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Why Racism Is Hell on Earth

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The recent scenes in Charlottesville, Shelbyville, and our hometown of Murfreesboro were examples of real-life, in-your-face hell on earth.

As white supremacists marched down the streets with Confederate and Nazi flags, screaming racial slurs and hailing Hitler, we saw the antithesis of heaven:

You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slaughtered,
and you purchased people
for God by your blood
from every tribe and language
and people and nation.
You made them a kingdom
and priests to our God,
and they will reign on the earth. (Rev. 5:9-10)

The tree of life was on each side of the river, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree are for healing the nations, and there will no longer be any curse. (Rev. 22:2-3)

This gathering of nations—from the Greek root word ἔθνος, where we get the word “ethnicity”—is what heaven looks like now, and gives a glimpse into New Jerusalem’s eternal population.

Eternity will not be white faces marching to destroy colors through the Nazi flag of death. Instead, it will be faces from every single hue being healed by the tree of life. Jesus’s blood has redeemed people from every ethnicity, and every ethnicity is and will be represented in God’s kingdom.

Regarding race and culture and nationality, diversity is heavenly; uniformity is hellish.

But this raises the most critical question: what should we do about it?

On the one hand, the most important thing has already been done. Ephesians 2 says that God is right now destroying racial and ethnic division through the cross.

White supremacists are not original.

We’ve seen this sort of evil and hatred throughout American history and the histories of nations throughout the world. They fancy themselves as revolutionaries and heroes, but they are stale, generic villains. The arc of history bends away from them.

Their legacy will be summed up in one word: defeat.

On the other hand, this has massive implications for Christians. Matthew 28:18-20 says that we’re called to make disciples of all nations.

I used to think of this as merely a call to “evangelism”—telling lost people about Jesus. However, it has become more and more apparent to me that this also must be paired with 2 Corinthians 5:11-21: Christians are ministers of reconciliation.

This ministry has countless implications, but a clear implication is this: making disciples of all nations and looking toward eternity, when all tribes and tongues will worship together, means breaking down walls of racial and cultural divisions.

As new creations, we are called to mirror eternity in this life. One foundational way to preview eternity is to intentionally seek justice and equality for people of every nation, tribe, and tongue. If there are no walls in eternity, there should be no walls right now.

First, then, we should admit our biases and blindness.

As Christians, we are fundamentally called to be humble, teachable, peacemaking, wall-smashing, ministers of reconciliation. So our first instinct should be to listen, not to shut our ears and throw out insults and dismissive platitudes.

If we can’t recognize that systemic issues in our land — a land whose unifying moments (Emancipation Proclamation, desegregation, voting rights, and Affirmative Action) were merely legal concessions and not intrinsically built into our foundation — then we’re just not ready to listen to those who feel the most hurt by it.

We don’t have to agree on every nuance or policy or logical conclusion, but there should be a baseline recognition of the apparent historical and ongoing separation in our country. The Christian call to pursue unity isn’t optional.

Don’t point the finger; lend an ear.

Second and relatedly, we should put this into action by not huddling up with people like us, waiting on God to sort it out later.

That would be easy. Instead, we should fight tooth-and-nail against the temptation to be comfortable and monolithic. The cross of Christ demands that we press on to the point of shed blood to love our brothers and sisters of all races and ethnicities.

Our churches should be as diverse or even more diverse than our neighborhoods (imagine Sunday morning at your church being the most diverse gathering in your neighborhood each week!).

Our dinner tables should likewise have regular seats filled with those who don’t look like us.

As Russell Moore so aptly puts it, in the fight for racial reconciliation, “We’re not getting anywhere if we gather in church with people we’d gather with if Jesus were still dead.” The death and resurrection of Jesus mean that sin and death are dead—taking hatred and division to hell with them.

To my white brothers and sisters: don’t merely post on social media about your frustration about race relations in our country.

Don’t let your actions be relegated to hashtags and retweets. True reconciliation happens around dinner tables and in marching lines. True empathy comes not only from watching another iPhone video but from putting your arms around someone whose skin doesn’t match yours.

True friendship comes not from a Twitter follow or a Sunday morning sentiment but from a lifelong commitment to co-suffering and co-laboring.

True love doesn’t happen with a half-hearted apology, but with an open mind to be an active part of the solution.

Though personal relationships are the most important, it would also help to read some books on race by black authors. Let their perspective help shape the narrative for you.

For example, read Life and Times of Frederick Douglass by Douglass and United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity by Newbell.

Racism is hell on earth. But we as Christians are called to pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

You may feel like only one friendship, or one conversation is a waste, but it isn’t. Nothing you do in this life is inconsequential.

God works through even the smallest steps, however awkward and heavy they may seem. As Dr. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Make your anywhere count.

Posted by Brandon D. Smith with
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5 Ways City Church Can Maximize This Summer

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By: Dustin Walker

Summer often brings some changes or transitions to schedules, work hours, class schedules, and children’s activities. But with these changes in rhythm, we have new opportunities as well.

I hope what I share here is in line with how we as a church are called to give careful attention to our ways. The bible is replete with examples such as:

Carefully consider the path for your feet, and all your ways will be established.

Proverbs 4:26

Now the Lord of Armies says this: “Think carefully about your ways.”

Haggai 1:7

What this verse in Proverbs states as an encouragement, Haggai reminds as a rebuke. We should heed both. We ought to consider the blessings of following God’s ways and remember the consequences of neglecting for failing to do so.

Considering the normal rhythms of our church body during the summer months, particularly June and July, I want to encourage us to find ways to continue growing in our relationship with the Lord and with another.

So how might we maximize our time when our normal rhythms are a little off? Here are five opportunities for City Church this summer:

Connect with a Group

Following Christ in community is essential to our faith. And while summer brings a different rhythm and frequency to many Community Groups, it can be a great time to be part of a group or even start connecting with one.

We also have several Drill Groups to check out as well. These groups will meet over the months of June and July for 4 to 6 weeks to dive into topics like Racial Reconciliation, Marriage, Social Justice, and Parenting.

You’ll be challenged and encouraged through having some targeting reading and discussion in these areas.

Serve

Summer is also a great time to jump into serving in the church. Perhaps you should check out serving with the Welcome Team or CityKids on Sunday mornings. Or maybe you’d like to serve at Journey Home or with our Community VBS.

City Project Equipping Days

This will be the fourth summer of City Project where college students stick around Murfreesboro to receive equipping and discipleship.

Each year we are honored to have experts from various fields who come in to lead sessions. Some of these sessions are available church-wide through Equipping Days. Find a topic that works for you and learn together.

Mission Trips

While lots of details for short-term trips are already pretty firm for June and July, there are still ways you can participate. Two immediate ways are to pray for teams while they are preparing and gone.

The other is to give to support someone who is going. A third opportunity is for you to jump onto a team going either to Portland, OR in early August or Lima, Peru in mid-September.

Practice Hospitality

Practicing hospitality can begin as simply as inviting people to your home to grill hamburgers, sit by your apartment complex’s pool, or shoot baskets in your driveway.

These can be great ways to get to know your neighbors as well as others in our church body. You’re probably doing all these things anyway. Why not ask other people to join you?

To be sure there are probably many other ways to get the most out of the next few months. But let’s commit together to consider our paths through this summer so that we can be established together in following Christ and loving one another.

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