Back in January, we made arrangements for Shai Linne to visit Alliance Bible Church this October. Given our COVID saturated world, we're praying this still happens. He's a multi-talented man and, much more, a Jesus-obsessed man. He posted a tweet thread (posted to another blog) that I think is worth posting here. His words are directed to Christians and have provided me with much to ponder.
These days, the labels are flying around like crazy, often used pejoratively and almost always unhelpful. “SJW” [Social Justice Warrior], “Woke,” “Marxist,” etc. or from another standpoint, “Karen,” “White Evangelical,” “Trumpers”, etc.
I understand the desire to label and categorize people and their positions. It helps us to file them away in our mental folder. Once I stick a label on you, I can easily say “He or she is an ally” or I can say “canceled” and be done with them. I get it.
First thing, there is nothing Christian about “cancelling” anybody. Christians are commanded to “bear with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col. 3:13).
Along with that, it’s become popular to accuse people of “virtue signaling.” It seems to me that by definition, you can’t lob that accusation at someone without judging the motives of a person’s heart. But we’re Christians, so we try not to do that, right?
But I chuckle when I hear “virtue signaling” said about me because if doing/saying the popular thing is what drove me, I would have started years before now! I’d probably have fewer grey hairs, and a few more fans and former friends still around if I did.
One of the reasons I’ve always been hesitant to engage a lot on social media is because of what I perceive to be its inherent limitations regarding nuance and context which are necessary ingredients for effective communication.
But I understand that social media is a primary form of public discourse in our culture and so I try to steward it and use speech that won’t leave me ashamed at the last day when I have to give account (Matt. 12:36). I don’t always get it right and I need God’s grace for when I don’t.
Much of what I’ve said recently may seem new to some people, like I’m caught up in a current wave or something. But I’ve literally said these things for years. It’s on my first album. It’s on the Atonement. Really sprinkled throughout my work, actually.
But it was “sprinkled” intentionally rather than “saturated” because I believed then and still believe that the gospel must be primary. The person/work of Christ is the most important thing I can share with anybody. But I’m not going to ignore important gospel implications.
I’ve tried to be faithful to the conviction of knowing nothing but Christ and Him crucified for close to 20 years of public ministry. So if a single tweet or article can throw me into your “SJW” folder, you might want to examine why it’s so easy for you to do that.
People are complex beings. That’s how God made us. Most people are bigger than the mental folders we place them in. It’s possible for two (or 2,000) things to be true at the same time.
I can wholeheartedly agree with and appreciate things about John MacArthur, or Jonathan Edwards, for example, and at the same time, wholeheartedly disagree with them about other things. And you can fill that blank in with any number of Christian public figures.
Jesus does not fit neatly into our common modern polarizing categories, so why should we expect His followers to? If we’re faithful to the Bible, there should be times where everybody’s toes get stepped on, including our own.
So am I Reformed?
Does that make me a Democrat?
Am I “conservative”?
In some ways.
Am I “liberal”?
Liberal about what?
Justice for the poor and oppressed?
Yes, depending on what you mean.
Do I hate and grieve abortion?
Do I hate and grieve police brutality and racial injustice?
Do I see a place for peaceful protest of both things?
Do I support rioting and looting?
Do I think proclaiming the gospel in word and deed is the church’s mission?
Do I think many reformed churches are severely lacking when it comes to discipling members on issues related to racism and injustice?
I could literally go on for hours, and if we sat down for a (socially distanced) cup of tea, there are many things I’m sure we’d be surprised to learn about each other. But none of that would change the fact that Christ is our treasure and the gospel is our only hope.
The benefit of the doubt is something we always want from others but have a hard time extending. That’s because it’s a gift that we’re more prone to give to those we love. So if you love me, I’d really appreciate that gift! And I’ll try to give it back. Thanks.
I am so excited to have Pastor Dwayne Sommersell as a guest blogger today. He is a colleague in ministry here at Alliance Bible Church and even more, a brother in Christ. He and I have had several conversations on the topic of race and Scripture since we met a little over a year ago and I asked him to write up some reflections on what we see transpiring around us. Please take the time to read, reflect, and rejoice in Christ!
