How Should We Respond to Racial Injustice?: some suggestions for this moment

George-floyd-protests

The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have added to the stream of cases, particularly over the past year, raising questions about systemic issues of racial disparities in the implementation of justice in our nation. Along with the well-known cases of Trayvon Martin in Florida, Michael Brown in Ferguson, and Eric Garner in New York, these recent cases increase the sense that something is deeply wrong in our nation in relation to racial justice.  This is a complex situation that touches on many elements, including law enforcement, educational opportunities, employment possibilities, and more.

I have talked with many individuals over the past weeks who are trying to understand what happened, what this means, and how we should respond as Christians in the face of these challenging times. As a pastor of a multiethnic church here in Milwaukee, I believe that the strongest witness happens when we journey together across our diverse backgrounds into a learning process that involves listening, healthy reflection, and taking action together for racial justice. Regardless of your opinions on the above matters, as followers of Jesus Christ we must approach these issues based upon God’s Word in Scripture.

A clear biblical response to this situation is to grieve. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” We should mourn with the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, who lost loved ones in ways that are just wrong.  Regardless of our ethnicity, we should mourn together as one with the African-American community who senses things are deeply wrong in our country. Regardless of our politics, we should mourn over our own city which ranks so highly in ethnic segregation, poverty, violent crime, racial disparities for incarceration, and more. A healthy biblical response is to grieve over this situation that is shaking our nation.

As we grieve, we must also raise a prophetic voice for righteousness and justice. The Old Testament prophets critique the authorities of their day again and again for failing to bring justice into the courts of law. It was the prophet Amos who spoke judgment upon Israel for failing in this regard. He said, “For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not relent. They sell the innocent for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as on the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed” (Amos 2:6-7). God has a concern for justice and righteousness coming together in the public square. While we know no human being or system can ever fully represent God’s pure justice and righteousness, we still have a responsibility as God’s people to call authorities to pursue the ways of righteousness and justice in our public realm. Where there are questions of a miscarriage of justice at any level, the people of God must move beyond party politics to seek righteousness and justice for all.

At the same time, we must also bring the love of Jesus Christ into our prophetic voice. Jesus was the one who revolutionized the broken human tendency for wrongs endured to swiftly become wrongs inflicted. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:43-45). Even as we stand up for righteousness and justice, as hard as it is, we must not enter a cycle of vengeance where violence is added to violence. The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., whose legacy of non-violence on civil rights advocacy is unparalleled in our country, once wrote, “We have, through massive nonviolent action, an opportunity to avoid a national disaster and create a new spirit of class and racial harmony.” Violence will not create a community of peace.

In the midst of this, we must stand together across the normal human dividing lines with prayer. The only hope for us as the church and the nation is to move into the dream of God described in Revelation 7:9, “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” The starting point for this is prayer; our ongoing conversation with the living God together. Prayer is not a meaningless aside from meaningful action, but is an essential activity for any movement hoping to bring good. When we pray, we humble ourselves together before the living God. When we pray, we see ourselves and the world more clearly. When we pray, we enter into praise of a great and good God. When we pray, we begin to confess the sin and brokenness that grips us and others. When we pray, we are moved to call out for God’s power to be poured into a world that deeply needs Him. Prayer is where true unity and transformation begins.

So, please join me in prayer. Pray for the families who have lost loved ones in painful and violent ways. Pray for God’s guidance and protection over those who are protesting and those who seek to maintain order. Pray for the pastors and community leaders around our nation, who seek to forge a new way forward that is constructive and meaningful in these very dark and trying days.


For more on this topic you may want to take a look at:

Senior Pastor Video Update in the Time of COVID-19 (April 15, 2020)

Here is my latest video update for Eastbrook Church as we navigate the time of COVID-19. I will continue to re-post these weekly video updates here at my blog for those who have not seen it or who are not part of our church but could use the encouragement. You can watch it here or at the Eastbrook Church Vimeo channel.

In this video update, I reference two portions of Scripture that I’m including below.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)

The Weekend Wanderer: 15 February 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

Wright“Loving to Know” – N. T. Wright addresses the importance not only of what we know, but how we know.  Stepping into the divide between “subjective” and “objective” knowledge, Wright explores the ways in which not only his own discipline of New Testament studies has been impacted by this supposed distinction, but also our broader experience as religious beings. “The way out is an understanding of ­creation as the gift of love, to which love is the appropriate response. But we cannot reach that true understanding of ­creation by a direct approach, for it quickly leads us back to idols. We must start with the center of creation: Jesus himself.”

