The Other Pandemic

RACE & THE GOSPEL Before the coronavirus entered the world and changed our lives, there was the pandemic of white supremacy. That is the idol, the principality and power, that fuels racism. In America, that pandemic has supported genocide, the separation of families and the stealing of property from indigenous people. It resulted in the […]

RACE & THE GOSPEL

Before the coronavirus entered the world and changed our lives, there was the pandemic of white supremacy. That is the idol, the principality and power, that fuels racism.

In America, that pandemic has supported genocide, the separation of families and the stealing of property from indigenous people. It resulted in the abduction and enslavement of Africans for hundreds of years. It led to the internment of many Asian Americans. It results in the dehumanization and exploitation of undocumented workers. It perpetuates the policing and judicial policies that have led to the mass incarceration and state-sanctioned murders of black and brown bodies. And here’s the unfortunate truth: The white-led, male-dominated American church has historically been complicit in most of this sin.

This cosmetic shift in our world, this new wilderness that we have entered, is an opportunity for these church leaders to repent and listen to what the Spirit of God, the prophets, some women witnesses and people of color have been saying all along: The pursuit of racial justice, reconciliation and social action by the people of God is not a distraction from the gospel. It is simply a righteous response and conviction of those followers of Jesus.

REDISCIPLING THE AMERICAN CHURCH

When talking about evangelism and discipleship, evangelicals have become accustomed to narrowing their focus on a person’s individual salvation. While that focus is paramount for our soteriology, it is only an introductive question regarding our discipleship. Being a disciple requires a deep commitment of our love for God and our neighbors. According to Jesus’ teaching, this is the greatest commandment and sum of the entire Old Testament law.

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Because we do not all physically die and immediately go to heaven upon the profession of our faith, we can rightly conclude that we have been saved for the purpose of working, revealing the will for God’s kingdom pronouncement on this earth (Matt. 6:10) and our faith and allegiance to that kingdom through our work.

There is no real debate between Paul’s claim of our salvation by grace through faith alone (Eph. 2:8), and James’ admonishment to work out our faith (James 2:14–26). Paul is laying out a Christology that informs our soteriology. James, however, is writing about how our salvation and that faith inform what we do, how we live and show up in the world. He goes so far as to write that if there is no action behind our work, then we have a dead—and not a living—faith (v. 26), which also means that we serve a dead—and not a living—god.

John picks up the discipleship teaching that James is laying down by encouraging disciples to put their love into action. “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). If this person continues to hate or support hateful actions toward their neighbor, then this person’s profession of faith is a lie. “For anyone who loves God must also love their brother or sister” (v. 21).

A change of heart regarding whom we love is the repentance that is needed to stand against the power and principality of white supremacy. Love is the spirit of God, and that is what we must all work out now.

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