The Myth of ‘Black Community’

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Much is being made today of the state of the so-called “black community”.

Unfortunately, this is not breaking news.

The truth is much was being made of the black community in the 1960s…

…and the 1970s…

…and the 1980s…

…and the 1990s…

…and…

Well, you get the point.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word community is defined as:

  1. a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common
  2. a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals
  3. a group of interdependent organisms of different species growing or living together in a specified habitat

This is important to note because in terms of “black community” as a social or ideological construct, we must understand that words have meaning and meaning requires context.

The Magic of Melanin

Given the above definitions, the assumption most people make when conceptualizing “black community” is that definition number two is the most contextually accurate, having reached that conclusion by likewise presupposing that definitions one and three are equally applicable.

They surmise because black people have a “particular characteristic in common”, namely melanin, there exists an inherent “feeling of fellowship” because, again, being black, we naturally “share common attitudes, interests, and goals”, and on that basis further assume that blacks prefer to “live together” in “specified habitats”.

In other words, get a group of black and brown-skinned people together in one place and – Voila! – like magic – “black community”.

See how this works?

It is a mindset that gives little or no consideration whatsoever to the uniqueness of one’s God-given personhood. No thought at all to diversity of ideological worldview or individual cultural or social experience.

It simply assumes that to be of a certain skin color is to be in “community” with others who likewise might be of a similar skin color.

It is the cultural equivalent of making instant oatmeal for breakfast. Only instead of hot water, “just add melanin”.

The absurdity of such logic should be obvious to anyone.

And yet the assumptions don’t end there.

Losing Our Religion

There are those who would have us believe the aforementioned assumptions are representative of a mindset that is exclusive only to white people.

I assure you it is not.

There are countless black Christians who hold to the conviction that merely being black is sufficient in itself to juxtapose “community”, and that any ideological, political, or philosophical differences that might exist should be sacrificed on the altar of melanin.

I use the term altar quite deliberately. For what once was universally regarded as a righteous, that is, biblical, cause – the pursuit of social justice as an Imago Dei issue – has itself morphed into a religion in which race is exalted as the object of worship.

Like the Israelites of old who constructed and venerated a golden calf at Mount Sinai (Exodus 32:1-6), there are today those who, under the more commonly accepted notion of “black community”, have fashioned for themselves a radical Jesus who is worshiped for His “social consciousness”, while devaluing the redemptive Jesus whose atoning death on the cross forever bridged the immeasurable divide between a holy God and sinful mankind (Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:4-7, 13-17.)

The repercussions of such a partitioned Christology, is an apologetic grounded primarily in the Jesus who confronted the moneylenders (Matthew 21:12-13), but to the exclusion of the Jesus who preached the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12).

Consequently, the clenched fist has replaced the cross as the symbol of our salvation, thereby inverting the very idea of salvation so that it is no longer God who saves us but we who save ourselves through our own self-redemptive efforts, whether they be political, legislative, or otherwise.

This is problematic for several reasons, not the least of which is when your definition of salvation changes, so does your paradigm of who or what can save you and from what you must be saved.

A New “Great Commission”?

Prior to His ascension into heaven, Christ commanded His disciples (Matthew 28:19a), “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations“.

Jesus did not tell His followers to organize themselves into an 11-person “movement” so as to “impact the culture” and free themselves of the political and religious oppression they endured under Roman rule.

If such an adversarial approach could have accomplished the kind of righteousness Christ had in mind in sacrificing Himself on the cross, it stands to reason He would have instructed His disciples accordingly. That He did not has proven difficult to accept for many within the “black community”. Hence, they have adopted a new “Great Commission”, one that preaches a gospel of cultural confrontation rather than spiritual transformation (John 1:12-13; 3:7, 16).

But, you see, there can be no community where you and I have nothing in common.

Melanin does not shape my morality.

My ethics are not influenced by my ethnicity.

The notion of “black community” will remain a myth, a phantasm, a dream, a mirage, if we persist in segregating the ideals that should define it from those of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which alone has the power to unite us all under one common mission regardless of race, ethnicity, or nationality (Acts 17:26-27).

Unless the gospel of Christ serves as the impetus of our desire for community – true community – that which is rooted in the condition of our heart and not on the color of our skin – we will continue on this decades-long treadmill of societal futility with absolutely nothing tangibly to show for it (Psalm 127:1).

As followers of Christ, we must remain mindful that the “Great Commission” of Matthew 28 commands us to make disciples of all nations, not social justice warriors. (John 18:36).

To that end, I gladly confess that I am not a social justice warrior.

Nor do I aspire to be.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Black Lives Matter and the Mirage of Activist Salvation

“All of us growl like bears, and moan sadly like doves; we hope for justice, but there is none, for salvation, but it is far from us.”
Isaiah 59:11 (NASB)


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I recently undertook a rather judicious study of the Guiding Principles of the entity known as Black Lives Matter (or BLM).

In reading carefully through each of the organization’s 13 precepts, I was surprised by the extent to which many of the words and phrases used to describe them have either a direct or indirect parallel in biblical theology.

This is not to suggest that the dogma to which BLM subscribes has its origins in biblical Christianity.

That is not what I am positing at all.

In fact, if I were pressed on the matter, I would say without equivocation that the approach BLM has adopted in its attempts to bring about the kind of world it envisions, is more closely aligned with the philosophy of Karl Marx than Jesus Christ.

I am saying only, as a collective ethos, that much of what BLM aspires to achieve is rooted in ideals that are not totally foreign to the pages of sacred Scripture (e.g. justice, equity, love, community, and so on).

On the surface, the principles that guide the BLM movement appear quite laudable.

Who of us would argue that the world in which we live would not benefit from each of us “respecting and celebrating difference(s) and commonalities”, “lovingly and courageously working vigorously for freedom and justice”, and being “committed to practicing empathy”?

