June 3, 2020
Warning: Here is a long blog.
When the culture has a pressing need, we (the gospel church) should look for ways to address it that are consistent expressions of the gospel. The believers in Rome were experiencing some racial tensions between the Gentiles and the Jews, and they asked Paul to come and help them sort through them. Paul wrote the book of Romans in order to help them. He spent the first 11 chapters dealing with the theology of the gospel and the rest of the book helping them apply that to their context.
Brothers and sisters, I think that is very instructive for us. We cannot allow pressing social issues to marginalize the message of the gospel, but at the same time, we need to faithfully apply the implications of the gospel to our social issues. Great, so what are some ways in which we can do that? Let's start with the gospel.
God is our Creator.
God made every human in his image. Foundational to distinctions of gender and race is humanness. All races are part of the human race and both genders are designed by God in his image. The creation of the human race by God grounds all races, all peoples, all nationalities, in God. To view some as being better than others is a sinful distortion of God's creation. We embrace God as our Creator and as THE Creator of all. Therefore, we view all people as being made in the glorious image of our glorious Triune God.
Sin affects us to the very core of our being. We have each rebelled against God, and we try to be our own king (make our own rules) and our own savior (fix our problems). We do not know how deeply sin has affected us. But, because we take the Bible's teaching on sin seriously, we accept the fact that there is a lot that we do not know, even about our own hearts. Therefore, we are to be humble, quick to listen, and slow to speak. We are to learn about the world and experiences of others and accept the fact that we have brothers and sisters in our own families whose personalities are quite different than our own. How much more is that the case of people who are in different families, different neighborhoods, different regions, different cities, different states, and different countries? While cultural differences are not insurmountable, they are real and our fundamental posture of humility should motivate us to be the most kind and considerate people in the world. Our view of our own sin also makes us keenly aware that the solution to society's problems cannot come from us, but ultimately have to come from God. Our sin causes us to marginalize one another because we have tried to marginalize God.
God sent Christ to redeem us.
The ground is level at the foot of cross. Christ came to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. He lived the life we could not live and died the death we could not die. When he did, he paid for the sins of every single person who would ever trust in him. Christ and Christ alone can save me, and he does. In fact, he saves every single person who comes to him in faith and places them into his body where there is no discrimination of social standing. All are in Christ together as one body, one family, one flock, one vine, one temple, etc. My understanding of what we are saved FROM and what we are saved TO drives my view of how we are to treat each other now.
We are saved by faith alone in Christ alone.
Our salvation removes all grounds of personal boasting or personal pride. In other words, I cannot contribute anything to my salvation other than my need for it. Christ has done it all for me. My response is to turn from trusting in myself and instead to start trusting in Christ. The focus of my life is on Christ, not me. Therefore, I need to be way more concerned about the reputation of Christ and the gospel than I am about me. Faithfully applying the gospel informs me that I am prone to self-reliance and prone to be ignorant of the worldview and experiences of others. I need to be more concerned about my sin than I am someone else's. Therefore, in order to be able to speak the gospel accurately to others,
it is very helpful for me to understand them and their world and not assume it. Also, in order to be able to experience the unity within the body of Christ that is available to us, it is necessary for me to understand the world and experiences of others and not assume them either.
How does the gospel inform the way I respond to the death of George Floyd and the related protests? Obviously, some are using the occasion of the protests as opportunities for sin, but that does not discount the injustice of George's death. George's death is a grief and is a reminder and a trigger for the grief that many have lived with for many years. I can take the time to listen to that, appreciate that, give place in my heart for that, and pray the Psalms of lament for our world, our churches, and brothers and sisters who feel it deeply. I can be grateful that, because of common grace, people have a sense of justice and are deeply affected when that sense of justice (from the image of God) is offended. But, I can also respond with hope. The hope of the gospel is not only the hope that people can change. It is based on knowing that, ultimately, Christ will return, and there will be a perfect change. We will live in a world with one another where we will experience all of the glorious benefits of all of the races, tribes, languages, and nations without any of the tensions.
Can you imagine what that will be like?! In seasons like this, it is hard to, but that day will come. God has promised it, and I sincerely pray that our lives together provide a taste and preview of what that eternal day will be like. How are you actually doing that? Seriously, are you? I do not know what you are saying or posting on social media. But, I have heard and, in some cases, it isn't good and does not reflect Christ. Ask yourself BEFORE you post anything: How am I adorning the gospel? How does the hope of the gospel flavor the things that I comment about and post? Do I really need to comment on this? Have I spent any significant time actually praying about this? Does the world really benefit from me saying something right now? Is my comment pointing people to Christ? Is the tone of my words helpful or condemning? Am I humble? Am I
aware of the dangers of my own heart or am I just trying to point out the faults of others and make sure my voice is heard? Do I appear to care more about a political agenda or a person's soul? Do I appear to care more about property than people? Am I expressing a disagreement in a way that is honest and loving? Beloved, some of you need to get off social media, really. You are wasting your time and your life. Instead of talking AT one another let us talk WITH one another
and do so humbly and carefully.
These are complicated issues. They are fraught with so much history, tension, and opportunity for misunderstanding, that we must be humble and careful at all times. Jesus is worth a beautiful bride and his gospel is so glorious that we do not want to do anything that would distract from it.
For Christ, the gospel, his church,