Blog

Filter By:
Showing items filed under “Brandon D. Smith”
in Growth

Why Racism Is Hell on Earth

main image

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

The King We Need

main image

By: Brandon D. Smith

Everyone wants to be a king.

Some of us want to be the king of our workplace or the king of our house. Some of us want to be the king of our fantasy football league or the king of our neighborhood’s Christmas light displays.

Some of us treat the highway as our own little kingdom, demanding that our minions ask our permission before they change lanes or slow down.

Kings stand above everyone else, receiving praise and reverence from everyone around them. Nothing is withheld from kings, after all. They never come in second place, and they never have to acquiesce to another’s needs.

It’s good to be king.

Adam and Eve were God’s appointed rulers of his kingdom. Unlike most kingdoms we see today, they had all the power a king had. They exercised ordained dominance over their territory. They named animals, ate their fill, and had almost no one to answer to. Almost.

There was still a King on his throne. With all their privileges, they still had a restriction — the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The King knew what would happen if they ate of it. He was a good King, one who wasn’t domineering, but loving. But they didn’t care.

They ate of its fruit, and they lost all they had been given. Their lowercase-t throne was ripped out from under them.

From then on, human kings didn’t stand a chance. Sin had infiltrated the kingdom. The Earth, their delegated territory, was compromised.

The King the People Wanted

 

In 1 Samuel 8, Israel wants to install a king to make them like other nations. Despite God’s warnings, they were adamant — enough with this judge stuff; give us a king! So God gave them their hearts’ desire in King Saul. And his line of kings was no all-star lineup.

It was hit-or-miss on whether or not Israel’s king would be anywhere close to David — a man after God’s own heart — but even David failed.

Asa, Jehoshaphat, Uzziah, Hezekiah, and a few others had decent reigns overall. Ahaz, Manasseh, Amon, and Johoiakim? Not so much. The people wanted a king instead of the King, and they often paid for it.

Because of sin, Lord Acton was correct: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” History bears this out. Personal experience bears this out.

Even in a democracy like the United States with its “checks and balances,” it’s inescapable. We’re still trading peace with the King for rotting apples.

Praise be to God, our King stepped into human history in the person of Jesus Christ. He wasn’t sitting on his hands.

The Incarnation is proof that he didn’t forget his suffering people, even though they were receiving the punishment they deserved.

The kingdom of God was brought back to the decaying kingdom of the world. The curse was being reversed.

The King the People Need

 

We’re always either wanting to be king, or we’re looking to imperfect people to lead us perfectly. Our kings never fulfill us. And like Israel, we never look to the King we already have.

The King of the universe is perfect. He’s just, loving, merciful, and full of grace. He doesn’t barter with lesser kings, he can’t be bribed, and he’s not corruptible. He doesn’t just do good — he is good.

Though we live in constant revolt, lobbing grenades at his doorstep, he loves and leads. He doesn’t smite us. He doesn’t send us into exile. He still welcomes us to his table. We still can approach his throne boldly (Hebrews 4:16).

Let us go to him, saying with the wise men, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2).

He was born to die and raised to reign. He is a King who didn’t send orders from his throne but instead walked into battle for his people. His death was the death of death; his victory was our victory; his kingdom is our kingdom.

He’s the King we need because he’s the king we can never be, never find, and never elect. Our search was over before it began. He’s the answer to every question. He’s the King we’re longing for, and the King we already have.

Posted by Brandon D. Smith with
Tags: king

Previous123456