But as admirable as these pursuits may appear at first glance, it is incumbent upon us to look deeper.

Much deeper.

A Matter of Context

Every civil society that has ever existed on the continuum of human history, has been established within the framework of a moral or ethical paradigm of one form or another.

To that extent, that BLM, by virtue of the aforementioned Guiding Principles, holds to a particular view of what a just and righteous world should consist of is nothing new. Since the days of the Garden of Eden, mankind has been engaged in an incessant search to reclaim what was lost as a result of the sin of our first parents  (Genesis 3:22-24).

It is that same quest that serves as the impetus for BLM developing the Guiding Principles it believes are solutions to the problems of social justice facing us today.

But solutions are not what we should be concerning ourselves with.

Not yet anyway.

“A right view of God and the world to come requires that we have also a right view of the world in which we live and our relation to it. So much depends upon this that we cannot afford to be careless about it.” – A.W. Tozer, Culture: Living as Citizens of Heaven on Earth, p. 118

Before we can begin to consider how to redress the grievances being raised by BLM, we must go back to the beginning – to why an organization like BLM exists in the first place.

The genesis of BLM lies not in the fact that “black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise” or the impact of the “Western-prescribed nuclear family structure” on impeding the development of “black villages” or the lack of “Black women affirming safe spaces”.

None of those issues is actually the problem.

We like to think they are, but they aren’t.

That BLM exists at all is attributable solely to the fact that there exists no objective context for determining how terms such as justice, equality, and fairness should be defined.

It is this absence of context that is the real problem.

“Lawlessness is lawlessness. Anarchy is anarchy is anarchy. Neither race nor color nor frustration is an excuse for either lawlessness or anarchy.” – Thurgood Marshall, Associate Justice U.S. Supreme Court, 1967-1991

The “struggle”in which BLM is engaged is not all that different than any predecessor social justice movement our nation has experienced.

Think about it.

At its most foundational level, the fight over the abolition of slavery was a fight over the context of personhood. Conversely, the fight over granting blacks the right to vote was a fight over the context of human rights. Likewise, the fight over the legalization of same-sex marriage was a fight over the context of equality. The same can be said concerning the ongoing fight over abortion which, at its core, is a fight over the context of life.

The question of context is germane not only to issues that concern us collectively as a nation, but as individuals as well.

We raise our children within a context of parenting. We go to our jobs within a context of work ethic. We establish loving relationships within a context of mutual commitment. We manage our household finances within a context of standard of living. We help those  less-fortunate than us within a context of charity. Even the choices we make about the foods we eat and the clothes we wear are made not in a vacuum, but within the subjective context of what are our personal preferences for certain foods and styles of fashion.

This is not an exhaustive list, of course.

There are any number of other examples that I could cite.

All this to say, irrespective of the tactics being employed by BLM to achieve its stated goals – or whether or not you or I concur with those tactics – until the question of context is settled, no amount of “guiding principles” will bring to fruition the kind of change BLM – or any other social justice movement for that matter – is seeking.

A Matter of (Guiding) Principles

There is a certain dualism at work within the Black Lives Matter movement which I find both encouraging and disheartening at the same time.

Though I could not disagree more with an agenda that is so thoroughly rooted in cultural Marxism, I can somewhat appreciate the fact that BLM is desirous of a world where justice and equity are a normal way of life.

But this Nirvana-esque worldview is not unique to BLM.

Every day countless millions, if not billions, of people around the world strive in vain to create a similar Promised Land as the one visualized by BLM.

And though the world being dreamed of by these multitudes may not be built upon the same ideological pillars as those endorsed by BLM – globalism, collective value, restorative justice, etc. – the aim is nonetheless the same: a world in which righteousness dwells and where sin (as they define it) is no longer a reality.

The only difference between the world they see and the one BLM proposes, is the contextual framework through which they hope to translate their empyrean illusion from imagination to manifestation.

“What is the good of telling the ships how to steer so as to avoid collisions if, in fact, they are such crazy old tubs that they cannot be steered at all? What is the good of drawing up, on paper, rules for social behavior, if we know that, in fact, our greed, cowardice, ill temper, and self-conceit are going to prevent us from keeping them? I do not mean for a moment that we ought not to think, and think hard, about improvements to our social and economic system. What I do mean is that all that thinking will be mere moonshine unless we realize that nothing but the courage and unselfishness of individuals is ever going to make any system work properly. It is easy enough to remove the particular kinds of graft or bullying that go on under the present system; but as long as men are twisters or bullies they will find some new way of carrying on the old game under the new system. You cannot make men good by law; and without good men you cannot have a good society. This is why we must go on to think of the second thing: of morality inside the individual.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

What many advocates of the Black Lives Matter agenda fail to realize is, yes, there is a better world to come; but it will not be brought to fruition by conforming to a list of ideological beatitudes.

That “guiding principles” thing has been tried before, you know, and look how that turned out (Exodus 32).

But there is hope.

And that hope is found in Jesus Christ.

The Heart of the Matter

What has been missing in the discussion about Black Lives Matter is context.

Terms like injustice, racism, and inequality must be defined within the framework of an objective point of reference.

Namely, the word of God.

“Ethics involves the question of authority. The Christian lives under the sovereignty of God, who alone may claim lordship over us. Christian ethics is theocentric as opposed to secular or philosophical ethics, which tend to be anthropocentric. For the humanist, man is the norm, the ultimate standard of behavior. Christians, however, assert that God is the center of all things and that His character is the absolute standard by which questions of right and wrong are determined.” – Dr. R.C. Sproul, Revelation and Christian Ethics blog post

Only the gospel of Christ can put into context the unrighteousness we see in the world today.

It is the objective truth of the gospel that provides a reasoned response to the activist salvation promulgated by BLM, and the promissory mirage that we can somehow save ourselves from ourselves.

