Can anything good come out of 2020? That question was difficult enough to answer a few weeks ago. This year had already brought us a presidential impeachment, global pandemic, and economic shutdown. Now with the brutal and cowardly murder of George Floyd and all the upheavals that followed it, that question has become even more daunting. Never in my 46 years have I witnessed a more visceral response from the American public.
Our primary goal in addressing this issue (or any other issue, for that matter) is to please our God, Who created us, gives us life, and has made us a new creation in Christ. We are first and foremost accountable to Him. His agenda for us is glorify and exalt Him. Any heart attitude we have that does not line up with what pleases God must be confessed, repented of, and eradicated.
Because we love the Lord, His Word, and the gospel, we must unreservedly reject hatred, racism, and bigotry. There’s no place for it in a Christian’s heart, worldview, family, business practices, speech, ministry philosophy, or local church. Therefore, the GARBC will not shy away from addressing this issue or any issue that conflicts with the oneness in Christ that the gospel creates. As Christians, we must be prepared to confront both racist actions and racist attitudes, because sin originates in the heart (Prov. 4:23).
As those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, we must also understand that any attempt at reconciliation without the cross at its center can never ultimately resolve the issues that divide us. There are no lasting social solutions to a spiritual problem. With that in mind, here are three thoughts on how we as a fellowship of churches must respond to the sin of bigotry, hatred, and racism.
We must address this with open Bibles
It’s tempting for us to allow emotions and experience to drive our responses. But while there is a legitimate place for emotions and experience, our first concerns should always be, How does the Bible speak to this issue? And what Biblical principles can I apply to this situation? We must constantly work to submit our thoughts, actions, and responses to our ultimate source of authority—Scripture. It’s there that we learn how God wants us to think, act, and speak in light of what’s happening in our world today.
From Scripture we learn these truths:
- All human beings of all ethnicities belong to the same family tree and share a common ancestry. We come from one blood (Adam’s blood) and belong to one race (the human race), and we all have value and dignity as image bearers of our Creator (Gen. 1:26–27).
- Murder is a heinous sin. It’s the illegitimate taking of a human life, because God alone has the right to both give and take life. (This includes those inside and outside the womb.) But Scripture also teaches that a hateful attitude is in the same category as murderous actions. One need not actually commit murder to be a murderer at heart (Exod. 20:13; Matt. 5:21; 1 John 3:11–12).
- Looking down on others for any reason—age, ethnicity, wealth, education, background—is inherently prideful and wrong (Jer. 9:23–24; James 2:1).
- The Bible teaches us to value justice for the weak, fatherless, afflicted, destitute, and needy (Ps. 82:3–4; Prov. 24:11–12; 31:8–9; Matt. 7:12).
- Disrespecting civil authorities such as the police and elected officials (however imperfect they may be) and refusing to recognize them as God-ordained authorities is unbecoming for a Christian (Rom. 13:1–7; 1 Pet. 2:11–17).
- Judging motives and assuming the worst about others without first examining our own hearts is counterproductive to fruitful relationships (Prov. 19:11; Matt. 7:1–5).
- Disrespecting other people’s property or personal dignity is an offense to God (Matt. 7:12; 22:39; Phil. 2:3–4).
- We should hate what is evil and lovingly expose it in light of what Scripture teaches (Rom. 12:9; Eph. 5:11).
- As Christians we should empathize with hurting people and be quick to show them that we sincerely care about their hurts, just as Jesus can now “sympathize” with our struggles (Rom. 12:15; Heb. 4:15–16).
- The ultimate issue underlying conflicts of any kind—cultural, racial, or relational—is the sinfulness of the human heart, which can only be redeemed and transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our aim must therefore be heart transformation that is rooted in the gospel (Prov. 4:23; James 4:1–3).
What do all of these have in common? Two things: they’ve been brought to light extensively over the past few weeks, and Scripture deals with each of them specifically and powerfully. The Bible is not only a book that is true, but it’s also a book that is relevant, timely, and sufficient for everything we face. That is why Scripture and Scripture alone must be our guiding authority—not our emotions or experiences, however powerful they might be.
We must address this with open hearts
As is always the case in times of turmoil and crisis, this would be a great time to ask questions of our own hearts. This doesn’t come naturally; our default instinct is usually to engage in finger-pointing and blame shifting. But Jesus said, “First take the log out of your own eye” (Matt. 7:5, ESV).
Here are some questions that I’ve asked of my own heart in recent days, questions that I don’t want to leave unchecked in light of recent events:
- Do I have any racist tendencies that I need to confess before the Lord?
- Do I look down on others?
- Do I have a spirit of favoritism?
- Do I tend to ignore marginalized people because I love my personal comfort more?
- Do I avoid looking for ways to empathize with others in their pain?
- Do I turn a deaf ear to those with legitimate questions and concerns about race?
- Do I tend to speak in my own echo chambers without interacting with those who might disagree with me or see things differently than I do?
Thankfully, for each of these struggles there is always hope for redemption and transformation in Christ. Our conversations about difficult subjects should force us to look to the wisdom of God and take all our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ (Col. 2:8; 2 Cor. 10:3–5).
We must be welcoming to all as God has welcomed us
“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Rom. 15:7, ESV).
This issue is not primarily political with a political solution. It is not about Republicans or Democrats. It is about our identity in Christ and the possibility of unity that God creates in Christ (Eph. 4:1–3). God has welcomed us in Christ. His people should therefore welcome one another in Christ despite any differences or divisions we might have.
It is no mistake that you were born into the family you were born into. God ordained in eternity past what your skin color, ethnicity, nationality, and even your status as a child of God would be. If God welcomes people graciously and without partiality, then His people must do the same.
The only boundary the GARBC places around our churches is our doctrinal commitment. And that commitment knows no ethnic bigotry or hatred. We have been loved with an amazing love by an amazing God. That love must now seep into all our relationships and transform the way we speak to, think of, and interact with others.
Our agenda is not driven by social or political pressure. Rather, it is driven by a Savior Who gave His life for all and is bringing together people of all tribes, languages, and nations to be “one new man” in Christ (Eph. 2:13–15; Rev. 5:9).
Can anything good come out of 2020? Yes, it can! Because God in Christ is transforming the sinful hearts of sinful people. That is the ultimate remedy to bigotry, hatred, and racism.
Mike Hess serves as national representative of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. For further details on how Regular Baptists have approached the issue of racial relations, see our resolutions “Racial Hostility” (1992); “Racial Relations” (1996); and “Joint Resolution with the FBFA” (2000).