Race, The Church & The Gospel

Race, The Church & The Gospel

When I was 21 years old I had a turbulent experience with local police. Unfortunately, this particular time, I fit the profile of what was said to be a group of young black men burglarizing a particular neighborhood. Ironically, the neighborhood I was in was across the street from the college I was attending. It was also my youth pastors neighborhood. I was headed to his house to meet with him, as I did on a regular basis.

As the officers came to the door of my youth pastor’s home they asked me to step outside. Immediately, I had a minimum of 5 guns pointed at me, 2 were in my face at point blank range. As one of the officers forcefully took me out of the house he threw me up against the wall and finally push me out into the driveway. As he was hitting me, he tossed me against my pastor’s SUV. All I could think of was defending myself. The problem was there were guns pointed at me and at any time during this situation my life could’ve been taken.

It ended with one of the officers, who recognized me from an earlier encounter at my college. He pulled the officer off of me stating that I couldn’t have been involved in any of the crimes.

My point is, as the recipient of being pulled over and detained, handcuffed, my car searched, even beaten up by the police, I have first hand knowledge of some of the injustices men of color experience at the hand of police.

No matter how we view life, there are some things that will always remain unevenly distributed. One of those things is, although we are created equally in God, we are not all treated as equals by people.

However, if we continue to gain our understanding, gather our thoughts and give ourselves to actions based on our environment and the view of inequality placed on any given person or groups of people, the standard by which our actions are driven will never change.

The narrative isn’t altered by the amount of money we throw at these issues, the many interviews we give and to no avail of the many protests we participate in across the country.  The narrative changes when the church assumes her responsibilities.

I believe that the church has a duty to play a larger role in what our cities look like. Someone said that the city isn’t here for the church but the church is here for the city!

If that is true, and I believe that it is, there has to be a place and time where the church steps up its role in each city and makes a difference.

I don’t think the church is the answer.   I believe Jesus is the answer.

However, Jesus does use the church as a vehicle of change. The time and place for the church to effect change is now.

The church must first face some facts and make adjustments within. I believe there are two observations that I have made over time that, given careful attention and respect, can begin to make an impact and begin to influence what happens in our communities, cities and our country.

First, I believe change will begin when we come to an understanding that our battle is not against flesh and blood. We can fight every police officer that wrongs us, sue each city we live in and burn down every shopping center in towns we frequent. It won’t change the root of the issue. The difference is made when the church is activated to be the agent of change.

By recognizing we are fighting against something greater than skin color we can address the issue from a kingdom perspective. The kingdom of God suffers violence and violent men take it by force. This doesn’t mean that the church should begin taking up arms and become hostile toward one another but to effectively focus our prayerful attention at what will make a difference.

Prayer is effective! If the church can’t find herself on her knees seeking God we will forever lack the power of God to see change occur in our cities.

No, I don’t think all we need to do is pray and wait for God to intervene. Faith without works is dead! The “what to do” comes from the revelation received in the place of prayer. Once we have been commissioned we can begin to be effective through the power of God found in His presence.

Know prayer, know power. No Jesus, no justice!

Not only do I think this next observation is attainable it is actionable. I believe it is a must if we are to ever see change in our lifetime.

The church has to take the lead in making our cities reflect who Jesus is. We have to put an end to our division and separatism. Now, more than ever, the church cannot be a divided body.

Think about this, Sunday between 8 am and noon is the most segregated time in our country. We have White Church, Black Church, Spanish Church, Korean Church, Chinese Church, etc.   Our disunity is outweighing the importance of what we have been called to.

We as the church have to begin to celebrate our diversity not condemn or ignore each other for being different.

Our common beliefs demand unity. This is the type of unity that the psalmist describes in Psalm 133: unity that commands a blessing, LIFE forever more. We rob the church, our nation and ourselves because we, the church, cannot live in unity.

As we celebrate each other in culture, music and perspective within the church, we build ourselves up and our faith is made stronger. Being eager to learn from one another and implementing pieces that will encourage and increase our influence in the world should be the efforts we make to ensure that we all have a future.

Although my perspective comes from living as a black man in this country, my faith in Jesus gives me a much different starting point. As I read Revelation 7:9 it gives me a distinctive outlook as I see the Kingdom of God transposed onto our nations struggle with this racial divide.

All nations, all tribes all tongues stand before the throne. This is a true picture of what the Kingdom looks like.

Do black lives matter? Absolutely. I don’t believe that movement was started as an affront to all lives but as an alert to the circumstances surrounding its origin.

Yes, all lives matter, if we are holding the truth in tension with what is happening in our society. The truth that we are all valuable in the eyes of God!

The bible doesn’t distinguish one man from another except to bring us together under one banner: JESUS!

Before I am a black man I am a child of God, a servant of Jesus with a mandate to live according to His kingdom and His will.

I am not naïve to the home training of many Americans. Nor I am not brainwashed and believe that we are all one nation under the God I serve. I am, however, simple enough to believe that what God says is truth!

The church needs to reflect the truth of the Gospel: Galatians 3:28 – There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Will this change how all police interact with men and women of color? Will this change how people of color perceive law enforcement? Maybe, maybe not.  Shouldn’t we start with how the church thinks?

If the church won’t who will? And if not now, then when?

So many of us want to fight for social justice. It is said that Jesus came to bring social justice. While, at the surface it appears to be true, Jesus actually came to bring salvation.

Matthew 10:34 – 36 – 34“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “ ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— 36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

Social justice is a crusade worth pursuing, however social justice without Jesus will exhaust our resources and energy and we will continue to find ourselves wanting.

Jesus doesn’t make up the difference, Jesus is the difference!

Without Jesus at the center of our desire for social change we will continue to come up empty handed. No one will be satisfied and we will all continue on the same cycle of inconsolable grief for a nation that should look, act and be better.

The church has to get this right. If not, our nation and neighborhoods never will.