Statement on Racial Reconciliation

A reflection on the mass protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, yet another unarmed black man killed by law enforcement on Memorial Day, 2020

Dear Church,

There is a pressing issue still facing our neighborhoods at this time, an issue that has plagued American culture since it’s inception, and one that holiness folks should be considerate of as we then look forward for ways to actively bring reconciliation and healing to all of our brothers and sisters. You likely have been made aware of the widespread protesting and isolated rioting taking place around America. As children of God, we know that our priority in our thoughts, words, and deeds should be the love and care of other children of God. Pay attention to these words from St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:14-21,

“For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Our Manual puts it this way in Paragraph 915,

“…[W]e renounce any form of racial and ethnic indifference, exclusion, subjugation, or oppression as a grave sin against God and our fellow human beings. We lament the legacy of every form of racism throughout the world, and we seek to confront that legacy through repentance, reconciliation, and biblical justice. We seek to repent of every behavior in which we have been overtly or covertly complicit with the sin of racism, both past and present; and in confession and lament we seek forgiveness and reconciliation.

Further, we acknowledge that there is no reconciliation apart from human struggle to stand against and to overcome all personal, institutional and structural prejudice responsible for racial and ethnic humiliation and oppression. We call upon Nazarenes everywhere to identify and seek to remove acts and structures of prejudice, to facilitate occasions for seeking forgiveness and reconciliation, and to take action toward empowering those who have been marginalized.”

          I want to suggest that we as Christians need to be careful about the voices that we listen to. The cable news media would cast these widespread protests and isolated riots as general lawlessness carried out by “thugs.” This type of story-telling and phrases such as “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” would lead our minds down a gravely sinful understanding of people as less valuable than possessions, and also put us in a place of being defensive rather than open to repentance and reconciliation. This is most clearly seen in phrases such as, “it’s a shame about George Floyd, but we really need to do something about these riots.”

          I would suggest that Jesus is probably kneeling with the ball players and standing with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. right now affirming his words, “riots are the language of the unheard.” Of course riots and civil demonstrations are uncomfortable and unpleasant, and of course it is commonly accepted that property destruction is bad (read Mark 11:15-19), but as a people who are commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ to not just love God but also love our neighbors, and as a people who have heard our Lord define our neighbor as even someone who may be classically understood as an enemy, the phrases coming out of our mouths should sound more like, “it’s a shame about all these riots, but we really need to do something about unarmed black people being killed by law enforcement.”

          And again, as I tried to explain in last week’s sermon, corporate sin is a tricky, difficult, and often messy problem, as it can even be carried out by individually righteous people! I’m sure that there were upstanding and holy individuals at the tower of Babel who were just making bricks out of love for their neighbors and were ignorant of the sinful end product of those bricks! (Gen. 11) But when sin of the tower is exposed, even though brick-making isn’t sinful, if the end result of those bricks is revealed to us to be sinful, we need to reconsider what or how we do what we do.

          This is especially hard for us in a place of privilege, as it is easier and cheaper to just keep doing what we’re doing, and the brick making even pretends to honor our wishes and legacy! But even though these systems seem to be good and right, they are actually contrary to God and damaging to humans. Our policing is designed to bring law and order – good things! But in places of extreme poverty and in minority communities, it is being revealed to bring terror and perpetuate generational poverty. For those not experiencing these problems, it’s easier and cheaper to ignore the problem and even celebrate the ways that our current system works on our behalf! But Christians confess that there is only one body. Therefore, if one part of the people of God suffer, we are duty bound to respond at any cost.

           I would go anywhere and do anything with any police officer I know; and I know lots of them! I love and respect all of them and consider each one to be righteous in duty and some of them even holy as people. While there are definitely exceptions, the problem isn’t simply moral character of individual police officers; like I said, the ones I know are for the morally upright in their duties. Rather, the sins that need heard, understood, confessed, and repented of are systemic and often hidden prejudices that are very complex and difficult to understand and deal with!

          But this doesn’t lessen the reality of this sin, the power of this sin, or our duty to hear and learn and repent and heal. Befriend a person of color. Commit for a season to refrain from offering an opinion and just listen and learn. Walk with marchers (even if just to study and learn).  Correct off-color jokes and unwholesome commentary (Ephesians 4:29). Don’t let nationalism interrupt our Christian duty to stand (or kneel) with people groups who are suffering. Give serious consideration to systemic solutions being offered by actually very intelligent people that you would perhaps otherwise scoff at as being “too radical.”  Maybe even write a Congressperson. And may the Spirit of Pentecost give us ears to hear and minds to understand once again!

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Josh

BGS Statement on discrimination: