We have all watched as our nation has torn itself apart following the tragic and unnecessary death of George Floyd on May 25th. The emotions such scenes evoke are strong and often conflicting and complicated. But, the evil that sparked the events is not complicated.
In the history of the church in America, Christians have often stayed silent in the face of injustice, allowing evil to rule, even when it caused great harm to both our fellow man and our witness as ambassadors of Christ. With those past failures in mind, the Elders of City Church Melissa feel it necessary to forcefully call out a sin that has haunted our nation from its inception and the more subtle expressions that weaken our witness to our city even now.
Racism is a grievous sin, resulting in systemic oppression. It is demonic, and we, as the body of Christ, are called to stand against it. While equal treatment and justice are American values that we proclaim, too often they are not experienced by all of our fellow citizens.
We also call out the broader sin of pride, of which racism is maybe the most overtly evil expression. Specifically, we condemn the kind of pride that expresses itself through partiality, as a kind of tribalism elevating those who are “like me,” and denigrating and devaluing those who are not (James 2:1-13).
This tribalism is so insidious in part because it is comfortable and subtle, and so it goes undiagnosed. But like a cancer, it silently infects our whole body and changes the way we view and interact with others – others who, like us, bear the image of God.
The first pages of the Bible establish firmly that all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26–28). This is true for every person in every place with every hue of pigmentation in their skin, whatever their experience, background, or even spiritual disposition.
We recognize that as we call out this sin that damages not only the body of Christ in general but our local family of God in Melissa specifically, we understand that it is not enough merely to name this sin. Each of us needs to examine ourselves and repent. None of us are immune.
We also commit to pray and work for the good and welfare of our city (Jeremiah 29:7) and nation, for all people. To speak up for the voiceless (Proverbs 31:8–9). To do good works motivated by the gospel (Titus 2:11–13). To confront injustice (Isaiah 1:17). We plead, “Lord, may your kingdom come, and your will be done here [in Melissa] as it is in heaven.”
The call to love our neighbor has no contingencies (Mark 12:30–31). Race, religion, political affiliation, or any of our perceptions of a person’s worthiness for dignity and love have no bearing to cancel that call (Luke 10:29–37). We are called to serve one another, absorbing personal wounds, to bind up the wounds and restore those suffering injustice—since therein lies the presence and work of a Savior who suffered the ultimate injustice. And by his wounds, we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). Even as we’ve witnessed that violence begets violence in cities across the nation, we pray the Spirit of God will bring peace and move God’s people to be peacemakers rather than merely peacekeepers (Matthew 5:9).
We believe the Church is the greatest hope to show what unity can look like in the midst of ever-deepening divides (Ephesians 2:11–22). City Church can serve as an incredible center of faith, broadcasting true power through a broken Savior that brings about real redemption and unity. And yet, we recognize that, too often, we are caught up in politicized narratives, forgetting our allegiance to our one true king, Jesus Christ. Therefore, we repent for seeking the comfort of alignment with a worldly power that compromises our Christian witness and the prophetic voice of God’s people. We call City Church Melissa to band together in the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace, to confront and battle injustice, and to cry out together for those whose voices are too weary to be raised. This is not a side battle; this is part of our calling to battle sin and death. It is part of taking up our cross and following Jesus—against which the gates of Hades cannot overcome.
But, we must be willing to first let the Spirit convict and then cleanse us from this sin if we are going to be part of the solution – the salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) – that can bring hope and unity to this dark and dying world.
WHAT CAN I DO?
The first thing to do is to pray.
As John Bunyan reminds us, “You can do more than pray, after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” If God doesn’t move, it won’t matter what you do.
Pray for God to do what only He can do.
Pray that the Spirit of God would reveal sin in your life and in your family. And when the Spirit reveals it, repent.
Pray for clarity on what you can, and should, do.
What you should do is not one-size-fits-all. It’s particular. To find the particular part God wants you to play in His purposes, prayerfully consider who you are, what God has entrusted to you, and how to leverage what He has given you for a more just world.