“But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.” – Ephesians 2:13-16 (NASB)

I suppose guiding principles are all well and good if all you’re attempting to do is change minds.

But what if you’re proposing to change hearts?

What then?

After all, heart change is really the goal.

Isn’t it?

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Related:
The Marxist Roots of Black Liberation TheologyAnthony Bradley
Revelation and Christian EthicsDr. R.C. Sproul, Ligonier Ministries
Black Lives Matter Releases List of Demands Time
Warning: The Real Power and Purpose Behind the ‘Black Lives Matter’ Movement Pastor Stephen E. Broden 

The Insufficiency of Our Efforts to Achieve Christless Racial Reconciliation

“and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that thy would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist.”
Acts 17:26-28a (NASB)


When commenting recently on the shootings of six police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, three of whom died, veteran journalist Tom Brokaw, in opining that the election of an African-American president was evidence that sufficient racial “progress” had been made in America as to avert such incidents lamented, “I thought we’d be a different country by now.”

Why Tom Brokaw – or anyone else – would presume that President Obama, simply on the basis that his melanin is of a different hue than that of his predecessors, should inherently possess the capacity to bring to fruition this new age of collective racial harmony in our nation is beyond me.

Barack Obama didn’t suddenly become black when he was elected president, you know?

He has been black his entire life.

Since August 4, 1961 to be exact.

Obama was black during the years he spent as a community organizer in Chicago. Conversely, he remained black while serving as a state senator from Illinois prior to running for president in 2008.

Barack Obama is black even as I type this.

And he will continue to be black until the day he breathes his last.

All this to say that if the skin tone of Barack Obama, or any other person for that matter, were in and of itself adequate to effectuate the kind of racial unity Brokaw hoped would be a reality in America today, there would be ample evidence to support such a proposition.

There isn’t any.

In reflecting on Brokaw’s sentiments, which I have no reason to doubt are genuine and heartfelt, we are presented with somewhat of a paradox in that the optimism he expresses in the notion that America would be a “different country by now”, intrinsically suggests that such a reality cannot be brought to fruition by external forces as if by osmosis, but must be influenced by a transformation from within ourselves.

The immediate impact of such irony is that it permanently shifts the paradigm through which we normally would discuss matters of race relations from one of sociology to theology. For to even suggest that a “different” America is the ideal demands that we consider not only that people need to change, but why they need to change.

It is an unavoidable construct that invariably challenges us to look not to ourselves for answers, but to God.

“The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than the other. But the standard that measures two things is something different from either. You are, in fact, comparing them both with some Real Morality, admitting that there is such a thing as a real Right, independent of what people think, and that some people’s ideas get nearer to that real Right than others.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

What Tom Brokaw fails to understand is that the tone of a person’s skin has absolutely no bearing on the tenor of a person’s heart.

Attitudes, for better or worse, are always borne from within, never from without (Mark 7:21-23).

It is naive for Brokaw to suggest that Americans must “come together” to “deal with” these, and other matters of national concern, apart from a genuine desire to confront the truth about the real issue we are actually being confronted with.

Namely ourselves and our innately sinful condition (Jeremiah 17:9).

“This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections.” – Augustine

Perhaps it has never occurred to Tom Brokaw, or to anyone who happens to share his worldview, that the answer to the problem of deteriorating race relations in America is not to “come together” but to come to Christ.

It could very well be, notwithstanding the sincerity of his sentiments, that Brokaw has never truly contemplated that the transformation of a nation’s conscience is achieved only as the gospel of Jesus Christ penetrates the heart of each individual citizen, not by convening yet another town hall or launching yet another series of nationally-televised “conversations on race” (each of which has been tried ad nauseum to no lasting avail).

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12

If you and I were inherently capable of bringing ourselves into a right relationship with one another, there would be no need for people like Brokaw to plead that we would do so.

The reason Tom Brokaw must appeal for Americans to “come together”, is because it is not our nature to want to be reconciled to each other (Ephesians 4:17-18).

Why would anyone who is inherently capable of reconciliation ever do anything necessitating reconciliation to begin with?

If it were in our power to bring ourselves to love others who are of a different race or ethnicity than we, then, under what circumstances would we ever not love them in the first place?

These and other questions are why the answer to all racial discord – in America and around the world – is Christ and His gospel. For only the gospel sufficiently addresses the question of why we need to change, so that the resulting heart change is both lasting and impacting.

“…acts done in sin and contrary to nature can never honor God. Wherever the human will introduces moral evil we have no longer our innocent and harmless powers as God made them; we have instead an abused and twisted thing, which can never bring glory to its Creator.” – A.W. Tozer, Culture: Living as Citizens of Heaven on Earth

As the Scripture above in Acts 17:26 attests, it is God Himself who intentionally ordained you and I to display the racial and ethnic characteristics we possess. In the text, the Greek word for “nation” is speaking not of geographical boundaries, but is the word ethnos from where we derive the English word ethnicity.

Whoever we are, whatever our skin color, native language, or nationality, we are who we are because of the sovereign wisdom and volitional will of an almighty God who created each of us in His image (Genesis 1:27; Exodus 4:11).

That anyone would have the arrogance or temerity to judge another person based solely on the color of their skin – an attribute which we had absolutely nothing to do with – is sin and is a direct reflection of the darkness of our own heart (John 7:24John 8:44).

“The bloodline of Christ is deeper than the bloodlines of race. The death and resurrection of the Son of God for sinners is the only sufficient power to bring the bloodlines of race into the single bloodline of the cross.” – John Piper, Bloodlines: Race, the Cross, and the Christian

Unless our hatred of one another is placed at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ, no amount of human effort or, as Tom Brokaw phrased it, “coming together”, will suffice.

To whatever extent racism – and its consequent effects – is a social issue, it is only because racism is a sin that affects all of society. If there is a so-called “conversation” to be had on the implications and ramifications of racial reconciliation to our society, it must be initiated within the framework of biblical theology not practical sociology.

