What an incredibly complex cultural moment we are living through, as if the pandemic wasn’t enough to navigate!
Like many of you I have been deeply disturbed and saddened by the senseless, cruel deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd and deeply troubled by the folks who have hijacked protests for criminal, violent, and similarly inhumane ends. I lament the profound divisions, the profound pain, and the profound sense of elusive justice for folks on all sides. I am longing for substantive conversation and definitive action that can repair the tattered shalom of our world. And in the midst of it all I find myself sincerely wondering what the Gospel of Jesus Christ demands and enables for this time and this cultural reality.
Surely the Gospel demands and enables more than a reaction for an isolated moment, more than slogans and “posts”. I take to heart Neil Plantinga’s insight from above that the hardest task for folks who are hoping in and staking their lives upon the Second Coming is to live in accord with the righteousness, peace, justice, and love that Jesus will bring fully and finally. Surely that lifestyle demands progressive growth in grace, deeper reliance upon the Holy Spirit, more deliberate cultivation of the fruit of the Spirit, humble prayer, and focused discipleship. In other words, not a momentary reaction but a response for the long haul – conviction to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” combined with the courage to put costly, concrete action to our prayers. A response that continually draws upon the fountains of lament and sadness for the way things are and trust in Jesus for the way things will one day be. A response that is long, slow, plodding, two-steps-forward-one-step-
The magnet force of Revelation 22:3 – “the leaves of the tree [of life] were for the healing of the nations” – pulls us forward. The fallout from Eden – human difference seen as liability, the occasion to blame the “other” and justify oneself – has been and continues a blight upon the shalom God has designed us to thrive in. We are drowning in those waters. Yet Heaven promises “the healing of the nations”. We can live in opposition to that alluring picture and give ourselves exclusively to our interests and our nations. We can live in cynicism that this side of Heaven not much progress will be made. Or we can live in eager anticipation that the “there and then” of that healing can be ushered, however small and incomplete it may be, into the “here and now” of God’s Kingdom.
Some of us are tired, numb, and disengaged. Some of us worry that our positions and convictions would get labeled “racist” and hold back from dialogue. Some feel like we marched, protested, and fought for the same issues 40 or 50 years ago and wonder what happened to those advances. Some feel like it is all just too messy, complicated, and “political” and have no idea where to begin.
For me, personally, I have been in conversation with other pastors who serve in predominantly white spaces, and we have produced a statement for our city that hopefully helps outline a helpful response: lament, support, listen, learn, act, and pray. I am including a copy with this message today.
I am also eager to listen to and learn from my fellow pastors who serve in predominantly black and brown spaces in our city. We are reading a book together and, Lord willing, will capitalize upon our discussions with an extended retreat to plan how to usher in “the healing of the nations” more fully into our city and the shared work of building the Kingdom of God together in Winston-Salem.
As always, with such delicate and exacting issues, it would be an honor to listen and better understand your unique questions and wrestlings. It would be an honor to pray with you in your frustration, anger, confusion, and exhaustion.
Please continue to pray with me that God’s Kingdom will come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Peace of the Risen Savior,