 

Walley, Thomas, 1817-1878; George Whitefield Preaching in Bolton, June 1750“The Political Captivity of the Faithful” – Here is Nathan Hatch, religious historian and President of Wake Forest University, on the way both conservatives and liberals are held captive to the politicization of our day. “Today, I look in vain for religious leaders whose theological convictions creatively bridge the chasm between conservative and progressive views of the world not for political reasons, but for religious ones. One regularly sees this point made about the conflation of evangelical and conservative values, but I think there is much the same pattern among mainline and progressive Christians. When mainline churches develop an agenda on social policy, it has typically gravitated to those issues, however worthy, that have been defined by others.”

 

Steve Timmis“Acts 29 CEO Removed Amid ‘Accusations of Abusive Leadership'” – It’s hard not to cry out when I read these articles, “Not again!” Lord, have mercy upon us. “As CEO of Acts 29, Steve Timmis was an effective and respected leader. During his seven years at the helm, the church planting network rebounded from the fallout around its co-founder Mark Driscoll and expanded from 300 mostly US churches to 800 around the world.A gray-haired British pastor with sharp Bible teaching and deep passion for mission, Timmis was known for the model of intensive gospel community developed at his 120-person church in the middle of England, The Crowded House. He emphasized ‘ordinary life with gospel intentionality.’ But while his international reputation grew, some who knew Timmis in his ordinary life—who prayed, fellowshipped, and evangelized with him in living rooms, offices, and pubs—saw a different side.”

 

DeGroat Narcissism“Narcissism is not a ‘leadership style'” – After that last article––and the apparent endless stream of similar stories––it’s probably as good an opportunity as ever to hear from Chuck DeGroat about narcissism in leadership. Speaking directly of Driscoll, Acts 29, and Timmis, DeGroat writes: “Let me be crystal clear: bullying, controlling, and scaring are not characteristics of any ‘leadership style’ I find worthy of ‘Christian” leadership. These descriptors do not remotely approach the character of a Jesus-following leader. These pastors described an abusive pastor and abusive culture.'”

 

Brooks - 5 lies“Five Lies Our Culture Tells: The Cultural Roots of Our Political Problems” – David Brooks addresses the deeper look at our political divides to address five core lies that our culture believes and lives by that are just, plain, wrong. Part of this material is drawn from Brooks’ book The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life.

 

Ross Douthat“Back to the Future” – Peter Thiel reviews Ross Douthat’s new book, The Decadent Society: How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success, which critiques our prevailing sense of inevitable progress over the years. “Douthat outlines four aspects of decadence: stagnation (technological and economic mediocrity), sterility (declining birth rates), sclerosis (institutional failure), and repetition (cultural exhaustion).” You can read a summary of Douthat’s argument in “The Age of Decadence” at his regular column in The New York Times.

 

Music: L.S.U., “Blame,” from Grace Shaker.

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Hesed Prayer: inspired by the prophet Hosea

Almighty God,
You have loved us first
with an everlasting love,
showing us what love truly is.
You have shown us great mercy,
preeminently in the gift of Your Son, Jesus Christ,
who lived among us, died on the Cross, rose again,
and now eternally intercedes on our behalf at Your right hand.
You have invited us into loving relationship with You,
both in our daily lives now
and unto eternity as Your bride.
Because of Your hesed
Your steadfast love, mercy, and faithfulness –
make us people of hesed,
living in love and loving others,
receiving Your mercy and showing mercy,
held in Your faithfulness and living faithfully,
until the day we see You face to face.

All this we pray, through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord
to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit
be honor and glory, now and forever.
Amen.

The Real, Eyes-Open Love of God

Fra Angelico - Annunciation

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed.” (Luke 1:46-48)

“Love is blind.” At least, that’s how the saying goes. The phrase means that when love is at work, a person is prone to overlook, or just plain fail to see, the problems within the person being loved.  There is some truth to that. We see it in good friends, family members, and even ourselves. “Hindsight is 20/20,” and we often ask ourselves after something has gone wrong in a relationship, “Why didn’t I see that?”

But the kind of love we all deeply desire is not a blind love, but a love that truthfully sees everything about us and still loves us. Love that is blind – that turns away from reality – is false love, while love that sees – that leans into reality – is real love. John 3:16 is such a revered passage of Scripture because it describes God’s love not as blind but as real love.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)

In the midst of a world stuck in the cycle of death, of blindness even to itself, Jesus the Son of God comes to bring liberating life and love. Even though the world could be condemned because of evil, sin, and injustice, God chooses a different route by sending Jesus to save the world. This is not because God is blind to the realities of the world, but because God desires a different way with the world. Jesus Himself echoes this later when He says, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). We see in Jesus the Messiah that God’s love is an eyes-open love, leaning into the reality of our world and our lives. Jesus shows us just how far God will go to hold us in His loving embrace.

When the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, announcing God’s plan to bring the Messiah to birth through her, Mary was astounded. Her question, “How will this be?”, was both a question about the manner of the Messianic birth since she was a virgin and simultaneously a question about the possibility that something like this could occur in human history. When Gabriel emphasized God’s decisive plan to intervene through Jesus as Messiah, such knowledge eventually leads Mary to erupt with praise:

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. (Luke 1:46-47, 50)

That little word ‘mercy’ (Greek: ἔλεος) is an echo of the Hebrew word hesed, which refers to God’s uniquely steady and faithful love. Mary grasps, and shares with us today, that God sees what is really there in the world and still chooses to love humanity from generation to generation throughout the earth. Mary becomes a picture not only of humble obedience to God’s call, but also boisterous praise of God’s real, eyes-open love for humanity and all creation.

As we draw close to Christmas Day, let us join Mary’s wondrous call to praise our God whose love is not blind, but rather eyes-open about us and our world. Let us draw near with anticipation to experience once again   the tenderly tenacious love of God found in Jesus the Messiah.

Bibliography for Love-Sex-Body series

Here is the resource bibliography that accompanied the development of the recent preaching series, “Love-Sex-Body: Toward a Biblical Theology of Embodied Sexuality.” I utilized many resources for specific messages within this series, and many, but not all, of those are included in this bibliography.

Bibliography for “Love-Sex-Body: Toward a Biblical Theology of Embodied Sexuality”:

Alberry, Sam. Is God Anti-Gay? UK: The Good Book Company, 2015.

Butler, Brian,  Jason Evert, and Crystaline Evert. You: Life, Love, and the Theology of the Body. West Chester, PA: Ascension Press, 2016.

Coakley, Sarah. The New Asceticism: Sexuality, Gender and the Quest for God. London: Bloomsbury, 2015.

Coles, Gregory. Single, Gay, Christian. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2017.

Collins, Travis. What Does It Mean to be Welcoming?: Navigating LGBT Questions in Your Church. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2018.

Comiskey, Andrew. “Design and delusion: God’s direction for gender identity.” Desert Streams Newsletter. Spring 2017, http://desertstream.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Spring-Newsletter-2017_WebV2.pdf.

Cortez, Mark. ReSourcing Theological Anthropology: A Constructive Account of Humanity in Light of Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017.

Cretella, Michelle, M.D. “Gender dysphoria in children.” American College of Pediatricians. August 2016, https://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/gender-dysphoria-in-children.

Davidson, Richard M. The Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the Old Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007.

Dawn, Marva J. Sexual Character: Beyond Technique to Intimacy. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993.

Freitas, Donna. The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy. New York: Basic Books, 2013.

Gagnon, Robert A. J. The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics. Nashville: Abingdon, 2001.

Genetics Home Reference: Your guide to understanding genetic conditions. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/

Green, Daniel and Mel Lawrenz. Why Do I Feel Like Hiding?: How to Overcome Shame and Guilt Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1994.

Green, Joel B. Body, Soul, and Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008.

Grenz, Stanley J. Sexual Ethics: An Evangelical Perspective. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997.

________. Welcoming But Not Affirming: An Evangelical Response to Homosexuality. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998.

________. The Social God and the Relational Self: A Trinitarian Theology of the Imago Dei. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001.

Henson, Bill. Guiding Families of LGBT+ Loved Ones, 2nd ed. Acton, MA: Posture Shift Books, 2018.