Because racism, like any other “ism”, is an attitude before it ever is an act. And attitudes – for better or worse – are always a matter of the heart.

Always.

I pray, by God’s grace, that Tom Brokaw will one day come to understand this for himself.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

The Fight For Justice Is a Battle Over Hearts Not Hashtags

PolicememorialvandalizedPolice memorial statue vandalized in Byrd Park in Richmond, Virginia
Image credit: Mark Gormus/Richmond Times-Dispatch


In Genesis 4:3-8 we are presented with what many would consider the first occurrence of injustice in all of human history.

The text describes how Cain and his brother Abel, the two children of humanity’s first parents (Genesis 4:1-2), willingly presented to God what they deemed to be an acceptable offering of worship to Him.

The offering each brother rendered to God was in a manner befitting his respective vocation. Cain, a farmer, gave to the Lord of the fruit of the ground (v.2b) Abel, a shepherd (v.2a), gave to Him of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions.

Whose Justice Anyway?

Notwithstanding the historical and even contemporary theological debates that have occurred over the years about why God chose to accept the offering of Abel and reject that of Cain, suffice it to say Cain was not pleased that God had granted such deference to his younger brother (vv.4b-5a).

In fact, the original Hebrew describes the anger Cain felt as being of such intensity that he was seething inside with rage. Cain wasn’t just someone who was upset or disappointed about what had transpired, he was utterly furious over it.

But in the midst of his self-justified righteous indignation, what Cain failed to realize is that his emotions were being fueled by his own preconceived notions of what “justice” is.

When Cain’s self-defined standard of righteousness was not met by God, it was then that his “countenance fell” and he became angry (v.6b).

It was not God who caused Cain to become angry.

Nor was it his brother Abel.

What crime did Abel commit to warrant such a violent response from his brother? Conversely, what offense had God committed in favoring the offering of one brother over the other?

Even if Cain was justified in his actions, the question must be asked by what moral or ethical standard would such a determination be made?

These, and other questions like them, may appear rhetorical but I assure you they are not. For as we consider them we ultimately are led to undertake an even more serious inquiry, one which, in my humble opinion, is the most crucial of all inquests, particularly in light of recent events involving incidents of violence between police officers and minorities.

It is a question whose implications and ramifications are equally germane both to victims of injustice, as well as those who would be moved toward actionable responses to it.

The question is: by whose standard of righteousness should we live? 

How you answer that question affects every aspect of your life. 

Every aspect.

What Lies Beneath

At the root of Cain’s indignant reaction to God rejecting his offering, was the assumption that what he perceived to be an injustice gave him the unmitigated right to impart upon a sovereign, self-existent, omnipotent God his own subjective paradigm of what is just and right and fair.

So what did Cain do?

He protested by murdering his brother.

Protesting as a response to a perceived injustice is really nothing new. Long before there was #BlackLivesMatter there was #AbelsLifeMatters.

At its most fundamental level all protests, for good or ill, are rooted in pride to one degree or another.

The first sin Cain was guilty of was not murder but pride. His sin was but an impersonation of the first sin ever committed before the universe began (Isaiah 14:12-14).

Pride has such a capacity to alter and distort our perspective of situations, that we respond even to legitimate instances of injustice in unjust ways.

Hence the truism: two wrongs don’t make a right.

The natural life in each of us is something self-centered, something that wants to be petted and admired, to take advantage of other lives, to exploit the whole universe. And especially it wants to be left to itself: to keep well away from anything better or stronger or higher than it, anything that might make it feel small. It is afraid of the light and air of the spiritual world. It knows that if the spiritual life gets hold of it, all its self-centeredness and self-will are going to be killed and it is ready to fight tooth and nail to avoid it.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

When you think about it, particularly in light of the current state of race relations in our nation, are you and I not equally guilty of making the same assumptions as Cain?

The question is not to suggest or infer that Christians should be unperturbed or aloof concerning the incidents we see occurring all too frequently in our society today.

That is not at all what I am saying.

Scripture clearly establishes that, as followers of Christ, not only are we expected to pursue justice and point out all manner of injustice, we are commanded to do so (Micah 6:8; Ephesians 5:11).

Nevertheless, is a mandate that is a two-edged sword.

No Loopholes

The world today offers unfettered access to technology that enables anyone to freely capture and broadcast to the world images of what may appear to us to be unwarranted acts of police-involved violence.

For the Christian, however, this freedom comes with the biblical responsibility of guarding our hearts in such a way as to ensure that our voracity for justice is not rooted in an ungodly thirst for vengeance, regardless how egregious the offense may seem on the surface.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:9-21

There is no experience in life that brings us face to face with the reality of what it means, in practical terms, to confess the name of Christ than when we are treated unjustly (Leviticus 19:15). For it is in those moments that we are challenged to live up to the demands of what being a “disciple” of Jesus requires of those who follow Him (Matthew 16:24-25; 1 Peter 2:20).

Contrary to what generally is espoused by pontificates of the so-called “prosperity gospel”, the gospel of Jesus Christ is first and foremost a gospel of crosses not Cadillacs, of self-sacrifice not self-empowerment, of reconciliation not recompense.

It is a worldview in which we who profess to believe in Him are required to die moment by moment and day by day – to ourselves and to the world around us – encompassing all that we are or think ourselves to be (Galatians 6:14), realizing that:

“On the cross, by both demanding and bearing the penalty of sin and so simultaneously punishing and overcoming evil, God displayed and demonstrated His holy love; the holy love of the cross should characterize our response to evildoers today.” – John R.W. Stott, The Cross of Christ, p. 302

As Christians we must accept the fact that there are no asterisks or loopholes in the gospel.

Search the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation and you will find no fine print, no exception clauses, no situational stipulations that allow for blocking traffic on freeways, or firing weapons at police cars, or using code words that ostensibly encourage the murder of police officers (e.g. “pigs in a blanket”), or any other form of malevolent and noisome protestations.

