It’s Time for Something that Only God Can Do!
A Message to the Church Regarding Racism and the Current Crisis in our Nation
Rev. Dr. Mike Gibson, President
Pacific Southwest District – Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
Racism is a reality that has plagued our nation for hundreds of years.
There are moments when many think we’ve finally grown up. But times like this remind us that we are far from healed. Racism raises its systemic, ugly, sinful head without us even trying. It is woven into culture, families, and individuals. It is hard to shake because so many of us don’t see it in ourselves. Many declare, “Not me!” and that may be true . . . or not . . . or up to a point. And yet the finger that points at others is attached to a hand with three fingers pointing back.
Most of us cry out collectively in protest when the latest unjust death is revealed, as George Floyd is asphyxiated in Minnesota and Ahmaud Arbery is hunted down in Atlanta. In unison we shout, “I can’t breathe! Murder! Hatred!” Some try to offer explanations and excuses, but they don’t hold water. It is a horrible and collective embarrassment for us all - including the Church.
It is in THESE moments that the Pacific Southwest District, with all our diversity, multi-cultural communities, and immigrant peoples, must stand up and point the world to Jesus. The Church is the one entity in all of creation where a hope is offered that isn’t temporary - it is eternal. It is the only place where hearts are redeemed, and lives are transformed one person at a time. If you look to the government to do it, you’ll be greatly disappointed! The educational system can’t do it. The economy can’t buy its way out. Only Jesus can. He chooses to use His Church as an agent of grace that tears down the dividing walls of hostility. It happens when God’s Word reveals the systemic realities of our ugliness, calls us to our knees in repentance, tells us the Good News of forgiveness through Jesus’ suffering and death, and transforms us to live the contrast as a New Creation – as Resurrection People. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility . . . 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. (Ephesians 2:13-16)
What Can the Church Do?
As a result of my conversations with the Rev. Dr. Roosevelt Gray, Jr., LCMS Black Ministry, Director and others in affected communities, the Church is asked to focus on three things: Pray, Listen, and Act.
Dear Church, pray that the Lord will grant us His grace and peace. Ask that He will give each of us new eyes to see. That the power of the Spirit will root out the seen and unseen sins of ignorance, intolerance, hatred, and racism in our world and in the Church. Pray that we will celebrate God’s unique creation in each person, race, and culture, knowing that we are more complete as people when we stand together. Ask that our Lord’s broken heart over sin and injustice be our broken hearts. Beg the Savior to bring hope and healing to our cities, states, nation, and world. Believe with all our hearts that God will do what He says: if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
God made the people of His Church to be the Children of God, empowered by the Spirit to be Ambassadors of Reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. (2 Corinthians 5:20) Gather with diverse people in your homes and churches and become true centers of reconciliation. Listen! You don’t always have to be the one who speaks. As our grandmas said, “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.” Learn. Gain new perspectives. Don’t talk about each other, talk to one another. Seek to truly understand, not win an argument. See with eyes, free of scales, gained from the insights of another. Be humble and discover a narrative you’ve never heard before. Sit, quiet, and absorb. COVID-19 can’t stop you - grab a Zoom Room! Appreciate, celebrate, defend one another and if you listen to advice and accept instruction, you may gain wisdom for the future. (Proverbs 19:20)
Call and work for change but do it appropriately. Do no act of violence or hatred. These only beget more violence and hatred and increase our animosity toward one another. As you act, honor those in authority. Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. (Romans 13:1). It is time for the Church to do more than give lip service - reprioritize. What have you stopped doing during COVID that no one has noticed? Leave it in the past and redirect those resources. Make different choices and adjust budgets and focus to invest in the deeper issues of your community. Do more than stick Band-Aids on cancers. Determine what is essential. Embrace it. Focus on that which advances the message of the Gospel and truly expresses love for your neighbors. Let’s do the hard things right. And the King will answer, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)
Pray, Listen, and Act. It’s a good place to start.