Hiestand, Gerald and Todd Wilson. Beauty, Order, and Mystery: A Christian Vision of Human Sexuality. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2017.

Hill, Wesley. Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality, updated and expanded ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016.

________. Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2015.

Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity–Dr. Mark Yarhouse’s website, which includes videos on various topics. http://sexualidentityinstitute.org/

John Paul II. Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body. Boston, MA: Pauline Books, 2006.

Jones, Beth Felker. Faithful: A Theology of Sex. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015.

Longman, Tremper, III. How to Read Genesis. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005.

McMinn, Lisa Graham. Sexuality and Holy Longing: Embracing Intimacy in a Broken World. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2004.

Mayer, Lawrence S. and Paul R. McHugh. “Sexuality and gender: Findings from the biological, psychological and social services.” The New Atlantis, No. 20, 2016, pp. 4-143, http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/introduction-sexuality-and-gender.

Mead, Christina.  “What the Catholic Church wants the transgender community to know.” Life Teen Blog. 2017.

Owens, Tara M. Embracing the Body: Finding God in Our Flesh and Bone. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015.

Paris, Jenell Williams. The End of Sexual Identity. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011.

Pearcey, Nancy R. Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2018.

Roberts, Vaughan. Transgender. UK: The Good Book Company, 2016.

Smith, James K. A. You Are What You Love. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2016.

Sprinkle, Preston. People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just an Issue. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015.

________. Grace // Truth 1.0: Five conversations every thoughtful Christian should have about faith, sexuality, and gender. Boise, ID: The Center for Faith, Sexuality, and Gender, 2017.

________. Grace // Truth 2.0: Five more conversations every thoughtful Christian should have about faith, sexuality, and gender. Boise, ID: The Center for Faith, Sexuality, and Gender, 2018. 

Van der Kolk, Bessel A. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. New York: Viking, 2014.

Walls, Jerry L., Jeremy Neill, and David Baggett, eds. Venus and Virtue: Celebrating Sex and Seeking Sanctification. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2018.

West, Christopher. Theology of the Body for Beginners: A Basic Introduction to St. John Paul II’s Sexual Revolution, rev. ed. North Palm Beach, FL: Wellspring, 2018.

Wilson, Todd A. Mere Sexuality: Rediscovering the Christian vision of sexuality. Harper Collins Publishing, 2017.

Yarhouse, Mark A., Richard E. Butman, and Barrett W. McRay. Modern Psychopathologies: A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal. Downers Grove, IL : InterVarsity Press, 2005.

Yarhouse, Mark.  Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing CultureDowners Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015.

________ and Olya Zaporozhets. Costly Obedience: What We Can Learn from the Celibate Gay Christian Community. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2019.

 

 

Specifically for Parents:

Clark, Chap. When Kids Hurt. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 2011.

Hancock, Jim and Kara E. Powell.  Good Sex 2.0 Leader’s Guide: A Whole-Person Approach to Teenage Sexuality and God. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2009.

Jones, Stan and Brenna.  God’s Design for Sex. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2007. Series includes:

  • The Story of Me (Ages 3- 5)
  • Before I Was Born (Ages 5 – 8)
  • What’s the Big Deal? (Ages 8-11)
  • Facing the Facts (Ages 11-14)

Yarhouse, Mark. Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors, and Friends.  Bloomington, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 2010.

________. Understanding Sexual Identity: A Resource for Youth Ministry.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2013.

Restoration and Embodied Sexuality

This past weekend at Eastbrook, I concluded our series, “Love-Sex-Body: Toward a Biblical Theology of Embodied Sexuality,” focusing on the fourth chapter of God’s Good Story: the Restoration of all things.

I spent a lot of attention in this message on Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15, which draw together Adam and fallen human bodies (ch. 2 – the Fall), Christ and His resurrection body (ch. 3 – Redemption), and the hope of future resurrection bodies for all those who belong to Christ (ch. 4 – Restoration). I connected that with the calling of the church to be a community marked by resurrection hope, living in holiness and love, touching upon Romans 8 and 1 Corinthians 6. The conclusion of the message directed attention to the ultimate consummation of Christ and His bride, the church, with the new heavens and new earth described in Revelation 21.

You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities to connect.

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