As I sit here thinking over the events of the last several months the Corona Virus, the heartbreak of multiplied unjust murder of black people, the closing of schools (I am a college professor so the sudden shutdown and the possibility of schools not reopening in the Fall has been a concern that is near and dear to my heart), and the shutdown of local churches (I am a pastor as well) my heart is saddened. As I think of all the social unrest, a function of the history of ethnic injustice in our Country, when referencing others, I prefer the term ethnic above the use of the moniker race as we are truly, Biblically, one people (Gen. 8:15-19). But what has bothered me the most is the lack of prophetic voice coming from the pulpit. For too long of a period in the last few months it was as if the shutdowns and stay in place orders stifled the prophetic voice of God’s preachers; the ones who should possess the prophetic voice. One of the great problems in our society and in fact American history, particularly for Black people, is the stifling sound of silence from the predominantly White evangelical pulpits when it comes to speaking forth as God’s agents of Biblical Justice and reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:16-21).
Recently my dear friend Pastor Chris Beard and I have reconnected and are beginning the process of writing an article together in the hope of regaining the prophetic voice that should be the hallmark of
The ‘Do Gospel’
The great African American poet laureate Maya Angelou is oft-quoted as saying, “When someone shows you who they are—believe them the first time.” 1 Are we as Christians truly demonstrating what we believe in—you know first impressions are lasting? Is what people see in us the same as what they see in Jesus? The truth is what the church and individual Christians believe in is made known by what we do. To be sure, you do what you believe in. The Gospel is what I call the ‘Do Gospel=one does what one believes.’ For sure, if what we say as Christ-followers does not match with what we do as Christ-followers, then it is imperative that we understand that the World knows Him by what we do. How can Christians be taken seriously if within the Body of Christ there is ethnic discord?
The litmus test of discipleship is in obeying/doing Jesus’ commands. With regard to John 13:34- 35, Francis Schaeffer aptly commented, “Upon His authority, He gives the world the right to judge whether you and I are born-again Christians on the basis of our observable love toward all Christians. That’s pretty frightening.” 2 Is it not seriously frightening in our generation that the Church is divided ethnically around this text? Loving one another is the high calling of Christians, it is not a suggestion, but rather, the command of Christ. To be sure this text is not merely to be carried out in the confines of the Christian community alone. Loving one another as Christ loves us is one of the most important witnesses to the world of Jesus’ grace, goodness, and is the essence of our joy. By pursuing the love of one another, we by nature, display Biblical Justice in Christian solidarity and holistic community. To love as Christ loves is Justice Personified.
To be sure the Justice of Jesus is not silent! The orthodoxy of Biblical Justice in Scripture is clear. A simple reading of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:1-7:29), where Jesus distills the Father’s heart for His people naturally leads to the conclusion that Jesus is not silent regarding what is just. Additionally, Matt. 23:23 Jesus leads us to the theological conclusion that right belief and right behavior are co-terminal. The power of His words forces us to consider the “weightier matters of the law: [they are] justice and mercy and faith.” In these texts, Jesus as the Holy—Sovereign Lord of the universe clarifies what is righteous, and what is just, and what ethical behavior looks like.
Another struggle for me and I am sure many other Black and Brown people is the consistency throughout the Bible that the God of Abraham is clearly known as The God of Justice (see for example Psalm 9:1-20, 96:10-13, & Mt. 5:6, 6:20, Rom. 1:16-7, & Rev. 20:11-12). What seems so clear from reading the Scriptures is God’s judgment is intertwined with His righteousness. Do we not realize with the 8th Century prophets [particularly Isaiah, Amos, and Hosea] the connection of the sin of God’s people and the sins of the Nations with God’s impending Judgement? It seems as if we do not. Now, in the present will we go back to [sins] as usual when things settle down? By Grace in Jesus’ name, I do not think so, Amen.
The problem we have today is the exact problem of 1 st Century Israel—the problem is not our orthodoxy; rather, our problems rest in our orthopraxis and lack thereof. It is baffling to me the huge disconnect between the words and actions of Jesus and the apparent disconnect between the words and actions of the church—especially these last few months. I do, by Grace and hope in my Christian brothers and sisters, grow hopeful as we are beginning to hear and see Jesus’ followers taking on the mantle of Biblical Justice.
My hope and sense of life for God’s people is that the clarion call to exercise Biblical Justice is rooted in who He is and who we are in Him. Thankfully throughout Scripture and in the present, there is the sweet call from the Holy One to repentance; to redeem the time so that the Justice of Jesus for all people can be lived to its fullest. Like Ross Hastings, I hold to the missional nature of the Church as the agents of Christ’ Shalom and reconciliation grounded in the notion of solidarity of all humanity. 3 Each and every person bears the Imagio Dei—the Image of God. The reality of knowing Jesus is to be like Jesus. By serving humanity in the administration of His grace and justice; and, through inter-dependence as one people bound together by the boundless love of The Father – we express by The Holy Spirit – His Church, the incomparable depth of His riches for all humanity. We are Christ’ Incarnate body—the—purveyors of justice and holistic community homeostasis.
As I conclude my thoughts, I am overjoyed by the crescendo of voices rising not from pulpits, but from the streets and hamlets all over the globe as believers turn the tragic events of recent months into the sounds of a beautiful symphony filled with the heartbeat of joy, grace, and Biblical Justice.
To be sure the Justice of Jesus is not silent.
1 25 Quotes by Maya Angelou: www.goalcast.com/2017/04/03/maya-angelou-quotes-to-inspire-your-life/
2 Francis Schaefer is known to have made this comment. Quotation acquired from
www.shortdailydevotionals.com/john-1334-35-a-new-commandment/ July 11, 2020. The website did not offer