Jesus As The Answer
Fear. Anger. Sadness. Confusion. Discouragement. These are just some of the emotions that have flowed in and out of my heart over the last few weeks. After watching videos of two more senseless deaths of unarmed black men. Seeing riots, looting, and violence against police in our city. Reading an all out war of words and opinions on social media. It has felt like the few steps forward for racial unity in America have taken giant leaps backwards. We are in divided times. I have had endless conversations with people from various backgrounds, both Christian and non-Christian. From several people, I have heard a sense of hopelessness when wondering how or if things can get better. My mentor and former teaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church, Kevin Smith, used to always say, "Bible-reading Christians shouldn't run around like Chicken Little, screaming the sky is falling!" In other words, the people of the gospel should never be without hope. For we of all people have a biblically informed reason why things are broken in this world and an eyewitness testimony to the solution. This doesn't remove the raw emotions that we feel, but it does keep us focused on being salt and light ambassadors for Christ in a culture filled with division.
Disciple Makers know that sin in the human heart is the reason for the brokenness we see. Genesis 3 is the reason there's racism, injustice, lack of compassion, rivalries, and dissensions. We should not be surprised that the fall of Adam has affected every realm of society, including government systems. All of society is tainted by sin, because every sector is run by people who are descendants from Adam.
Disciple makers should also know what the answer is. Jesus is obviously the answer for sin in the human heart. Tony Evans says, "Because racism is sin, the answer is not societal, it is theological." We would all agree with that. But we have to be clear about what we mean when we say that. Jesus as the answer must be more than getting people saved and making sure they have sound doctrine. Jesus as the answer must be more than being justified and in right standing with God. Jesus as the answer must involve how Jesus lived and what Jesus commands when it comes to loving God and loving people.
When I say Jesus is the answer, I mean His ability to wash away your sins, giving you perfect standing with God AND regenerating your heart to have supernatural love and empathy for other people especially those who don't look like you. (Luke 10:25-37) By His power working in and through you, a person who believes in Jesus becomes a reconciler (2 Corinthians 5:18), peacemaker (Matthew 5:9), servant (Mark 10:43-45), and lifter of the least of these (Matthew 25:34-46). He is the answer because he makes a way for us to get to heaven in the future AND live with our brothers and sisters on earth now.
"For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility."
To have one side of the "answer" of Jesus without the other is not sound theology and not the Jesus of the Bible. I find it troubling when people either actively try to disassociate the gospel from social interaction or fail to connect orthodoxy (correct belief) to orthopraxy (correct conduct). Believing in Jesus means following Jesus obediently, and Jesus had a whole lot to say about our social lives. The Bible has a lot to say about those who have coming together to ensure the flourishing all the vulnerable and oppressed among us.
To have one side of the "answer" of Jesus without the other is not sound theology and not the Jesus of the Bible.
To make disciples in a way that brings real change to the country's divide has to have biblically anchored teaching, modeling, and correction on how we love and treat other people. If we think and do ministry by only focusing on our relationship with God, we will always only widen the divide. Here are a just few things you can focus on while doing this.
Disciple people to have a right view of human beings - Spend time developing in people a world view that values human life. Help people understand according to Genesis 1:26-27 that human beings are made in the image of God and therefore have dignity, value, and worth. Work hard at learning to love and celebrate the uniqueness of different people. Help them have a grand vision of Revelation 7 when the Lamb of God has united distinct cultures, languages, and traditions by his blood. Teach why racism, vengeance, and violence is wrong according to God's view of people. Teach the call upon us to welcome the stranger and treat every person as if Jesus died for them.
Disciple people to be reconcilers - Help those you disciple understand that only those with the answer of the gospel can offer any real hope to the world and so they are part of the solution. Challenge people to enter into the conversation and work of race relations with empathy and compassion. As agents of reconciliation, we must understand that there are in fact societal barriers people have to believing in Jesus. Many young people especially can't even focus on our claims about Jesus because of all the cultural hurts they have seen or experienced. To ignore that is to lose a door for the gospel message. We must teach people how to build bridges by listening better, understanding more. We must know how the Bible addresses these cultural and ethnic barriers. Disciple makers must choose to be aware of the burdens that others carry and not be apathetic or aloof from their struggles. All of this in an effort to win an opportunity for sharing and showing the world how to be right with God.
Disciple people to fight for community- Teach people the many commands from the New Testament about the pursuit of unity with people who offend you. (1 Peter 3:8, Ephesians 4:1-7, Colossians 3:12-15) The gospel forms a family for God of people from every ethnicity, culture, and political view who learn to love each other like blood-purchased brothers and sisters. We've got to raise up disciples who have the spiritual maturity to work through disagreements with others by forgiving and asking for forgiveness. Repenting and confessing. Bearing patiently with one another. Continuing to come back to the table. (Side note, these relationships must be flesh and blood in biblical community and not social media only.) Our natural bent is either running away from conflict or fighting to hurt each other, so we must instill a mindset of oneness by the power of the spirit.
But perhaps the most important question to ask in all this is why. Why does this ultimately matter? Why is it important for me to have a robust view of vertical reconciliation with God and horizontal reconciliation to loving our neighbors? Well, aside from its commands in the Bible, It's ultimately about the glory of God going forth in all the earth. When the world that is in chaos and division because of the fall of Genesis 3 sees the church as a stark contrast. When they see the church made up of people that have every cultural reason to hate each other but actually love, care for, defend, and sacrifice for each other. When they see unity in diversity it's a testimony to the power of Jesus Christ. It bears witness as an apologetic to the one who died and resurrected to remove sins penalty and power. Jesus brings not a political party or governmental structure, but a new creation of people who live in those structures to honor God and demonstrate his love for all of humanity. This is a picture of heaven, it's our living hope to face today, and it's what the world needs right now. Let's teach and live a gospel that brings about radical transformation as only Jesus can.
Many young people especially can't even focus on our claims about Jesus because of all the cultural hurts they have seen or experienced. To ignore that is to lose a door for the gospel message. We must teach people how to build bridges by listening better, understanding more. We must know how the Bible addresses these cultural and ethnic barriers. Disciple makers must choose to be aware of the burdens that others carry and not be apathetic or aloof from their struggles. All of this in an effort to win an opportunity for sharing and showing the world how to be right with God.
Grace & Peace, Scott Long
Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash