So, I actually started righting this in the last week or so, before the Social Justice and Gospel Statement came out. I combined this with my response to the statement and am throwing my thoughts out there. (Spoiler: I agree with every word of the statement, but have not, and might not sign it.)
This post is me trying to put into words what’s been rattling around in my brain over the last couple of months regarding the whole Gospel/Social Justice division. Respectful, articulate, conversational thoughts will be loved and encouraged. Thanks for taking the time to read the whole thing.
So, what’s it been? 6 moths? A year? Since this whole “SJW” “Cultural Marxism,” and all those terms and identifiers have blown up and become a massive dividing point within Christianity. One side claims that addressing things like racial inequality, human dignity, very real social issues, especially within Christianity itself, are a very real, core part of what it means to be a follower of Christ. The other side claims that preaching the unfiltered, unwatered down, simple, by grace alone through faith alone gospel is the only thing that needs to be done.
Both sides are right. And Both sides are wrong. And both sides (not all individuals, thankfully) but both sides of the issue are unwilling to see any common ground, any room for compromise (not compromising truth, that’s not ok, but compromising as in coming together and hearing each other out without assuming meaning into words, without assuming motivations into arguments, and without assuming salvation into the way beliefs play out in individuals)
This divide and the arguments (and names) that are thrown about from both sides, very closely mirrors the political divide in our country as well. If you don’t believe the exact same political views that I believe your a Nazi and fascist, or a communist. No middle ground, no area for unity in disagreement.
The same thing here in Christianity today (not the magazine, lol). If you don’t hold the same convictions as I do, your wrong. If you believe that past racial issues are not fully gone, if you believe that there are social ills and problems in our society and our communities, then you must not believe the Gospel and you water down Christianity and you don’t believe in the sufficiency of the scriptures.
If you don’t believe that, if you don’t believe that those issues are ones that, not only exist, but exist within the church and should be addressed, well, then your not really following Christ. You have your head in the sand and you are a part of the problem, allowing these issues to continue, sometimes out in the open, sometimes just under the surface, and always because it benefits you.
And so with arguments like that from both sides, it can be hard to find common ground. It can hard to believe that you can both be on the same side. It can be tough to see that you both can be right.
Here’s the thing. The Gospel is sufficient for all things. The Gospel is what saves, what changes hearts, and lives. The Gospel is what brings us out of our sins and into right relationship with God. The Gospel is all that is needed.
And, there needs to be application of that Gospel in our lives. There needs to be fruit that bears itself out of that Gospel. And not all sin ends immediately upon salvation. The process of sanctification, the process of sin leaving our lives, our actions, our words and our thoughts, can take time. It will take a life time. We will never be completely sinless. But we are told to try. We are told that is the standard we are to strive for, that’s what we need to live up to. Not because its required for salvation, but because salvation requires it of us.
Some sins God delivers us from instantly. Some sins he gradually, over time convicts us of and helps us work through. Some sins we get so comfortable with that we never do listen, no matter how much we are supposed to or how saved we are.
Racism is a sin. Period. All are created in Gods image and likeness. There is none better or worse. We are all one in Christ under the cross. It seems to me that Racism is a sin that one doesn’t not just get delivered from, but one that, through a process, through the Holy Spirit pointing out errors in that way of thinking, will take some time before being purged from a person.
When we see Racism in the church, our job is to confront it. When we see pride in the church, when we see sexual sin in the church, when we see any sin inside the church, our job is to confront it. And because we are so good at trying to ignore our sins, especially ones that take time to be convicted of, and because we like our own sin, but hate others sins, we tend to congregate with people who share the same sins as us. This is especially true if we are not intentionally looking for, seeking and trying to kill the sin that is inside of us. The Bible says that is what we are to do, seek out and kill the sin inside of us. But we don’t always do that.
And any sin that congregates together has the opportunity to become systemic. The easiest to point out is if a church has a systemic problem with pride. It starts with the leadership and it flows down from there. We see it happening in various denominations with sexual sin. If the leadership starts to accept certain sexual sins, over time it will also be accepted by the congregation and it will imbed itself within the church body, even as it turns over and new people come in and old people (not age related) leave.
The same can take place with racism. It starts with someone who becomes a Christian, and is struggling with that sin. Either they don’t eliminate it or are established to a leadership position before its eliminate. It is accepted by that person and eventually, knowingly or not, consciously or not, becomes accepted by the people around them, (others in leadership or authority) and then the rest of the congregation. It then becomes a part of that church in a systemic way, both as an institution and in the individuals.
That sin needs to be confronted both as individual sins, and in some of those institutions where it has allowed to fester and not be confronted. That doesn’t mean that the people are not saved. That does not means that racism is rampant in all institutions or all individuals within those institutions. It does not mean that we as individuals need to repent of what people have done in the past. But institutions may very well need to repent of what the institution did before any on currently in the institution was there.
The Gospel is sufficient for all things, first and foremost, but certainly not only for salvation. There is nothing that needs to be done. But once we are saved, we are required to search our hearts and eliminate any sin that we come across. We don’t succeed in that 100%, but we are command to continue to root it out. For some, the sin that never gets eliminated or takes a while is racism. To deny that is foolish.
It is a poor argument to say, the Bible says racism is bad, so if we are truly saved there will be no racism. That is true in theory. Just as, if we are truly saved, we wont give in to sexual temptation, we wont sin in anger, we wont struggle with pride, we wont lie, cheat or steal. Hear me loud and clear, this is not excusing any of these sins. They need to be confronted and dealt with when they are there.
If you have not read through it yet, I highly suggest that you go and Read the Social Justice Statement that came out on Tuesday, September 4th. (https://statementonsocialjustice.com/) I will go on record as saying that I agree with every affirmation and denial that is in the Social Justice Statement. However, at this point, I will not be signing it.
The reason I will not be signing it is because this statement, I think, misses the nuances of the conversation going on. Again, I agree with everything in this statement. But not everyone on the other side of the conversation disagrees with anything in this statement. This statement is good, it provides clear, biblical reference points and summations about the gospel, salvation, sanctification, race and the role it plays, and more. But it doesn’t address the concerns that people who agree with this statement still have regarding the treatment, historically and currently, individually and corporately of minorities. Obviously, I do not think that the people who put this statement together and put it out there are the ones guilty of this kind of treatment, (Though, in all honesty, I don’t know them or their personal lives, thoughts, actions, I make that judgement based on what I do see from them, their actions, teachings and convictions.) But there are those who have and are. The question becomes, what do we about those, and what do we do to those who have been on the receiving end? Tough questions that we cannot answer until we are actually willing to sit down and listen to each other.
And the conversation is not about coming up with solutions, we have the solution, the Gospel, being transformed by the renewing of the mind. But the conversation is about recognizing where these sins occur, how we are blind to them (similar to the sin of pride) and how it can be a stumbling block and a barrier to our brothers and sisters around us. There is no substitution for the Gospel, there are no add-ons to the Gospel, but there is required application of the Gospel and this is a way that some have not recognized a need for application to be purposely and consciously dealt with.
Anyway, that’s my two cents, stemming from watching people I love, admire & respect on both sides of this division try to stand up for the truth of Jesus Christ. Maybe its a language issue, thinking words that are used mean something other than what they are intended to mean when they are used. Maybe its looking to the extremes in both sides and labeling everybody in with those two sides (similar to American Politics today) Maybe its just ignoring the heart and the nuances of what’s being put forth, but we need to do a better job loving each other and listening to each other. We need to do a better job being the body of Christ, standing up for the truth in love and yet loving the truth in all its application, not just theory.
Galatians 3:28 & Genesis 1:26&27