Fighting for the Unity of the Spirit in the Midst of Societal Turmoil

“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well.”
(James 2:8, ESV)

Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse with the coronavirus pandemic, racial tensions erupted once again over the senseless deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. The grief over these – and other – needless deaths grew into a collective frustration that led to peaceful protests that turned into irrational rioting and looting. The added fuel by extreme activists on both the left and the right only stoke the tensions and divide the people. Sadly, the influence of these voices – from both the left and the right – are influencing the church and threatening to divide brothers and sisters in Christ. And that is my great concern – how to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3).

Satan is a liar and a murderer (John 8:44). He accuses our brothers and sisters in Christ (Revelation 12:10). His main goal is to devour Christ’s people (1 Peter 5:8), and it is especially useful to him if he can get us to “bite and devour one another” (Galatians 5:15). So, when we accuse our brothers and sisters in Christ, lying about them – even unwittingly – and murdering their names, we are giving an opportunity to the devil (Ephesians 4:27). That is, we become instruments for Satan’s use. Brothers and sisters, this ought never to be! Let us put away falsehood, each one of us speaking the truth in love with our neighbors, for we are members of one another (Ephesians 4:25). So, how may we move forward? Allow me to offer some practical steps.

Personal Devotions
In your personal devotions, pray this simple prayer from Psalm 139:23-24 | “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous (harmful) way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

If we are to fight for the unity we have in Christ by the Spirit, we must discern our own hearts. May we be strong and courageous, filled with humility as we ask the Lord to change US that we may look more like Jesus and walk on the path that leads to everlasting life.

Lord’s Day Gatherings
When we gather as a church, we hear the same Word from our Lord. We are then able to speak that Word to one another in love as we build each other up in love (Ephesians 4:11-16).
I realize that during this pandemic, we are unable to gather as one church. Still, all of us can tune in on the Lord’s Day at 10:00 am – either in our building or on the live stream. This past Sunday, July 5, pastor Davey preached an encouraging message on our identity as sons of God by adoption in Christ. We need this constant reminder of our identity in Christ, whether male or female, young or old, black or white, Asian or Hispanic, rich or poor, educated or uneducated. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We are family. And we gather on the Lord’s Day to remember our Lord, ask what we need from our Father in heaven, and encourage one another – all in reliance on the Spirit. Don’t miss out!

Personal Reading and Study
Read and study your Bible. Genesis 3 reminds us that all of humanity is inclined to de-throne God and exalt self. As a result of the fall, history is filled with sin, evil, horrors, wars, and injustices. The existence of a fractured humanity is not new. Adam’s rebellion caused him to turn against Eve (Genesis 3:9-12). And because humanity inherited Adam’s sin, corruption, and guilt, a human race united in language and culture rebelled against God, resulting in human division accross ethnic, language, and cultural lines (Genesis 11). Because of sin, brother turned against brother (Genesis 4; 27; 37); nations turned against nations (Genesis 14); and peoples discriminated against peoples based on their ethnic identity (Exodus 1; Numbers 12:1). There is nothing new under the sun.

Our Bible helps us to see that present racial issues are simply continuing evidence of humanity’s deeply rooted sin against God: the creator of humanity as his image (Genesis 1:26-28) and the redeemer of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural people (Revelation 7:9-17). This same Bible tells us, in Ephesians, that God’s eternal plan is to exalt Jesus as King and Lord over all things (1:21-22) and to unite all things, whether in heaven or on earth, in Christ (1:10). Specifically, in Christ, God is uniting a fractured humanity—Jew and Gentile (2:11-22). As a result, this new (multi-ethnic) humanity, united in Christ by his Spirit through the gospel, now displays the multi-faceted wisdom of God to the cosmic powers (3:10). As this new humanity lives together as a church in unified diversity (4:1-6), it displays how wise our God is in saving this multi-ethnic, multi-cultural people of God, and it causes the heavens to declare the glory of God (Revelation 7:11-12). This is racial reconciliation.

Also, though, read and study history. Read American History to gain a picture of why we’re still dealing with racial issues after two hundred years. Read American political history to understand how governing authorities have tried to address racial issues. Read African-American history to learn of the plight of blacks in the United States from our founding until today. Lord willing, I will provide a reading list we can begin working through together as a church this fall. Look for more information to come out in August. If you want to speak wisely, thoughtfully, and carefully about these issues, then read and study – your Bible, theology, and history.

Personal and Public Conversations
If we are to understand and encourage one another with the truth of the gospel in love, we must talk to one another. But don’t carry on this conversation on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)! Social media is not conducive to serious, helpful dialog. Also, avoid stereotypes. Generalizations describe a general truth about a population: people born in Puerto Rico speak Spanish. That’s generally true. Stereotypes, on the other hand, are harmful, even sinful. Stereotypes apply a characteristic (usually a negative one) of an individual, small group, or even an entire demographic: undocumented immigrants are all criminals. When we classify people with stereotypes, we fail to see them as individuals created as God’s image. Finally, listen more than you speak (James 1:19). Learn from one another. Sit down and get to know people who are different than you; ask them lots of questions; hear their stories; and tell them yours. And let’s be patient with one another as we ask questions out of ignorance.

We also want to encourage having such conversations as a church. So, in the fall we hope to have an elders' public forum to discuss these matters further. Please continue praying for our elders as we plan this and other public conversations. As a church, we are striving to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ in all areas of our Christian lives, including what the Bible says about race and ethnicity. To be sure, some of us are just getting started on this journey, while others are farther along. But, let us speak the truth in love to one another, and let us grow up together in Christ until we all attain mature manhood that reflects the image of Christ.

Love,
Pastor Juan



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