A Theological Urgency to Care
First Baptist Church – Eugene, Oregon
How should Christians respond to the anger and hurt of communities of color over racial injustices?
The first thing we must understand is that the idea of racial injustice is not merely a current news story, a hot topic, or even a civil rights issue. For the Christian, racial injustice should be of deep concern because the Bible demands that we have a theological urgency to care. The doctrine of Imago Dei (the image of God) might seem elementary, but this essential doctrine could not be more relevant. As a Christian, seeing our minority brothers and sisters treated as less than should create a sense of pain and outrage in our own hearts. It is not only an assault on their God given dignity and personhood, but it is also an assault on God’s design and the elevated position He has given every person, above the rest of creation.
Secondly, Christians should deeply care about racial injustices because as the body of believers for whom Christ died we ought to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is the second greatest commandment. What level of care would we want others to have toward us in regards to the hurt, anger, and outrage we would feel if we were treated as a lesser human? Because of God’s design in creating all humans in His own image, being treated as if you did not have basic human rights would make you feel extremely helpless. This country has a long history of treating racial minorities, some of which are our own Christian brothers and sisters, in such a way. Christians should care deeply about these issues, and should seek to reverse the course of injustice as we try to love our neighbor as ourself.
With these Biblical truths at the forefront of our mind, how should we as Christians respond? A common temptation is feeling like you have to pick a side. For example, within the last few months there have been multiple incidents where black men have been killed at the hands of law enforcement followed by multiple incidents where law enforcement officers were gunned down in response. These events have created an impulse to pick a side. Either you stand with the idea that Black Lives Matter or you stand with the side of Blue Lives Matter. This is our first mistake as they are not mutually exclusive. We can affirm that all these deaths are tragic. It is tragic that the use of force seems to be more quickly employed with black people than it does with white people. It is also tragic that these innocent police officers were killed as they were simply serving and protecting their communities. It is never OK to respond to sin with sin. Again, we can affirm that all of these deaths are tragic.
We must be honest in assessing the situation. The pain and fear of the black community in response to racial injustice is very alive and well. The reality is that these issues have existed for centuries, and will continue until the Lord returns. Although we have come a long way since the great accomplishments of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, sin i.e. racism prevails. Hence we must condemn the sin of racial injustice, while at the same time upholding, supporting and encouraging our law enforcement officers as they put their lives on the line for our safety.
Issues of racial injustice extend beyond just the black community. As Christ followers we should strive to be a voice of justice and reconciliation to all ethnic groups. As a church who desires to live, love and lead like Jesus, we can prayerfully consider the following:
- Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any form of racism and or prejudice that may exist in your own heart. In Psalm 51 the Psalmist cries out to God asking to be made clean. Then the Psalmist would be able to teach the ways of the Lord, and sinners would repent. Know that racism and prejudice, even on a subconscious level, will affect how you respond to those who are hurting. Ask God to heal any hurt, and to reveal and remove any sin that may be present.
- Don’t be quick to judge, critique or diagnose the situation. For example, there are clear problems within communities of color. If you are truly concerned, there will be times to partner with those communities to address such issues. However, when there are outcries of injustice from these communities it is best that our first response is empathy. Romans 12:15-16 says that we should both rejoice and mourn with others in order to live in harmony. We are one body, so when the body is in pain, we should all feel pain.
- Be proactive by showing loving compassion and hospitality. Luke 10:25-37 speaks of the Good Samaritan parable. The Samaritan proved to have loved his neighbor by showing compassion and hospitality. If Jesus points to the Samaritan as the standard of love shown to our neighbor, how much more should we show love to our brothers and sisters in pain? John 13:35 encourages us to prove to the world that we are disciples of Christ by the love we have for one another.
- Be an advocate for justice. Teach your families and friends why these issues matter. Disclose that you are compelled by the love of Jesus Christ. Be slow to speak and quick to listen when conversing with your minority brothers and sisters. Be reluctant to make reactive posts on social media, and/or comment on the social media posts of others.
- Be willing to listen to other’s stories as well as share your own experiences. This kind of openness and authenticity breaks down barriers and creates a culture of understanding and compassion.