Like you, I have thought about these same issues for years now – and even more so within the last year, especially … and even more, more so since the events of the past few months have exploded these crucial and sensitive matters into our national and social conscience, conversations, and relationships.
We must confront these issues and engage the other persons involved in them. We must talk about it. And, we must do something about it. We must seek to establish equity, fairness, and justice in all our institutions [governmental, corporate, churches, and social] and relationships. We must strive for love, unity, forgiveness, and reconciliation where they have been lacking, ruptured, or violated.
But, we can’t allow ourselves to be swept up and along by the impassioned emotional responses that are expressed in the tidal waves of group-think and impulsive actions.
I will say for my own part, that from the beginning of these very public and passionate discussions, one of the guiding Scriptures that has convicted me, pointed me to my attitudes and courses of action, and clarified for me how I must follow Jesus in living out the Gospel is James 2.1-13.
- James’s immediate context is one of rich/poor, socio-economic disparities and the prejudices that arise from them – and, keep in mind that all of this is going down in the churches [“…comes into your assembly…” verse 2]
- These prejudices [James calls it ‘partiality’, verse 1] result in personal disdain toward and ultimate rejection of certain persons because of differences you see that cause you to evaluate them to be inferior to you in some way. James calls it what it is: “…have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” [verse 4].
- But the same principle applies to every other difference among us.
- In verse 1, James declares that the Gospel, and my “faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory,” forbids me to devalue or disdain any person, any bearer of the image of God because of the melanin content of their skin, their country of origin, their customs or culture, ethnicity, or any other superficial difference.
- Jesus Christ and His Gospel requires me to treat every person with the very same equal respect, justice, and fairness as Jesus Himself does in His Gospel. “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well” [verse 8]
- And, all of that is true, first, because of our common creation by God and the common oneness of race all human beings share [Malachi 2.10; Acts 17.26]…
- …and how much more so because the Gospel of Jesus Christ forbids us to treat any other human being with partiality or difference [Romans 1.14-16; Romans 3.22-24; Galatians 3.26-29; Ephesians 2.11-22; Philippians 2.1-11; Revelation 7.9-12, et. al.].
- If I violate this Gospel law either in attitude or conduct, then I have sinned. “But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” [verses 9-10]. So commands Jesus Christ and His Gospel.
Then, when I listened to these podcasts by Pastor Robert Cunningham – who pastors Tates Creek Presbyterian Church, just down the road a bit from where I live here – I heard him articulating many of the same thoughts I had been praying over and coming to.
Except that, he is so much more articulate, cogent, precise, simple, thorough, and comprehensive than I could ever hope to be.
So, I commend him and these podcasts to your attention and consideration. You will find him to be calm, compassionate, reasonable, and fair. He is Scripturally-convictional and historically-documented. Most of all, he challenges us from start to finish to follow Jesus, be sure it is actually Jesus we are following, and commit to living out the ‘works’ that our ‘faith’ really requires. As he states in his third podcast, he is speaking from his own Presbyterian (PCA) context, but you and I can apply these same principles to our own.
The summaries of each of these episodes are his own summaries:
Episode 31 / Racism in America / part 1 / In the first episode of a three-part series on the historical cultural moment emerging from the killing of George Floyd, Robert speaks to those who are passionate for racial justice. While affirming their zeal to fight racism, he cautions that they may be unknowingly embracing a destructive ideology that harms the very world they are seeking to heal. In his analysis, he takes a look at the history and meaning behind many terms that have entered our mainstream discourse which are crucial to understand.
Episode 32 / Racism in America / part 2 / In episode two of our “Racism in America” series, Robert now speaks to Christians who have a harder time accepting proof that racism is still a problem in today’s society, and challenges us to examine our history through a more critical lens.
Episode 33 / Racism in America / part 3 / In the final episode of our series on racism in America, Robert looks specifically at how our Protestant, Presbyterian tradition has handled the issues of slavery and racism in our country’s history, before ending the series with theological and practical applications for our church.
In the end, like in all matters of faith and culture, we must always follow Jesus – wherever He leads. And through the testimony of Scripture as illuminated by the Holy Spirit, we must always make sure that it is actually Jesus we are really following.
“Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything”
~2 Timothy 2.7