“A man of violence entices his neighbor and leads him in a way that is not good.” – Proverbs 16:29

What this means for believers is that in every situation – irrespective of circumstances  – we willingly adopt Christ’s character, we take on Christ’s mindset, we embrace Christ’s attitude (Romans 13:13-14), fully trusting that an altogether holy and righteous God will someday redress every injustice, either in this world or in the world that is to come (1 Timothy 5:24).

This is not to suggest that Christians should adopt an attitude of passive inaction when we encounter injustice, but that whatever action(s) we endeavor to undertake must be representative of Christ and of His gospel.

The world probably won’t understand you for it.

In fact, I can assure you it won’t.

But, then, if the world understands you at all, you’re probably not doing the gospel right anyway (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Examine Yourself

Injustice demands a response.

A biblical response.

“The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works.” – Augustine of Hippo

The battle we fight today is a battle over hearts not hashtags.

We must never forget that on His way to being put to death on a cross Jesus, the Son of God, who came into this world of His own volition to take upon Himself the penalty of the sins of all who would believe in Him, was blindfolded, mocked, spat upon, beaten with fists, and slapped in the face (Mark 14:64-65; Luke 22:63-65; Matthew 27:27-37; John 19:1-7).

Yet He did not retaliate.

Not once.

“Forgiveness is a dynamic concept of change. It refuses to be trapped into a fatalistic determinism. It acknowledges the reality of evil, wrong and injustice, but it seeks to respond to wrong in a way that is creative of new possibilities. Forgiveness signals an approach to wrong in terms, not of peace at any price, nor of a destructive intention to destroy the wrongdoer, but of a willingness to seek to reshape the future in the light of the wrong, in the most creative way possible.” – Dr. David Atkinson, Peace In Our Time, p. 167

As followers of Christ, our impetus for exposing and responding to injustice must never be to exact some degree of “targeted” revenge, but to declare that God’s standard of righteousness has been transgressed in that one human being who was created in His image has been devalued by another human being who, likewise, is created in His image (Genesis 1:27).

Christians are to work to defend those who are created in the image of God. Yet we must remember to reflect the image of God in doing so.

Never in anger.

But always in love.

Always.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Related:

God is incrementally, systematically, and purposely putting you to death – Rick Thomas
GOP senator delivers trio of powerful speeches on race -WORLD

Taking a Fresh Look at the Life of Jonah: 9 Biblical Principles to Consider


It should go without saying that the Old Testament account of the prophet Jonah is one with which most of us are familiar to one extent or another.

Since our earliest childhood our parents, Sunday School teachers, and pastors have regaled us with their interpretations – often exaggerated in an effort to keep us interested  – of how Jonah survived being swallowed up by a really big fish.

Unfortunately, it is the “fishy” part of the story that is usually focused on.

What type of sea creature (fish, whale, or other) it was in whose stomach Jonah resided, or for how long, is not my primary concern.

It isn’t that I don’t care about the significance of that particular element of the story, only that it is not my intent in this commentary to engage in a discourse about how such an event should be understood hermeneutically.

That said, suffice it to say I believe there are any number of other principles that can be gleaned from the life of Jonah that go well beyond those to which we have become so comfortable today.

Such as:

