I am writing this article on the last day of May 2020, six days after George Floyd died under the knee of a white police officer. Since then sadness, disgust, confusion, frustration, anger and even violence have filled our hearts and our streets. Public figures are responding, our families are responding, yet how should we, as the church, respond?
Tomorrow, I will record a series of Podcasts titled, “Responding to Racial Injustice.” I will interview good pastor friends with long experience shepherding the flock, two of whom are black and one who is white.
In praying and preparing for those interviews, I find myself with seven basic questions for pastors and churches trying to serve honestly, effectively and redemptively in this moment of our nation’s history.
- How are we, our people and our communities, feeling?
- What should we be thinking (biblical theology of race and justice)?
- How should we be praying?
- What should we be preaching?
- How should we be worshiping?
- What should we be saying?
- What should we be doing?
Notice the progression. Often our pattern is to jump from feeling, to saying and doing. I am not diminishing any of the three. Racial Injustice demands strong feelings. If the video of George Floyd’s death and the events that have followed do not stir us at a visceral level, our hearts are indeed dead to the Spirit of God.
We are compelled to speak. Silence is not really an option. Straight talk from public figures and honest conversations within our communities are needed. Yet, we all know that talk is just talk apart from action—Micah teaches that justice is what we DO (Micah 6:8).
Why does it seem to be so difficult to say and do the right thing? Why does our righteous indignation so often dissipate with the duties of Monday morning? Why is it so easy to allow our protests to cloud instead of clarify—to excuse instead of expose? Could it be because we fail to process our feelings through these God-given filters? Feeling, saying and doing are important, but add to these thinking, praying, preaching and public worship.
How much more effective and sustained would our striving for justice be if we were filtering our feelings through the truth of Scripture? How much more powerful would the impact of our church ministries be if we prayed for justice and compassion and peace?
Preacher, if you preach the whole counsel of God’s Word, year after year after year, you will give your people a regular diet of God’s heart for justice, His compassion for those without status, His expectation for those with status. Your people will know that if those with power do not give justice, we will get justice on that Day.
What if our worship were not so self-absorbed? Honestly, we too often come and go from Sunday worship talking about nothing that matters such as the volume of the music, the temperature in the room, the meal to follow, and ignoring all that does matter. What if we set these matters of racial injustice, cultural brokenness, political toxicity before the throne of God, together? True worship transforms. True worship sustains justice.
Feel compassion. Think Scripture. Pray in the Spirit. Preach the whole counsel of God’s Word. Worship. Say what is true. Do Justice.
“Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even look at the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:23-24).