My family and I were gone all this last week on vacation, trying to be cut off from the world, but it was impossible not to hear about the latest flare up of the disease of racial injustice that plagues our society. It was a uniquely eventful week. And so I wanted to take some time to briefly address this and give some guidance on how we should respond.
What can we do? Facebook posts can only do so much. We must do more. But we can’t change Dallas or Baton Rouge or Falcon Heights or our whole nation. So what can we do?
We can pray. And that is what we are about to do together in just a moment. We can go to the only One who can ultimately help. And he hears us.
In our prayers we can lament, grieve to God, pour out our sadness, mourn. Beg him to move.
And in our prayers we can repent. If we have hatred and unrighteous anger, we can confess that. If we don’t care, we can confess our apathy, confess our lack of love for the Other and ask God to change us. We can ask for forgiveness for ways that we have been complicit in the problem through sins of commission and/or omission, and ask God to give us the right heart.
And then in addition to praying, we can think biblically about these matters. We must work hard to get the right biblical categories in our minds for how to approach matters of race and institutional sin. We can’t let the world define our terms and shape our hearts and set our agendas, but the Word.
The Bible tells us that we all have different callings in the world.
Some of you may be called to contribute to the righting of wrongs through political or legal action – organizing, policy making, lobbying…
Some of you may be called to law enforcement in some way. We’ve had a member of our church become a cop and we need more good cops who truly serve and protect.
Some of you may be called to educational reform. We’ve had members working in CPS, which is a less than cushy school district, in order to seek the welfare of a city ravaged by racial inequalities.
Some of you may be called to economic investment. We need more real jobs in neighborhoods that are racially segregated. We need more felon-friendly jobs, so people have a way out. This requires entrepreneurial risk and creative thinking from those who have capital.
There are tons of different ways to address the systemic and complicated issues that we’ve been reminded of again this week. Some of you are called to do something about the problem in some of these ways.
But let me remind you what all of us are without a doubt called to do. Every Christian is called to give him or herself to the local church. That is the most important thing we can do in response to these events. Government is not where our hope finally lies. Education, the economy… God can work through those institutions in a general way, but the clearest location of God’s special, redeeming work in the world is the church. Here is where God is reconciling people to himself and to each other for ever. The church is a foretaste and preview of the coming New Creation where every tribe, language, and nation is gathered around the throne of God.
As we drove back into our neighborhood last night, after spending a week in parts of the country that are by and large oblivious to these sad realities, I was reminded of how exciting it is to be the church here in the UIC Area, with such diversity yet disparity. What a place to do the long-term work of preaching the gospel and making disciples and living sacrificially for others. It’s all right here within a few blocks of where we sit right now. It’s all right here. Let’s not miss it.
So with all the national news swirling that highlights the problems, let’s recommit ourselves to this specific church and our mission to this neighborhood. What can we do? Let’s be the church, be the people of God assembled under the Word of God, demonstrating to the world the supernatural power of the gospel to make enemies of God adopted sons and daughters of God and true brothers and sisters to each other through the cross. Let’s help this body continue to reflect God’s kaleidoscopic kingdom. Let’s dig in deeper to each other’s lives, loving one another deeply from the heart and seeking to bring our neighbors in on that. We can, and must, all do at least this.