  • Once God has determined to use you, for whatever His sovereign purpose(s) might be, like it or not, you are going to be used by Him (Jonah 1:1-3).
    Jonah seemed to not immediately comprehend who it was that was commanding him to go to Nineveh. Not that he was not cognizant that it was God who was speaking to him, but that he did not acknowledge the authority of God in what he had been commanded to to do. Consequently, Jonah failed to realize that his plan to flee from God was not only nonsensical in its conception, but that it was destined to fail from the outset. In other words, Jonah never came to the understanding that resistance to God and His divine purposes for his life is utterly futile.
  • If it were possible for you to run from God, not only would He not be God, but He could never have chosen to use you to begin with (Jonah 1:4).
    God knew exactly where Jonah was so that His word could be imparted to him concerning the people of Nineveh. How Jonah could ever think it possible to flee from the presence of an omniscient God, who Himself is the creator of every inch of the city of Tarshish to which he was attempting to escape, is puzzling to say the least. Perhaps it never occurred to Jonah that if such a thing were at all possible, that the God from whom he was attempting to flee would have proven Himself to be no God at all (Psalm 33:13-14).
  • God is sovereign even over the means and methods by which you attempt to avoid obeying Him (Jonah 1:4-16).
    In his unwitting naiveté, Jonah apparently convinced himself that the domain over which God ruled was exclusive to heaven and not earth; that a “separation of powers”, if you will, existed between God and His creation that limited God’s access to Jonah once he was aboard ship and on his way to Tarshish. It is a sad contradiction in that Jonah believed in the God who created the earth (Genesis 1:1), yet also believed that that same God would somehow be unable to locate him anywhere he chose to go on the earth which He created (Psalm 24:1).
  • That God would discipline you is evidence of His persevering love toward you, even in the midst of your willful disobedience (Jonah 1:17-2:10).
    Like many of us when we find ourselves in the throes God’s discipline, Jonah defaulted to focusing on the what of his situation as opposed to the why. In doing so, he failed to recognize his predicament as an opportunity afforded him by a patient and loving God to repent of his disobedience and submit to His will (Romans 2:4). Though Jonah ultimately repented or, perhaps better, consented, his repentance was not genuine; for not long after God delivered him from the stomach of the fish, he began again to complain to God. Perhaps you can relate? I can.
  • It is always in your best interest to obey God and leave the results of your obedience to Him (Jonah 3:1-9).
    The prideful stubbornness exhibited by Jonah necessitated God reiterating His original command that he go to Nineveh. That God responded to Jonah’s disobedience with grace when He had every right not to, is a testament both to the kind of God we serve and the kind of people we innately are. It should never be presumed because we serve a God of grace, that God somehow owes it to us to always be gracious toward us. Only God is God (Isaiah 45:5-6). We are not. Consequently, we are in absolutely no position to make demands or to have any such expectations of second chances of Him (Romans 9:15).
  • God’s choosing to use you is about His agenda not yours (Jonah 3:10).
    From the moment God commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah made it all about himself. In fact, Jonah is a lot like believers today whom I refer to as a “Solar System Christians”. Solar System Christians are people who think themselves to be the sun and everyone else planets that revolve around them. Like Jonah, they fail to appreciate the privilege of being used by God at all, regardless of whether they themselves reap any tangible benefit from it (Luke 6:35). As a result of his preaching, Jonah played an integral role in bringing salvation to a city of 120,000 people. But he couldn’t care less about that. As far as Jonah was concerned, the problem was simply that the “planets” that composed his personal solar system were misaligned.
  • We must accept that regardless how God chooses to use us, the outcome has already been predetermined (Jonah 4:1-4).
    How sad it is that Jonah believed he could somehow influence what a sovereign, omniscient, and omnipotent God had already determined to bring to fruition. One could deem it admirable, I suppose, that Jonah was so forthright in confessing to God that his fleeing to Tarshish was an attempt to “forestall” what God intended to bring about for the people of Nineveh. On the other hand, however, it was naive at best that Jonah would ever think that such a thing were even possible (Jeremiah 1:12). But, then, are you or I any different in how we oftentimes view God (Job 42:2; Psalm 33:11; Proverbs 19:21; Isaiah 14:24, 46:8-11; Acts 1:7, 4:27-28)?
  • Obeying God protects us from untold self-inflicted suffering (Jonah 4:5-8).
    What Jonah experienced during his rather circuitous route to Nineveh, is but one of many examples in Scripture in which servants of God brought the discipline of God upon themselves. People like Adam and Eve, Moses, Saul, David, and Sampson, among others, come to mind. That the suffering Jonah endured was self-inflicted makes his an even sadder story. Is there any worse discipline one can experience, than that which we bring upon ourselves as a result of our willful disobedience to a God whose will is always best for us (Ezekiel 18:31-321 Peter 5:7)? I doubt it.
  • Do not let your disobedience force God to remind you who is God and who is not (Jonah 4:9-11).
    I doubt there is another example in all of Scripture where obeying God made someone feel so badly, but that was Jonah. In fact, Jonah was so disheartened that he threw himself a one-man pity party, hoping in vain that God would “understand” and deliver him from is woe-is-me existence. Instead, God rebuked his antics, sternly setting him in his proper place. If the story of Jonah teaches us anything, it is that when God commands us to do something, He expects us to obey immediately, fully, and without excuse. It is far better for us to remind ourselves who is God and who is not, than for God to have to do it for us (John 3:36Acts 3:19).

Soli Deo Gloria!

Darrell

Reflections on the 4th of July From a Black Christian Conservative

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“…and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation.”
Acts 17:26 (NASB)

I distinctly remember celebrating Independence Day as a young boy growing up in the Dixie Hills housing projects on the west side of Atlanta. For black families in the 1970s, especially children, the 4th of July was, in many ways, a lot like Christmas Day.

It was a celebration, not only of the birth of America as a nation but also of family, friends, and God, whom we always credited with providing us the opportunity to live in a free nation as the United States.

Poor But Proud

Despite the material poverty experienced by the majority of black families in the Dixie Hills community, and in others like it, we never lost sight of the significance of having the God-ordained privilege of living in a nation where people are free.

That our financial station in life was not on par with other families we knew, never negatively influenced or affected the high view of America that had been imparted to us by our parents (both of whom had only a high school education).

The elation of celebrating Independence Day was a constant reality for myself and my two siblings as my mom, whose birthday was also on the 4th of July, would accompany us on the Number 3 bus (we didn’t own a car) to the West End Mall where she would let us shop for new red-white-and-blue “patriotic” clothes to wear.

Poor as we were, to us Independence Day wasn’t just another “holiday” that afforded us a day out of school or that our parents didn’t have to work (though oftentimes they did). It was an occasion that everyone celebrated because we were Americans who were proud of America. Whatever apparel her few spare dollars could afford – be it a new t-shirt, a pair of jeans, a new pair of Converse®  sneakers (which we called “tennis shoes”) – my mother would buy for us.

And then there were the picnics at Washington Park.

Ribs, chicken, potato salad, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, and all the Big-K (Kroger grocery store brand) soda you could consume. Not to mention the requisite Soul Train line dance that would ultimately – and hilariously – break out after everyone had had their fill of food.

Indeed, the 4th of July truly was a celebration for most black families. The level of excitement my brother, sister, and I had at celebrating the 4th of July was as high as that of any child on Christmas Eve night.

But, as I said, that was then.

The Inevitable Assertion

These days it seems there is hardly anything of any redemptive value about America.

It is as if all anyone wants to do is complain about what it is like to live here. Depending on who you ask, everything about America wreaks of racism – and any other “ism” you might care to invent.

Think about it.

In 2016 America, it is now considered “racist” to:

  • fly the American flag anywhere
  • be supportive of the military
  • cite or recite the United States Constitution
  • quote any of the Founding Fathers (because “they were all slaveholders”)
  • claim to be a Christian or even go to church
  • pray at any public school event
  • recite the Pledge of Allegiance

All of the above are things I was not only encouraged to do as a child, but was expected to do as a citizen of this country.

Undoubtedly, there will be those who will read this post who, as opposed to taking the time to digest my comments in context, will instead choose to resort to such knee-jerk responses as, “But racism still exists!” (as if I don’t already know that.)

Though this commentary is not about whether or not racism exists in America (or anywhere else), my response to that is, of course racism exists in America – Duh?! – and in every other nation on the face of the globe. During my lifetime, I probably have read more on the subject of slavery, particularly in America, than on any other subject with the exception of biblical theology.

Why?

Because there is a direct relationship between the enslavement of one person who is created in the image of God by another person who likewise is created in the image of God, and our innate condition as sinful human beings.

Racism exists because racism is sin; and since all people are sinners (Genesis 8:21; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:23), it stands to reason that all racists are sinners (though not all sinners are racist).

It is time we realize that racism will continue to be a reality in America, and the world, as long as sin continues to be a reality in the hearts of people like you and me. In that regard, America is no different than any other nation on earth, because every nation is populated by sinners.

Why so many today want to isolate America as if it were an exclusively racist nation is beyond me. Take a census of any nation’s population and that is exactly the number of sinners it has.

The only remedy for racism in America – or in any nation for that matter – is the gospel of Jesus Christ. For only the gospel, working through the power of the Spirit of God, can transform the sinful hearts of those who inhabit it (Exodus 22:21; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Romans 1:16: 1 John 3:16-17; 1 John 4:7; 20).

Tell Them I’m Not Home

America has a tarnished history. Absolutely, it does. You will get no argument from me there.

Then, again, tarnishing things is what sinners do.

Because sinners are themselves tarnished (Ephesians 2:1-3).

As Christians who live in America, we must be ever-mindful that our identity is found only in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:27-28) and that America is not our home.

With this reality in mind, any displays of “patriotism”, for lack of a better word, must be offset by the understanding that our true home is in heaven, the only place where perfect justice and righteousness dwells.

“And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of the Lord has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” – Revelation 21:23-27 (NASB)

That said, notwithstanding its history of slavery, and other abuses of humanity that have occurred and that continue to occur (e.g. abortion), I consider myself blessed by God to live in this nation.

As imperfect as America is, and imperfect as it undoubtedly will remain, to have been born and raised in this nation, despite the material possessions my family never had or the opportunities with which we were never presented, is nothing short of an act of grace on the part of a sovereign God who, in His wisdom and omniscience, could have chosen otherwise for me.

I am thankful He did not (Acts 17:26).

Examine Yourself

If I had to do it all over again, there is nothing about my experience as a black American that I would change.

Not one thing.

As a Christian, I realize that I am expected to live in this nation as an alien and a stranger. As such, I fully understand and accept that this country owes me nothing. Nothing at all. Likewise, I have no such expectations of it.

Contrary to what the media often depicts, I am not some angry black man looking for evidence of racism wherever I can find it, just so I can use it against this nation for my own personal benefit.

It stands to reason that situations of injustice, unfairness, and inequality will occur in a world and nation that continues to experience the devastating effects of the fall of mankind into sin (Genesis 3). Even so, there are many more instances in this nation in which justice, fairness, and equality win out.

“Be glad that you are free. Free to change your mind. Free to go most anywhere, anytime. Be glad that your are free. There’s many a man who’s not. Be glad for what you have, baby, what you got.” – Prince, Free, from the album 1999.

So, yes, I will continue to fly my American flag, support our nation’s military, study the Constitution, quote the Founding Fathers, boldly declare that I am Christian, attend church on a regular basis, pray openly and audibly at public school events, and proudly recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

All of this with the full understanding that I am looking forward to a far better country than this one (Hebrews 11:16), where I will be free to celebrate my “independence” from sin and enjoy forever the bountiful wonders of eternal life that have been graciously afforded me by the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross (Romans 5:6-8).

Heaven can be your home, too, if you know Christ as your Savior and Lord (1 John 5:11-12).

Do you?

Soli Deo Gloria!

Darrell

Related:

Should Christians Be Patriotic? – Interview with John Piper (Desiring God)
The Home of the Brave – Jon Bloom (Desiring God)
Citizens of Heaven – Keith Mathison (Ligonier Ministries)
Thoughts on Christian Patriotism – Reformation 21
What Is True Liberty? – Gene Edward Veith (Ligonier Ministries)
Be Thankful For America, But Do Not Rest Your Hope In Her – Fred Greco

“November Nirvana” or The Misguidedness of Viewing Politics as a Means to National Salvation

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The 2016 presidential election is less than six months away and, as with previous election cycles, curiosity abounds concerning the question of what role Christians will play in determining who will occupy the White House for the next four years.

Now, having read that opening statement, please note what I did not say.

I did not say that the question Christians are facing is for which candidate we should vote. I did not say that because that is not the question.

The reason it is not the question is because to engage in a discourse about which presidential candidate Christians should support, is to be guilty of putting the proverbial cart before the horse.

Such “political bandwagoning” –  a term I use to describe the habit many Christians have of latching themselves onto a particular candidate based primarily on the attractiveness of the message being proffered, rather than allowing themselves to be guided by the counsel provided in the word of God – is to a large extent why America today finds itself experiencing the effects of such a rapid cultural and, yes, spiritual demise.

The truth is there are any number of fundamental predecessor questions and considerations that Christians should, or better yet, must, undertake prior to entertaining any notion about what presidential candidate is most deserving of their support.

A Pre-Decision Decision

The word Christians (Χριστιανός) first appears in the Bible in Acts 11:26.

Since the earliest days of the New Testament church, the term Christian has been used to describe not only those who profess by mere verbal ascent to believe in Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9) but who, on the basis of an objective assessment of their lifestyle (Ephesians 2:10), were deemed to be committed followers (ἀκολουθέω) of Christ.

