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Race, Riots & Reconciliation

Race, Riots & Reconciliation poster

Due to recent events, we wanted to share an article that Pastor Lutzer wrote back in March of 2015 on “Race, Riots, and Reconciliation.”

In recent months, our nation has been torn apart by racial riots in cities such as Ferguson, New York City, and Baltimore. By the time this newsletter goes to press, perhaps another city will be under siege, subjected to riots that will heighten outrage and damage property.

Unfortunately, the rioters assume guilt on the part of the police without the officers having the opportunity of due process. Perhaps the best example is Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department, who was vilified for shooting Michael Brown. Later the Justice Department cleared Wilson of wrongdoing. Too often the police have been subject to mob rule.

Others counter by saying that the riots are less about a particular incident in these cities than the overall history between the police and the black community, where there has been repeated discrimination, disrespect, unwarranted arrests, and violence against blacks, etc. Whether or not the police are guilty or innocent in a particular situation, riots erupt because of pent-up frustration and simmering anger. It just takes one incident to bring it to the surface.

Some would say that the far greater threat to the black community is black-on-black crime; if every black life matters, then surely the teenagers shot every week in Chicago should be the black community’s first concern. However, others point out that white-on-white crime is almost equally as high in poor, white, jobless neighborhoods.

In other words, the real cause is the systemic poverty, joblessness, and lack of adequate education that gives rise to the breakup of the family and the skyrocketing crime in black neighborhoods.

I am convinced that as believers we can be reconciled with one another despite these differences of opinion. In the New Testament times, Jews and Gentiles had despised each other for centuries. And yet Paul taught that what united them in Christ was much greater than their racial and ethnic histories: “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility…that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace” (Ephesians 2:14-15).

At least a part of the reason for our racial tension can be traced back to the failure of the Church to model biblical reconciliation. It is a travesty if we exalt Christ on the one hand and then foster racism on the other.

One thing is certain: believers who are racist are not ready for heaven! God’s vision is for a multi-racial, multi-ethnic bride that worships Him for all eternity: “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10).

We here at The Moody Church rejoice that we have members from more than 70 different countries of origin. We are convinced that a multi-ethnic church best reflects the kingdom of heaven on Earth.

But what can we do to build better relationships between the races and the various ethnicities? We might not be able to prevent the next riot, but we can take steps toward each other that model the kind of reconciliation that makes a difference in our communities.

Pointing the Way Toward Reconciliation

Question: Let’s get right to the point. Many whites favor a conservative political agenda, whereas many in the black community favor a more liberal agenda, which they believe is more sensitive to their plight. Does not this also create a barrier between the races?

Answer: Yes, it does. But here is my question: should our political agendas and voting record trump the powerful unity we have in Christ? These political matters are important but they are secondary to the privilege we have of uniting with one another around the cross of Christ. God’s only agenda is reconciliation, and that should be ours too.

Question: You mention in your article that we can take steps toward one another in reconciliation. Give some examples.

Answer: The most powerful means of reconciliation is listening to another person’s story. We like to label people and judge them through our lens, which is really a snapshot of our personal perception and experience. What we are missing is the whole picture. We must listen to each other without the need to justify our own point of view. Most enlightening for me has been to listen to the stories of African Americans within our church to get a better picture of their history, experience, and viewpoint. Share a meal with someone of a different race or ethnicity and get to know them. Listening is the first step in moving toward others who are different from us.

Question: Individual reconciliation is great, but what do we do about the larger issues of injustice, poverty, and various forms of discrimination that cause the riots in our cities?

Answer: Every person reading this must answer that question for himself or herself. Many of us can be involved in inner-city ministries that bring hope and practical help to our under-resourced and neglected communities. Thankfully, there are many churches and parachurch ministries that specifically target the neediest areas of our cities. We should not think that nothing is being done to bring various forms of hope to the under-resourced. Do a bit of investigation in your area and I have no doubt you can help make a difference in the lives of needy children and adults.

Others who are reading this can be involved politically, supporting those candidates and policies that will actually improve the schools, create jobs, and bring respect to communities that have habitually been ignored by politicians and practically everyone else.

Most importantly, we can pray. Pray for our country; pray for those who have been disadvantaged, born into homes and communities locked in economic, educational, and racial systems that breed hopelessness and despair. And then having prayed, let us get up from our knees and become involved!

Question: Do you have hope that the racial divide in this country can be bridged?

Answer: Yes, I do. I say that because when I went to Dallas Seminary in 1963, I remember the “Whites Only” signs in restaurants, stores, and Laundromats, etc. Let us not forget how far we have come since those terrible days when segregation was accepted in society and regrettably even in the evangelical churches in the country.

My immediate burden is that the church point the way toward reconciliation, not simply by being integrated, but by us being willing to pay the price of personal involvement and sacrifice. Before the Gospel is believed, it must be seen in the lives of its followers. Jesus didn’t just preach to us from heaven but came to Earth to personally identify with our brokenness and then sacrifice His life on our behalf. That kind of Gospel-driven sacrifice is what the world needs to see today. It needs to be said of us, “Behold how they love one another.”