My heart aches for the Ahmaud Arberys and George Floyds of our society. And as a woman, I ache especially for their mothers, their wives, their sisters, their daughters, and their friends.
I’ve listened over the years, and even over the past weeks, to the different responses of different people, especially believers.
Most, I believe, are angry about these historical injustices against our black brothers and sisters. And rightly so (in my small opinion).
But others dismiss these things. They say they shouldn’t have broken the law, assuming the accusations or suspicions levied against them are true. Others say these societal events are irrelevant to gospel ministry. “Keeping preaching the gospel,” they say, “and let these other things figure themselves out.”
It is for this last group of loved ones that I feel compelled to say the following:
Christians ought to preach the gospel. And Christians ought to speak out (and appropriately act) against societal wrongs. And yes, Christians ought not sin in their response nor encourage others’ sin in response.
But wherever Christians see wrong — personally, socially, systemically, wherever — there is a call to take the real hope of the gospel to a personally, socially, and systemically sin-broken world.
We don’t just preach the gospel from the elevated pulpit (or blog or tweet or Instagram post). We take it down to actual broken homes, to actual broken relationships, to actual broken situations, and to actual scenes of injustice.
We are not the final judges of any given situation, but we can use discernment and stand with the historically oppressed whenever we see overreaches of power and abuse or patterns of racism. We can make our best judgment while keeping our ears open and our hearts humble.
We can cry out and do what we can for societal justice even as we trust that God will ultimately bring holy justice to this world, either through His gospel of grace or through righteous wrath.
The personal, social, and systemic sins of ethnocentrism (or racism) were not weeded out with The Emancipation Proclamation, any Executive Orders, or the Civil Rights Act. Legislation does not change a heart or a society; only the gospel can do that. But that doesn’t mean we preach the words of the gospel and then believe ourselves to be fulfilling God’s command to love Him and our neighbor while also keeping our hands folded back from what might be gospel-fueled action.
Preaching the gospel and mobilizing for societal change and justice do not have to be mutually exclusive. Can we take a step back and acknowledge that it’s outrageous to have to say this? Who made these mutually exclusive? (If ever our enemy had a scheme!) Because from what I see in Scripture, one is the root (the gospel) and the other is a fruit (doing good to and for our neighbor, whether on a personal, social, or systemic level).
Change happens on a personal level as people come to know Christ, but that doesn’t mean that change on a societal and systemic level should be ignored. The societal and systemic cannot reflect true gospel change until personal gospel change happens, but we should uphold the truth and love of God at every level as His salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). We don’t do this because this is trendy but because this is right.
We weep with our black brothers and sisters as they weep, we hurt with them, and we cry out for earthly justice with them while preaching the gospel to them and ourselves.
And continuing on, this next portion is for the same believers but also for those who fall so extremely to the human solutions, social justice camp that they lose sight of the greater spiritual warfare taking place:
We demand change as humans to humans (whether to individuals, government leaders, or those within the justice system), we call out human wrongs where we see them (even in ourselves), and we cry out to God; but we do this remembering that the real enemy of the human race is Satan (and sin and death).
The root issue is not white people versus colored people or black people versus the police. On the surface, it may appear so, but if our hatred and anger fall in any final way on flesh and blood, this hatred and anger is misplaced.
Don’t get me wrong. People do wrong things. They should be called out and, when appropriate, investigated and prosecuted for the wrongs they have done. Under God’s sovereignty, the government bears a sword for this purpose (Romans 13:4). And where the government fails, we trust that vengeance belongs ultimately to God (Romans 12:19).
But when our anger and hatred begin and end with flesh and blood (the racist neighbor, the police, the government, or even the murderer of the oppressed), we’ve zeroed in on the wrong enemy. We have sin to call out in each other, sin to hold each other accountable to, and a Savior to point each other to; but we do this while speaking the truth in love because the real enemy is not the one we can see:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Be righteously angry. But also submit your notions of justice to God’s real justice, because it may not be the hellfire you desire. It might be mercy. It might be Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).
And to everyone, especially myself:
Remember the gospel. And remember the gospel is the person of Jesus Christ, whose body we are called and called to be. Sign petitions, call your local representative, march, and emotionally but peacefully demonstrate on behalf of our black brothers and sisters equally created in the image of God. Don’t make sweeping judgments of all police or all “white” or all (fill in the blank) as evil and hopeless. Do all for the glory of God.
May God give justice, may God give His comfort to the black community in America, and may God especially give His kindness that leads sinners on every side to repentance.