In fact, the early church viewed a person’s lifestyle as being so inexorably connected to his or her identification with Christ that:

“If a slave wished to become a Christian, his or her master would be consulted. Once the background checks were passed, the candidate’s job performance was assessed. A number of professions were considered incompatible with Christianity. These included anything to do with prostitution, anything to do with magic or divination, and anything to do with the theater or with games (because of the association with pagan religions). Military commanders and magistrates were not eligible to join, because their jobs involved ordering executions, something to which the Christians were opposed. A soldier could join provided he vowed never to execute anyone, even if ordered, and painters and sculptors could join, provided they vowed never to make an idol.” – Jonathan Hill, Zondervan Handbook to the History of Christianity, p. 46, Becoming a Christian

To make merely an oral declaration to be a Christian has never sufficed in and of itself as definitive proof to validate such a claim.

Scripture clearly teaches that such an attestation must be augmented by an observable pattern of life that is modeled after the One in whom we profess to believe (Luke 6:46; 1 John 2:6).

It is the evidentiary Christian life – a life that is distinctly observable to others – that distinguishes the professing believer (one who merely claims to be a follower of Jesus) from the confessing believer (one whose lifestyle demonstrably mirrors that of Jesus Christ).

“The growth of ignorance in the Church is the logical and inevitable result of the false notion that Christianity is a life and not also a doctrine; if Christianity is not a doctrine then of course teaching is not necessary to Christianity. But whatever be the causes for the growth of ignorance in the Church, the evil must be remedied. It must be remedied primarily by the renewal of Christian education in the family, but also by the use of whatever other educational agencies the Church can find. Christian education is the chief business of the hour for every Christian person. Christianity cannot subsist unless men know what Christianity is; and the fair and logical thing is to learn what Christianity is, not from its opponents, but from those who themselves are Christians.” – J. Gresham Machen, Christianity & Liberalism, p. 149

Understanding the distinction between what is a professing Christian and what is a confessing Christian is absolutely crucial, particularly as it relates to developing a biblical theology of politics.

Before Christians can endeavor to undertake the question of which presidential candidate we should support, we must first and foremost deal with the matter of what kind of Christian we aspire to be (James 1:22-25).

Until that question is answered definitively and truthfully, everything else is secondary.

Everything.

A Dangerous Disconnect

When it comes to voting, and elections in general for that matter, Christians who do vote (because there are many do not) are no different than anyone else.

They tend to view being engaged in the electoral process strictly in the sense that such involvement is merely their civic duty; a right they are obliged to exercise as an uninspired and rote expression of appreciation for a perceived benevolence imparted to them by an increasingly secular and ungodly State (Deuteronomy 16:18-20).

Rarely, if ever, it seems, do followers of Christ view their participation in the electoral process as an obligation owed to a sovereign God to whom they will one day give an account for how they exercise that right (if in fact they do so at all).

Such a myopic and worldly mindset is puzzling, particularly given the fact that the very concept of government, in all its various and sundry forms, originated with God (Romans 13:1).

“Politics are a part of religion in such a country as this, and Christians must do their duty to the country as a part of their duty to God … Christians seem to act as if they thought God did not see what they do in politics. But I tell you, He does see it, and He will bless or curse this nation, according to the course they [Christians] take.” – Charles G. Finney, Lectures on Revivals of Religion (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1868), Lecture XV, pp. 281-282

Notwithstanding the ongoing debate over the (un)constitutionality of “separation of church and state” as a binding legal precept, many Christians have likewise chosen to separate, partition, and otherwise disconnect their biblical worldview (to whatever degree it exists) from their political ideology, when the exact opposite should be the case (Romans 12:2).

The enduring consequence of such willful political dissonance is that collectively, as a nation, we will continue to pay an exorbitantly high price, particularly spiritually. The devastating, and disheartening, effects are already quite evident.

I need not delineate them.

Just look around you.

The Heart of the Matter

When you take the time to peel back all the layers, what you will find is that what lies at the heart of all political systems, regardless of ideological persuasion, is an innate desire on our part to experience the purity and perfection that existed prior to the fall of Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-8).

Notwithstanding one’s individual stance on issues such as immigration reform, taxes, abortion, or school choice, at a fundamental level what we all want is a government that provides us the same sense of personal satisfaction and security we get whenever we buy a new car, a new a pair of shoes, or a new smartphone.

That is really what we want.

For it is in those momentary situations that we feel all is right with the world.

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” – C.S. Lewis

Of course, we dare not admit that our personal political dispositions are framed in such vainglorious terms as the aforementioned, but it is true nonetheless.

Something within us longs to know what this imperfect and unjust world of ours would be like, if only the effects brought upon it by the failure of our first parents could somehow be reversed (Romans 8:22-23). This longing runs so deep that we convince ourselves every few years that there exist men and women who inherently possess the requisite attributes and abilities to bring such a just and righteous world to fruition.

There’s a word for that kind of world, you know?

It’s called heaven.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I hear a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and he will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death, there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:1-4 (NASB)

Please understand that none of what I have said is to suggest that Christians should not be actively involved in the political process.

Quite the contrary.

In fact, I would even argue that a primary reason why America is in the spiritual abyss it is in today, is the propensity of many Christians to compartmentalize their stated beliefs – especially with regard to politics – as if the Word of God is somehow not to be appropriated to certain areas of our earthly existence.

Needless to say, nothing could be further from the truth.

Examine Yourself

For the Christian – the confessing Christian, that is – there is no aspect of life to which the authority of God’s Word does not apply. You can search the Scriptures until you’re blue in the face, but you will find no:

  • asterisks
  • fine print
  • exception clauses

As Christians, that we are to be “in the world but not of it” (John 17:15-16) does not mean – and never has meant – that we should not be involved the political machinations of the world.

It is nonsensical, on the one hand, to think that Christ would pray to His heavenly Father that His elect would not be taken out of the world and yet, on the other hand, think that by doing so Christ intended for His people to not be actively engaged with a world in which He prayed for us to remain.

Nevertheless, as we participate in the electoral process we must remind ourselves that when we cast our vote we are not electing a savior.

Why?

Because saviors aren’t elected.

That job is already taken.

“We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” – 1 John 4:14 (NASB)

Soli Deo Gloria!

Darrell