In an article “A Decision in Ferguson: How Should Evangelicals Respond,” Ed Stetzer addresses the tense feelings and emotions within the African-American Community in the wake of the grand jury decision regarding the case of Michael Brown. Dr. Miller wrote his own response in this MTC article, and now I would like to offer my own thoughts. Stetzer insists that many within the African-American Community are hurting, and that they are giving good reasons as to why they are in pain–not just over the recent decision in Ferguson–but over the pain and damage of racism in society.
Ed Stetzer encourages “us” (meaning white Evangelicals) to listen to “them” (meaning African-American leaders). Why should White Evangelicals listen to these leaders within the African-American community? Stetzer tell us his reason when he writes the following:
For many, this is about an incident. Yet, for many African Americans, it’s about a system. It’s worth listening to why people are responding differently to the situation in Ferguson.
Stetzer asks the question: How should evangelicals respond to the decision in Ferguson? I will attempt to answer this question by using the source all Evangelicals ought to use in shaping their response: Sacred Scripture.
Racism Exist Because Sin Exist
The reason racism exists is because of the Fall of man due to the rebellion of Adam in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). Because of sin’s depravity, man is wicked and corrupt by nature, and as a result we do not see God, His will, nor His creation rightly. We are conceived in sin and produce wickedness due to the condition of our hearts (Ps. 51:5; Ps. 58:3; Isa. 64:4; Jer. 17:9; John 3:19; John 8:34; Rom. 1:18; Rom. 8:7; Eph. 2:1-3). As Evangelicals we understand that racism and prejudice are not the cause of the problem, they are the symptom of the cause of the problem. Racism is not a “White American” nor a “Black American” problem, it is a human problem, because humans are born dead in trespasses and sins. Ed Stetzer is right about one thing: the problem we face is about a corrupt system, but we differ on what and how the system can be fixed. What we, as Christians, need to focus on is a worldly system that is infected by sinful creatures.
In fact, all Evangelicals, White and Black, acknowledge racism and injustice is present in the world because the Evangelical Worldview understands this is a world steeped in sin and lawlessness. Poverty and prostitution exists right before our very eyes. Child Abuse and Domestic Violence, and School shootings are seen on our television screens daily (and many experience these horrific events). Many people glorify what is unrighteous and inhumane, while they call those who have Biblical values “narrow-minded” and “bigoted.” Yes, Evangelicals know and believe corrupt systems exist, and they groan and long for the world to change, to be transformed; for Christ Himself to return and exercise justice and establish a world where freedom does ring. For Ed Stetzer to say Evangelicals who are “white” need to recognize that a problem exists and they must “rise to the aid of those in need” is to presume that white Evangelicals do not see a need and are not rising to the aid of these needs. This is something that I wish Ed Stetzer had acknowledged in his blog.
The Gospel Is The Means By Which God Transforms Hearts From Racism
Now this is one of the things that I wish Ed Stetzer would have quoted as the antidote to racism–the Gospel of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Not just that those who are hurting would see the unconditional love of Jesus displayed by His Church (John 13:35), but that this would be boldly procliamed to African Americans–as well as all men—no matter their ethnicity.
I want all men of every race to to understand that:
- Christ died for every racist that fails to love their neighbor and God.
- Christ was rejected by hate-filled people, just like those who have felt rejected by racists.
- Christ spoke the truth and was kicked and pushed and beaten and “disenfranchised” by His own creation!
- On the cross, Christ took on the wrath of God as if He were the leader of the Skinheads or the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. And He did it all for those who are racist, White and Black.
This truth of the Gospel of Christ is that God transforms the hearts of people and brings them to repentance and confession of their sin. Christ changes people from bigots, whatever race or ethnicity they once despised, into people who would give their own lives for the very race they sought to ridicule and destroy. It is this truth of Christ alone that motivates Evangelicals to serve and love our neighbor.
Because of The Gospel All Evangelicals Responses Should Be Based On These Two Truths
Lastly I want to address what Ed Stetzer said at the start of his blog when he writes:
In light of the grand jury decision handed down tonight in the wake of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, MO, I think it is of utmost importance that all Christians, but specifically white evangelicals, talk a little less and listen a little more.
I appreciate Ed Stetzer taking a hard look at himself in light of the issues in Ferguson and encouraging fellow Evangelicals to do the same. However, may I suggest that it should not be “white Evangelical” alone (whatever this means) but every Evangelical who holds to the authority of Sacred Scripture that needs to examine their own life. Ed Stetzer comes from a different culture from other Evangelicals who have different parents, were raised in a different neighborhood, and have made different decisions in life. Yet, despite being different in almost every way, we all share a common message: The forgiveness of sins found in Christ Jesus. What I am saying is in Sacred Scripture there is no such thing as a “white” or “black” Evangelical. In fact, Paul takes it a step further to say because of our unity in Lord and doctrine “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” which is distinct from the Law (Gal. 3:28 NAS). This is our message; what we believe concerning the authority of Sacred Scripture, specifically what Christ has done for us has unified us. No matter if we are wealthy or poor, black or white, male or female, adult or child, no matter the culture, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status, the Message of the Word of God and the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins is what we, the people of God and the bride of Christ, must proclaim (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47).
So, how should Evangelicals respond to the anger after Ferguson? I am convinced that we should revise this question into a statement by acknowledging another truth that is not often expressed. Evangelical Christians, both white and black, have long been on the frontline responding to these issues of race and poverty. It was Christians who created the orphanages for the fatherless and hospitals to care for the sick. It was Christians who were abolitionists, helping slaves pass through the Underground Railroad. It was Abraham Lincoln, a Christian, who understood the need to abolish slavery and, along with his supporters, helped shape the Republican Party. It was Martin Luther King, a Southern Baptist preacher, who led the freedom marches in Mobile, Alabama.
Christians, black and white, have understood the Great Commission. To preach the gospel to all people and do good works, and many have lost their lives to fulfill this mission. But these people gave up their lives, not because they were “white Evangelicals” or “black Evangelicals” but because they were Christians; period! Christians who believed in the authority of Sacred Scripture and the gospel of Christ. May all Evangelicals, no matter what race, respond in with such loving sacrifice.
In short, preach the Gospel to all people and do good works for your neighbor to the glory of God. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria!