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Pastor Keith's Response to Racism and Violence Across the Nation May 31 2020

A critical part of my calling and responsibility to God and to our church is to teach and guide how to respond biblically to all situations in life - how to live as God’s Word shows us. The Bible is the very word of God, to us, about Himself - His attributes, His character, His plans, His promises, His purposes for us.

Often times, our culture creates the conversations we have in church, for we are citizens of a different world - a spiritual one - but we are also in this world and are subject to it’s systems, however flawed. Jesus made it clear to His followers that in this life there would be troubles, of all kinds, but to not lose heart or hope, because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). He has done this through His love, His peace, His salvation, His redemption, His reconciliation.

While these truths can only be fully realized when Christ returns, our calling as Christ followers is to pray that these rule and reign - in our hearts, our relationships, our nation, our world.

However, we absolutely should not only pray for these things to win the day now, but as His ambassadors, do all that we have power to do - spiritually and legally - to directly and personally help those among us who are oppressed, feeling unsafe or fearful.

Regarding the current unrest in our country, the protesting and rioting in response to recent injustices we are all aware of:

Racism is a sin.

At it’s core, it is pride - like all other sins - because it puts self first, when God tells us time and again to think of others before ourselves, to live in humility and to see others as He sees them - beautiful creations made in His image!! That’s all of us!

We live in a world ravaged by sin. As believers in Jesus Christ we have been saved from the penalty of sin, from the power of sin, but not yet the presence of sin.

Sin has many faces - in the past few days we have seen it most clearly as prejudice, bigotry, racisim, hatred and complete disregard for human life.

We should condemn the riots as many leaders of various races have publicly done, BUT not before we condemn the atrocity of blatant disregard for a human life, especially by one whose job and solemn oat is to protect it.

This should never be tolerated, especially by Christians.

We can look back in church history and remember the injustices in the name of Christ, BUT we can also remember that most hospitals, charities, homless shelters and missions, soup kitchens, food pantries, orphanages, refugee relief and addiction recover centers were started by Christians in the name loving our neighbor and caring for all of God’s children.

Christians carry the name of Christ. We represent Him in this world. Until He returns to finally judge all sin and make all things new, WE, the Church, have a clear calling by our Messiah to love as He loved.

Does Jesus harbor hatred in His heart? He said, “forgive them Father, for they don’t know what they’re doing?” (Luke 23:34).

Hate of any kind has no place in the heart of a believer, unless it is a hatred for sin.

That is what racism is. That is what injustice, prejudice and murder are. It is also blatent disregard for the law on behalf of the perpetrators and rioters alike.

When Jesus taught us to pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). He was telling us to seek to live here and now as if we were already in His kingdom, because we are truly citizens of that Kingdom - but it will be difficult, because in His Kingdom, His will is done, like in heaven. His will, not ours, not any manmade system, but His will.

We pray for His will. One day, Christ will come back for His church, and with it, the Holy Spirit’s restraining ministry against the full power of sin will be gone too. The state of our world in that time is found in Revelation 6-19.

We are not in that time, but the horrific expressions and manifestations of evil are still very real.

And we must pray and act. Pray for wisdom, act wisely. Pray for mercy, act mercifully.. Pray for grace, act graciously. Pray for justice, act justly.

Our words matter. James 3:9 says "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness."

And may we never forget, Jesus teaches us that evil begins in the heart. “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:21-23)

Jeremiah 17:9-10 also teaches us that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

But the good news is that God gives us a new heart. Jesus said, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Then, we have the ability to choose to love, to choose to love God and to choose to love others. And to choose to follow Christ's example give to us by the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:1-11:

2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men.

8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

My prayer:

I pray for peace in Minneapolis and around the country, and for justice. I pray for the families directly affected by these recent events. I pray for those in our own church and communites who fear this could happen to them. I pray for law enforcement officers in our church. I pray for unity and not division. I pray for healing and relief from the symptoms of fear. And I pray that those in authority would act with wisdom, courage and humility as they navigate the issues of justice and freedom. I pray for our church. That we would be a beacon of light, of healing and hope in a world full of hurt, of darkness and despair - that ours would be words and actions of healing and not hurt. Help us, O God, to lead with love and compassion, seeking to always do the good you require of us: “ do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.” Micah 6:8