Where is the peace?
It has been about two weeks since George Floyd was murdered. As I watched the video I was reminded of several interactions I had with the police growing up in New York City, although definitely not on the same level as the murder of George Floyd. The first one occurred when I was walking to a restaurant with a friend that was a block away from my house. We saw a cop car drive by. He told me, “get ready to be searched.” I didn’t understand why he said that. They did a U-Turn and followed us. We entered into the restaurant just to get a bite to eat. While we were waiting for our meal the police entered into the restaurant and asked us to step outside. I didn’t know why. They asked for ID. They asked where we lived. They searched us. They asked if we had anything on us. People were walking by. Cars were passing by. I was confused and ashamed. After finding nothing, they said, “sorry for the inconvenience” and left. This greatly influenced how I viewed the police. For a long time I hated them. I was angry. Unfortunately, I am not the only one.
Across our nation we have seen many taking to the streets as result of what has been happening. There is much frustration. There is much fear. There is much violence. Where is the peace? Maybe you are asking when will our nation be free from discrimination. Perhaps you don’t understand what is going on and you just wonder when the protesting will end. Where is the peace?
Humanity is crying for peace. The heart yearns for it. Yet the world does not offer true peace. Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). In the context, Jesus is telling his disciples that he is going to leave but will send the Holy Spirit who would guide them into all truth (John 16:13). Before Jesus’ death the disciples would be scattered and Jesus would be left alone, yet his Father would still be with him (John 16:32).
Why does this matter? Because there is no peace apart from Jesus. When we talk about racism, which is a heart issue, we must think through the lens of Scripture. The Word of God is our standard and final authority; hence we must stand on it rather than impose our own opinions on it. Like Paul, we must ask, “what does the Scripture say?” Jesus has done something that no person or government can accomplish. His death has brought together Jew and Gentile into one new man (Ephesians 2:14-15). Gentiles (non Jews) were far away from God but now in Christ they have been brought near by his blood (Ephesians 2:13). This passage is dripping with peace. In these short verses it is mentioned four times (Ephesians 2:14, 15, & twice in 17).
Ever since sin entered into the world through Adam, man has been in rebellion against their Creator. The bible says that humanity is dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1) until God makes someone alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:5). If we are in Christ, that is if we have trusted in him alone for salvation, then we are reconciled to God but also to all those who have put their trust in Christ. Our unity is based on the merits of Jesus. Although we have different skin colors, all of us who are Christians are “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). The Christian can love his brother or sister because they are family.
Christians are also called to love their neighbor, regardless of their background (Matthew 22:39) and every human being is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). This means being kind and compassionate to those around you. Since the punishment of sin is death, the greatest act of love is to proclaim Christ to your neighbor. If your neighbor was driving towards a cliff, the best thing to do would be to stop them from driving off of it. How much more should Christians be pleading with God to save their neighbor and imploring their neighbor to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20). Only then will your neighbor have true peace with God through Jesus Christ and become your brother or sister in Christ.
Being in Christ does not eradicate my ethnicity. I am still black, so the term “colorblind” is unhelpful. In Christ all of my sins are washed away by his blood. On the cross Christ has taken my sin, that is my pride, hatred, anger and self-righteousness and has given me his perfect righteousness so that the Father looks at me and sees his Son. I am being sanctified by the Holy Spirit who lives in me. So when I observe all that is going on, I can grieve and lament to God. I can pray for the family of George Floyd, I can pray for Derek Chauvin and I can pray that I would put away any racist tendencies in my own heart and boldly proclaim Christ who is our peace (Ephesians 2:14).
Since I don’t put my faith in the government, I look forward to the day when Christ returns, as there will be no more racism. I look forward to the day when Christ returns, as justice will be executed. I look forward to the day when Christ returns, as all who are in Christ, people from every tribe, tongue and language will be worshipping the Lamb who sits on the throne (Revelation7:9-10) not for diversity sake but for the praise and glory and honor of the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world. So I say with John, the author of Revelation, "Come, Lord Jesus!"