Pastor Leroy Childress, Grace Church
While in the midst of a global health pandemic we find ourselves facing a social catastrophe. We’ve all seen what has taken place, so how do we respond?
At my very first PCA General Assembly in 2015, one topic on the agenda was “Racial Reconciliation.” I quickly felt the unease of being one of the only 15 black males in a gathering of more than 1,500 people. When the topic came to the floor for debate, I was shocked the denomination had to confess sins of racism. Even more surprising were the individuals who adamantly dictated there should be no such confession because there were no wrongs made.
They were discussing racial injustices that happened during the Civil Rights Movement. They were talking about how there was sin in not being involved, turning a blind eye, and not standing up for the injustices that were going on across America. (Years later they sought to repent and seek forgiveness.)
Now, you‘d think in this day in age, with a room full of pastors and elders, the majority would have quickly said, “Yes, we were wrong!” However, hours later debate continued. When it finally came to a vote, 861 people voted to accept the Racial Reconciliation Overture, 123 people said no, and 23 abstained from making a vote at all. Sometimes, when necessary progress is made, not everyone is going to jump on board to admit a wrongdoing. Not everyone will celebrate justice and righteousness coming forth.
For me on that day, tears rivered my face as I witnessed and felt progress. My pains were validated, and my story, the story of my heritage, had value in the eyes of hundreds who looked different from me. Some checked on me, asked me how I was doing, embraced me, and gave me their contact numbers. That meant a lot to me.
Today in Lansing, we have an opportunity to follow Jesus’ words to “Love God and love our neighbor” (Luke 10:27). We have an opportunity to stand up and give a voice to those whose voices have been pushed down for too long. The Civil Rights Movement came to an end, but racial injustice occurs every single day.
As individuals, churches, denominations, and Christians, we must stand in the gap for those who are hurting during this time.
May we also resist the temptation to allow senseless acts of looting and rioting to overshadow the larger narrative. Please, don’t be distracted by the actions of some opportunists out for illegal and sinful gain when the real focus needs to be on the long-suffering cry of the Black Community—our brothers and sisters are hurting, angry, and tired.
Certainly, there are incredible men and women serving on our police force — some of whom I have the privilege of calling friends. We acknowledge this and are grateful. But today, as we grateful for them, we must be willing to shift our focus on where the hurt is. There is pain in our nation and our attention must be directed to that grief.
The cry is real, and it is deep. It isn’t just about a single officer who committed a senseless murder — and we should be able to admit that — but it is a continual battle cry of, “Give me justice!” by a people group to whom justice is due.
What can we do? I would encourage us to begin having conversations about the real issue. Talk to people who have experienced racial pain. Ask them their stories. Reach out to your Black neighbors, co-workers, and classmates and ask how they are doing in these times. Hear their pain and try to accept their emotions even if you don’t understand them.
What else? How ‘bout, for now, refrain from thoughtlessly posting and commenting on social media. Think about how that meme or rant or joke will be felt by someone outside of your immediate circle. Set a goal of making positive contributions during these inflammatory times.
As a pastor of local church, I know there is so much more we Christians can do. We were reconciled to God when He reached out to us. And “He gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18) so that we could extend His love and justice to others.
Is this not exactly what our community needs, right here, right now?
You can give someone the same experience I had at the General Assembly when the tears of acceptance streamed my face. You can validate someone’s experience. You can admit your own wrongdoing. You can extend a hand. You can listen.
Brothers and sisters, let our response to injustice be reconciliation. In our churches, in our community, and across our nation.
Leroy Childress, Pastor
2740 Indiana Avenue, Lansing, Illinois
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