“What can I do?” Here are three areas of life to prayerfully consider:
Before we attempt to change our world, we must first be changing ourselves. Humility. Repentance. Abiding in Jesus. Moral fervor void of Jesus often descends into the very thing it is against. But moral fervor with Jesus has accomplished great good in our world.
We can also reach out across racial lines to develop friendships. There are many things you can do beyond developing a diverse life, but few things before it. Commit to developing friendships with those who do not look or think like you.
We can also learn. This moment in our country’s history is not happening in a vacuum, it is embedded into a 400-year story. We cannot move forward by burying the past, but by acknowledging it, lamenting over it, and turning from it. So commit to grow, learn, hear another’s perspective, and to understand. For resources, see below.
Prayerfully consider, what sort of changes is Jesus asking of me?
Every parent is a pastor. And parents, this is one area your kids need a tender-hearted shepherd. One of your largest areas of influence, a way you will make lasting change for generations to come is by investing in the lives of your kids. And may our children, by the grace of God, lead us deeper into justice, racial harmony, and human flourishing than we have ever been. May that be our parental legacy.
So open up conversations about race, justice, and human flourishing. Involve people who do not look (or think) like you in those conversations. Work to move your kids beyond colorblindness to see and celebrate the various cultures and ethnicities of the world. Plant in your kids an eager expectation of Heaven (Revelation 5:9-10), and a desire to see more of it come down to earth now. For resources, see below.
Prayerfully consider, how can I steward my God-given influence toward my children?
One challenge we want to encourage you in to build bridges as a family and model this for your kids is the Unity Table. The charge is on months with a fifth weekend, invite someone who is not like you to dinner in your home. Will you commit to being a part of the #unitytable challenge?
As a church, we have set our course toward becoming a diverse family. We have done that because we know, left to herself, the church will gravitate to sameness. The decades-old sentence of Martin Luther King Jr. remains true today, “We must face the sad fact that at the eleven o’clock hour on Sunday morning when we stand to sing, we stand in the most segregated hour in America…and the most segregated school is Sunday school.”
Oneness in a diverse church is beautiful, enriching, and Jesus exalting. But the path to oneness is difficult, painful, and exposing. It forces each of us to see from another’s perspective, to work through misunderstandings, and to love one another in ways that require Jesus-like sacrifice. The Scriptures call that love.
And there’s much at stake. I agree with the wisdom of Pastor Tony Evans in his book, “Oneness Embraced,”
Racial strife is still a problem in our country because racial reconciliation has not been a priority in the church… The reason we haven’t solved the race problem in America after hundreds of years is that people apart from God are trying to create unity, while people under God who already have unity are not living out the unity we possess. The result of both of these conditions is disastrous for America. Our failure to find cultural unity as a nation is directly related to the church’s failure to preserve our spiritual unity… In so doing, we have limited the degree to which the healing balm of God’s grace flows freely from us into our communities, and ultimately throughout our land.
For the glory of God, and the good of our city,
Ryan Ross, Elder
Kyle Hendrickson, Elder
Matt Nix, Elder
Heath Gallimore, Elder
Kent Davis, Elder
Patrick Knight, Elder
Frank Barnett, Elder
Ryan Ross, A Willingness to Grieve: Humility that brings Unity, Sermon on James 2, June 7, 2020
Matt Chandler: Overcoming our Prejudices Through Christ
Trip Lee, Message at Martin Luther King Jr Chapel on Unity
The Gospel in Color: a Theology of Racial Reconciliation for Parents by Curtis Woods, Jarvis Williams, et al
“The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America” by Richard Rothstein
“Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” by Ibrahim Kendi
“Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America” by Christian Smith
**Like City Church Melissa, believers across America are also trying to respond to current events by pointing believers to a biblical response, and their work has been very helpful in putting this letter together – in particular, Acts29, Dallas Theological Seminary, and Stonegate Church in Midlothian, TX.**