When Silence Speak Volumes

Someone once said that Jesus was color blind. Was he?

From an unknown source:

“Jesus didn’t see color. He only saw people. He saw everyone as a person first and then the other things second, if at all.

In his presence, people felt empowered by a love that was freely given, that wasn’t based on their appearance. People were his invention, made in his image, from every race and color.” 

AND ME?

I was raised to give respect and kindness to everyone, regardless of who they were. So, it was quite a surprise the first time I witnessed racism, and it affected me deeply.

It affected me like it did the first time I saw kids hurt another kid because he was different. It was at school.

Years later, I would see Christians offend other Christians because they were different. It was at church. 

I discovered that people could be cruel to those who were different.

 

AN OLD PROBLEM?

Some say that racism is something that happened long ago and no longer exists. 

Last week a friend told me that while serving a church in Alabama, her husband baptized an African American woman. The elders ordered the baptistry drained and scrubbed. Then he was fired.

I vividly remember the KKK marching close to the church I was serving, it stunned me.

Perhaps racism isn’t as widespread or as overtly violent as it once was, but it still exists, there is still violence, and it’s still a problem.

IS RACISM CHRISTIAN?

It isn’t Christian, but that hasn’t stopped it from happening. Here’s a question:

Is racism more of a social issue or a moral issue? 

Racism often gets parked in a social context, which can hinder believers from connecting it to Christ-centered truth.

An Illustration: Most Christians believe that abortion is sinful. They view it as a national stain and stand against it on moral grounds. 

Other Moral Issues:

  1. Sexual immorality
  2. Abuse of women and children
  3. Pornography
  4. Corruption 
  5. Discrimination 

These are identified as moral issues, but not racism.

It’s a sensitive and prickly thing, with plenty of piercing thorns that many preachers try to avoid. I’ve been preaching for forty years and have never delivered a sermon about the sin of racism. Why is that? Have I been afraid? Has it not been relevant to the churches I serve? 

Perhaps I’ve never accepted it as truly immoral. As a Christain leader, I’m to stand against immorality. If racism is sinful, then it’s a moral issue, and I should stand against it on those terms.

“Rather than build a bridge of connection, I created a bubble of silence.” 

I’ve sympathized with African American people, but not empathized. Sympathy allows me to feel bad, but not have to do anything. Empathy allows me to feel bad, and then to engage in their experience, to come alongside and be part of their story.

It can be complicated. Both sides eagerly list the sins of the other and willingly point the fingers of guilt and shame. It can be confusing.

A JOURNEY

I’m asking, “What would Jesus do, and what would he want me to do?”  

I’m reading books about race relations and discussing the problems with people of color. I participated in a webinar on black-white issues. I’ve met with two African American Pastors, saying that I had come to learn and to ask them to teach me.

I don’t have the answers. Frankly, I’m still learning the questions. But I know we must work towards peace. We should strive for the equality that Jesus died to provide, that there be no sides, only his sacred community.

TO CLOSE

I’m aware of an occasion when a white person refused to take a communion tray being passed by a black person. I’m aware because I saw it.

Folks, if we can’t gather together around the table of communion, how will we ever gather togather around the throne of glory? 

I think someone was right. Jesus is color blind.

Shalom

COVID-19, Lasting Church Changes

There is something I’ve heard a lot. It’s a common theme for church members and leaders:

“I can’t wait until we are back to normal.”

I understand the statement. We eagerly await the day the full congregation returns to public worship, and everything members need.

Some things we want to return:

  • Nursery care
  • Children’s programs
  • Youth classes
  • Adult classes
  • The regular service schedule
  • Seeing everyone together

Some things we want to end:

  • Face coverings
  • Social distancing
  • Checking for fever
  • Everything wiped down
  • Fear of touching or being touched
  • The perpetual talk about Covid-19

However, there is a growing awareness that the “normal” we long for may never materialize. Nobody knows for sure, but as churches reopen across the country, we are learning some things. Here are five things that shape a new normal.

  1. Many churches will not see the attendance they had prior to COVID.
  2. Some members will choose to remain home and participate online.
  3. Some worship services and bible studies will continue digitally.
  4. We became multi-site churches and that will remain on some level.
  5. A heightened sense of risk may stay with us for a long time.

Church leaders need to embrace the new normal instead of grieving for the church they once knew. Smart leaders will view the differences as opportunities and not as disruptions. It won’t be easy. It feels different and strange. But work through it.

New technology can help the church. Most churches haven’t had a large digital footprint, they didn’t need one, but those days are ending. Churches that upgrade their digital capabilities will be able to meet the needs of their congregants and community. The churches that don’t will struggle to catch up.

To Close

Churches that were growing before COVID-19 will continue to grow, even with the new normal. Churches that were declining will probably continue to decline.

Here is a thought.

Proud leaders see something they don’t understand and say, “That’s wrong.”

Humble leaders see something they don’t understand and say, “Please teach me.”  

The church culture has changed. But it’s the same gospel, the same Savior and the same Heavenly Father. May he bless and guide us as we navigate through different waters.

Sunday: Families of Faith

Did Jesus dislike families? Did he have any reason to?

John 7 records that his brothers didn’t believe in him. What about his dad, what happened to Joseph? The family would be used as an excuse for not becoming his disciple. His own apostles, at times, were torn between following him and going back to their homes and families.

Here is a particularly difficult text about this in Matthew 10.

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” v. 34-35

“A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” v. 36

A troubling thing for the Prince of Peace to say.

Matthew 10:34-36 is a quote from Micah 7:6. The prophet spoke against Judah and Israel for abandoning their faith. He condemned them for social injustice, the leader’s abusive behaviors, and how those with power brutalized the poor.

Micah 6:14 says that the leaders were attempting to stockpile for themselves olive oil, wine, and grains. But they would not enjoy any of it, for it would be forcefully taken by their enemies and their swords. Jesus’ sword was a metaphor, to illustrate that his presence and his message would separate the righteous from the unrighteous.

Micah spoke of the tribulation that would soon come upon the people. That a season of desperation would lead them to betray and abuse each other. They would steal from each other, even from the members of their own families.

Such was the context in which Jesus spoke against Israel’s leaders. He was about to send his apostles to preach throughout Israel and Galilee. He warned them about hardships, and about their being flogged in the synagogues. Jesus said that the message of the kingdom would divide families.

As it was for Micah the Prophet, so it was for the Son of David. He would challenge the people to return to God, to love one another, and to eliminate greed, injustice, and intolerance from their hearts.

Jesus’ message wasn’t always received with joy.

So, it makes it all the sweeter when I see families of faith. Yesterday, in both services, we had videos of families at home who led us in prayer, in communion, and in the process, touched our hearts and enriched our souls. It was beautiful.

Jesus with families

To Close

Jesus wasn’t born to dislike people. He didn’t come to tear us apart or to divide friends and families. But he knew his message would create friction, for even within the same family, some would believe and some wouldn’t.

I thank God daily for our young families at the Southeast church. Thank you for your faith, and God bless you for sharing it with all of us.