During our service Sunday morning, our country experienced another tragedy as we learned that 3 police officers in Baton Rouge have lost their lives in a shootout. A Christian brother of mine is pastoring in the city and expressed the fear and concern for the community as a few of the shooters are still at large. (I later learned one of the three was a member of his church)
#BatonRouge, #Dallas, #AlstonSterling, #PhilandoCastile, #Baltimore, #BlackLivesMatter, #AllLivesMatter, #BlueLivesMatter The list could go on and on over tragedy that has taken place recently, but it would take our entire 90 minutes just to read the names of people and locations that have been covered by the news.
An NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll conducted last week and published Tuesday found 52% of Americans believe racism against black people is an “extremely” or “very” serious problem. An additional 25% said the issue is “somewhat” of a problem.
Another new poll has even starker numbers. In a New York Times/ CBS News Survey conducted Friday until Tuesday, 69% of poll respondents said race relations are generally bad. And six in 10 Americans said race relations are growing worse, according to the poll, up from 38% a year ago. It was the most discord since the 1992 riots in Los Angeles during the Rodney King case, the Times noted.
As I was writing notes for this prayer gathering, I ran across another story of a hostage situation in our part of Baltimore where four hostages are barricaded in a Burger King, one as young as seven years old. (I spoke with our church planter we are partnering with and though the Burger King is in our part of Baltimore, none of The Broken Wall Project were harmed by this event)
These news stories are becoming daily reminders that we are still living in a world where sin still runs rampant. Our emotions, the emotions of others in our country - we experience fear, confusions, frustration, anger.
What do we all need? - Jesus. We need prayer, unity, and gospel community.
So often we become distracted to the fact that we are a part of a bigger body of Christ by our day to day tasks and activities we have within our own church. Recently, my brother, John Onwuchekwa spoke addressing the tension within our country and brought to our attention several key components to moving forward as Christians. One of the things we see in the Bible where people call upon Jesus to teach them something, is when they ask him how to pray. The first two words he uses to teach them is to say, “Our Father.” God’s family is much bigger than just people that look like us. When I see my brother suffering or hurting, I suffer and hurt with him.
We are a part of a larger family. Christianity is not meant to be done alone. When looking at all of the "one another" passages that we discussed last week (image above, photo credit Visual Theology), there is no way to be faithful to God's Word without living in community with other Christians. This is by design. We were not created to be individualistic.
The first time the Bible notes that God saw something as not good was Genesis 2 when Adam was by himself - what was created was Eve (something similar, but something different).
God loves all of us and desires that we turn from sin and have faith in Him as our Savior. We have all been created uniquely in His image, and exhibit unique qualities of His infinite nature. The church should be a beautiful example of people from all walks of life gathering together, unified under the victory of Jesus. We must be the example to the world. We must teach them how to live in unity together.
My former professor, Dr. Finn wrote recently on Facebook, “The term ‘sanctity of human life’ has normally been used by Christians who are opposed to abortion, and later, euthanasia. But as those who believe every human being is created in God’s image, the tragic events of this week remind us once again that sanctity of human life must also mean opposition to racism (personal and systematic) and opposition to violent retaliation against real and perceived racism.”
We hear news of tragic events happening daily, and we run the risk of letting one of the most dangerous of emotions to take over - Apathy. Apathy is so dangerous because it hits us without us trying.
In John O’s recent exhortation, he discussed the idea of apathy. He defined apathy as not being void of feelings, but explained if emotions were cups, apathy “would not be an empty cup, but a cup so filled of self-love that it creates no room for us to care for anyone else. It keeps us satisfied with shallow jewels.” We must not let this happen. The church must not give in to apathy.
We as a country are calling for peace - to “stop fighting.” What a shallow definition of peace. John Onwucheckwa reminds us that we can stop fighting, remain together in unity as one nation, and yet still be divided. Our nation is continuing to push forth regulations to allow us to remain one of the most diverse nations in the world…but forcing everyone to play on the same playground without fighting doesn’t mean we will be at peace.
This is a wake up call from our apathy. Our world is crying out for us to just stop fighting. But we as Christians know that is not enough. The Gospel is so much more than that. We believe in a Gospel that allows sworn enemies to join arms as brothers. We see Saul the murderer of Christians be transformed into Paul the apostle and writer of a large chunk of the New Testament because of the transformation that comes through salvation. And we have a responsibility to share with others about God's love and the transforming power of the Gospel.
As Francis Schaeffer so well stated, “Our relationship with each other is the criterion the world uses to judge whether our message is truthful. Christian community is the ultimate apologetic.” How we live with show others what we claim to believe. Are you living a life that represents what you claim to believe be true in Christianity?
We believe in a God that takes no pleasure in death, as stated in Ezekiel 18:32, but calls for us to “turn, and live.” His call is clear. He does not enjoy seeing death, and desires rather to see people turn from their sin and live a new life. Are we living out this nature of God in our own lives?
Our lives cannot be spent in apathy towards our brothers, whether here in our own country, or our brothers and sisters in Christ that suffer for the Gospel daily.
I read an article this week written by missionary Nik Ripken (a man that has been so engulfed in areas dangerous to Christians that he has to use a fake name) that informed “approximately 70 percent of Christians who are practicing their faith live in environments of persecution.” The article further informed that “more than 90% of Christians in the West will never share the good news of Jesus with another person. Not. Even. Once.”
A Call To Action
Beloved, we cannot let our set of circumstances, whether they be our freedom to worship without persecution, our ability to drive down the street without being pulled over due to the color of our skin, or our comfort in heading to work not having to worry about whether we will survive to see our families at the end of the night…we cannot let our comfort lead to apathy! Ripken reminds, “there’s no such thing as a persecuted church and a free church. There is only one church! There is one church - one church that is at the same time free and persecuted. - Hebrews 13:3 beautifully captures our calling in light of this reality: ‘Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body’ - or, as the NIV puts it, ‘as if you yourselves were suffering.’”
We don’t just need to be unified. We need to show the world something more than just standing together. We need to show them the Gospel truth, and the hope found in Jesus Christ. One way we need to be doing that is by living in Gospel Community with one another.