There is so much angst in the world today. First the corona virus and now the explosion of racial tensions. The political and worldview polarization we we have experienced in recent years have been magnified as political machines ramp up for another presidential election. It even threatens to pull the church apart.
I have recently written about black lives matter and white privilege from a biblical perspective, in an attempt to redeem those phrases from a biblical point of view. I realize that those terms are loaded. The Black Lives Matter organization has a specific message and worldview that runs contrary to biblical principles at various points, but I tried to find the kernels of truth in those phrases through a biblical lens.
We run a risk in the church of getting off the narrow path of following Jesus by aligning ourselves too closely with a particular political platform, secular philosophy or other way of viewing the world that is not gospel focused. We also run a risk of falling off the narrow path the other way, by reacting in opposition to everything a particular political platform, philosophy or worldview stands, just because some of it (or even most of it) is contrary to “off”.
Truth is truth, and truth is objective. No one person or particular view is apt to be absolutely true, because we are flawed beings with limited perspective. The likelihood of one person, one church, one theology being absolutely true in every detail is not likely.
At the same time, truth is truth. It is objective, and people can see it. That means that even people who may not acknowledge the truth of the gospel may, nevertheless, accurately see some aspect of the truth.
It’s like science, the facts and evidence must be interpreted. We are all looking at the same facts and evidence, but we do not all interpret it the same way. Still, the facts and evidence are the same. We continually discover new facts and evidence that alters our interpretations of the facts and evidence we previously knew, and we sometimes discover that what we thought we knew is not accurate.
God, of course, never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Our perspective, knowledge and understanding, however, is finite and limited, and that requires we adopt a posture of humility in our understanding.
God’s Word doesn’t change, but our perspective of it changes. Think of the radical change of perspective Jesus introduced to the descendants of Abraham! God became man, came to His own people, and they didn’t even recognize Him!
Not that we should expect such a radical change since then. God becoming man was a one time event.
But still, God continues to work out His purpose in history. He is working in His people to will and to act according to that purpose. We are growing (hopefully, though sometimes I wonder) in the knowledge of God. We wait for the coming of the Lord. And even in our currently “enlightened” state, Paul’s words are true: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9)
Christians in the United States, at one time, justified slavery. I don’t know whether a majority of Christians justified slavery, but a significant number of them did. Christians were also the people who took the impetus, inspired by Scripture, to call for and work toward putting an end to slavery.
God didn’t change. His Word didn’t change, but our perspective of God and His word changed.
The inertia and familiarity of a society in which slavery was accepted stood opposed to biblical principles and the heart of God, yet many Christians were influenced by those social, political, economic, traditional, etc. forces to accept slavery and even to fight for the right to maintain slavery as an institution. Thus, we need to be careful.
I don’t say these things to condemn anyone, though slavery was certainly to be condemned, and continued acquiescence in racism is to be condemned. We know there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. (Romans 8:1) That doesn’t mean that God does not move through His Holy Spirit to convict us when we are in error. Rather, His grace is sufficient for us. (2 Cor. 12:9)
We know where to take that conviction – to the cross. No one is without sin. We have all fallen short. (Rom. 3:23) If we say we are without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8) If we confess our sins, though, God is faithful and just to forgive us. (1 John 1:9)
That does not mean that we go on sinning. “By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1-2) Heaven forbid that we would be comfortable in our sinfulness. Is not God working within us? Is not God working within us to will and to act according to His purpose?
That people are mistreated due to the color of their skin in this world created by God for whom there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female (Gal. 3:28) is evidence of our sinfulness as a nation, and Christians (of all people) should be speaking up about that. God has given us a glance at His end game, after all. John was privileged to see it:
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Rev. 7:9-10)
Thus, I can find biblical truth in the statements, black lives matter and white privilege, in this present time. I find truth there despite the views that might be espoused by other people who use those terms that are contrary to the Gospel. I strive only to see these things through the lens of the Gospel, the lens of God’s Word with the help of the Holy Spirit.
I sense, as I strive to understand God’s heart in these things, that God’s heart does not align with either the left or the right, progressive or conservative, or any particular human institution. Rather, the narrow path runs sometimes parallel, sometimes counter, sometimes at cross purposes and sometimes in alignment with the various segments of society that are driven by human endeavor – yet when we see the world from the perspective of the narrow path of following Jesus, it is straight.
Not that I have the only claim to the correct interpretation of those things as applied to the current events in this time, but I pray and ask God for His wisdom and the direction of His Spirit.
Sin threatens to undo all of us. We should not be unaware of the enemy’s schemes to divide us and entangle us with temptations to which we are all too susceptible – not the least of which is the temptation to arrogance and pride. Thus, God said through the prophet, Micah:
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness [love],
and to walk humbly with your God?
Finally, Peter’s words are as relevant today as when they were first spoken:
“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8-9)
In a chaotic world in which the winds blow this way and that way, threatening to direct us off the narrow path, we need all the more to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame….” (Heb. 12:2)