Just as I did with Ferguson, I am doing so now. I waited. I watched. I thought. I prayed. Now I speak.
I am not attempting to address all the ills in our country or even the most recent ones, nor am I attempting to address why we have all these ills in our country. My hope is that as believers grounded with a biblical worldview we already understand that the reason for all the world's problems is sin and until Christ returns problems will persist. That said, I do want to address the Church's response (collectively and individually) to the wrongful events in our country involving discrimination and injustice in our communities.
Seeing Shalom in Our Communities
Last night at our church we studied Micah 5. One of the takeaways from our Micah 5 study was, "Jesus is peace/shalom (wholeness; nothing missing, nothing broken)." (v5a, cf. Isa. 9:6-7, John 14:27, Eph. 2:14)
“And he will be the source of peace.” (Micah 5:5a, NLT)
“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!” (Isa. 9:6-7, NLT)
“I am leaving you with a gift—–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27, NLT)
“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…” (Eph. 2:14, NIV)
In a world that is rapidly becoming more divisive and hateful, Jesus is truly the only hope of peace in this world. We as ambassadors and children of God are to be the representation of His peace in this divisive, hateful, and hostile world, even if it costs us our lives/reputation/status in the process.
The Church is supposed to be (i)the safe place for conversations concerning those who feel discriminated toward or have experienced injustice and (ii)the bridge toward reconciliation and peace in our communities when trust and unity has been destroyed or corroded between people. Sadly, we are not a safe place or a bridge (for the most part). But why is the Church supposed to be this? Because as you see in those verses above, Jesus is peace. There is no true peace apart from Jesus. The world cannot give each other true peace. But the Church can, because we are the Body of Christ filled with the Spirit of Christ!
The Church should not be getting sucked up into the media-driven (social media included) stew that profits nothing but more division, hate, and hostility. We're supposed to be the voice and sign of Jesus' peace/shalom in the midst of chaos. Why? Because we who profess Christ bear the name and the redeemed image of He who is Peace/Shalom and we know His peace/shalom is the only substantial answer.
Church, be His peace/shalom during these turbulent seasons. Christian, be His peace/shalom during these turbulent seasons. Release Jesus into the situation through being an extension of His peace/shalom.
Please, don't misunderstand His peace/shalom. Jesus' peace is not passive or weak or quiet. His peace/shalom is wholeness. Restoring wholeness in a broken situation involving broken people while still part of this broken world, that is His peace/shalom in action. Be that! Do that! Pursue that! Pray for that! And trust God with the rest.
How Can We Begin Restoring Wholeness in Our Communities, Church?
1. Truly care for your community and your surrounding communities (especially those in turmoil).
Become the safe place for victims.
-Mourn with them. Pray with them and for them. Hug them. Love on them. Speak less, listen more, and think before you speak. Be patient with them—not everyone bounces back as quickly as others.
Become the neutral zone for the community.
-Show the community you don't take sides, you're not trying to be God, or the law, or the government (civil, state, or federal). Therefore, ALL parties of the community (the minorities, the majority, the civil servants, the forgotten, the outcasted, the young, the old, etc) will feel like their voice will be heard. And always, ALWAYS exemplify grace. Grace softens hard hearts. Grace is the entryway to the Gospel.
Have purposeful conversations with disunited members of the community.
-Find out if there are members of the community who feel mistreated or discriminated toward. Hear them out. What are the problems? What are the concerns? With whom and why? What does reconciliation look like? Then gather all the parties and discuss ways to begin working toward reconciliation.
Partner with other churches, para-church ministries/organizations, and community organizations in your community.
-There is strength in numbers and unity. When the churches begin working together with each other and other local ministries/organizations, the community begins working together. When a community begins working together, then progress and improvement is underway.
2. Demonstrate the Gospel
Many churches do a great job of preaching the gospel. But very few churches do a great job of demonstrating the Gospel.
Serve your community.
-Just as Christ came and served us according to our need (Matt. 20:28), we follow His example and serve others according to their needs. Find ways to be in your community, serving them and serving alongside them. Don't assume you know what they need (other than salvation). Ask first, then serve.
Accept all within your community.
-Is your church truly welcoming to all of those in your community? Would any minorities or other ethnicities in your community feel welcomed in your church? Would any homosexuals in your community feel welcomed in your church? Whoever is in your community should feel just as welcomed in your church as God welcomed you into His family when you were His enemy (Rom. 5:6-8). And this goes beyond words. This is shown by your actions and attitudes toward them.
Be the example of unity and love to your community.
-Show the community what true unity and love looks like by how you unite with and love one another in your church, other churches, and the community.
Pray for the events and churches in other communities.
-Don't be indifferent toward the troubles in other communities. Pray for them. This further demonstrates unity and love to your community.
Extend a hand across the aisle and support other churches as they are demonstrating the gospel in their communities.
-We are the Body of Christ. Our unity is a testimony of Jesus to the watching world (John 17:21). So whenever there is an opportunity to stand with each other in righteousness or in gospel demonstration, do so! This further demonstrates unity and love to your community.
3. Don't try to be the Savior, but point them to Him.
Here is the balance to #1 & #2. The Gospel is not for the salvation of communities. The Gospel is for the salvation of people (Rom. 1:16). The Church's aim in being the pillar of peace in our communities is not for the salvation of the community but for the salvation of the people of our communities. Once the people come to Christ in saving faith, communities will change. It is the Church's job to proclaim and demonstrate Jesus. It is the Church's job to be the representation of Jesus' peace/shalom in our communities. It is Jesus' job to do the saving and restoration, not the Church's. So, let us simply do our part and then we wait, watch, and trust Jesus with His part.
I am fully aware that what I have discussed may not be applicable outside the U.S. I am also aware that there may come a point in the future where it will not be applicable in the U.S. But as of now it is. Thus, Church in the U.S., for the sake of the Gospel and those whom Christ died for, be the pillar of peace in our communities. They need you. We need you. I need you.
*Earlier this year I taught a sermon entitled "Jesus on Justice & Injustice toward Others". It's a message on Jesus' view of kingdom justice toward others. We would do well if we walked this out as churches/Christians.
July 7, 2016