of everyone else. All are equally broken before the cross, all equally forgiven, all equally adopted as sons and daughters of the living King. All await a final day of worship with people “from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb,… crying out in a loud voice:

Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
Revelation 7:9-10 (NIV)

This is not supposed to be a dream. This is supposed to be our living, breathing reality and our unshakable hope for the future.

Brothers and Sisters, racism is counter-Gospel and anti-Christ, and by its very definition, it is the antithesis of the Church. It has no place in the Body of Christ. We rejoice in the diversity of the family He has given us, and we should recoil in horror at every manifestation of racial bias, as we do with every other manifestation of sin and hate that stains our fallen world. We should not hide ourselves from this reality but rather know it, name it, and reject it. And we should counter it at every turn with its only cure – the Gospel.

Many are asking, “What can I do?” Here are some familiar, important steps along with a few things we’ve learned over these last weeks:

  1. Pray. This battle “is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12). One of our core values as an Alliance family is prayer as the primary work of God’s people. Follow Scripture in personal confession, prayer for others, and prayer for leaders.
  2. Mourn with those who mourn. Job’s friends did a much better job sitting in the dust with him than they did explaining his problem to him or grilling him with questions. Sometimes it’s just not the right time for “yes, but….” A better answer right now is, “I grieve with you, brother or sister.”
  3. Learn from someone else. I (Tom) have had to step out of my comfort zone, do some reading that was disorienting and disconcerting, and talk with some folks who think differently than I do. But I’m realizing that the security and acceptance that I’ve always lived with simply are not the regular experience of everyone. That hurts, but it’s true and I need to know it.
  4. Confront it when you see it, or hear it. Racism is egregious. It should not be quietly overlooked or dismissed.
  5. Ask the Holy Spirit to root out every shadow of bias that may be lurking in your soul, and to open our eyes to how we can better represent the Kingdom right here at home.
  6. Keep the Gospel primary. One of the things many have struggled with the most over the last few days is seeing people on various sides of all kinds of issues capitalize on tragedy to push one agenda or another. We don’t want to become a tool for someone else’s agenda. Well, we can be certain of one agenda worth pushing, and that is the forgiving, reconciling, justice-establishing, peace-making Good News of Jesus Christ. I weep as I write it. Do you believe it? Live it!
  7. Look for opportunities to get involved, or to support, ministries that lovingly address root issues related to education, poverty, addiction, immigration, life, and abuse. Counter darkness with light.
  8. Long for the day described in Revelation 7. Set your heart on it. As long as we live in a fallen world, sin will be with us. But the day is coming of no more sin. “Maranatha!”

One of the things we’d like to encourage is to make our positive steps a conversation. Have you read a book that you felt was helpful and changed your perspective? Share the title. Are you organizing a group to go downtown and help clean up? Let the church family know. Let’s help each other make a difference in whatever ways we can.

Thank you for being the beautiful Body of Christ!