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In a time like no other, it’s important to pay attention

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Things change fast, and never have I seen the speed at which they do than today. This morning I was in a conversation that covered the impacts of the coronavirus, race relations, and yesterday’s Supreme Court decision regarding religious liberty. At another time any of those three subjects would be plenty to parse through, but they’re all happening simultaneously. All of them deserve attention.

It can become overwhelming. Those three events on their own merit will be discussed in history books. And don’t forget the joyride that the upcoming presidential election campaign promises to be. Among those, we’re all dealing with our specific situations in life – a loved one caught in addiction, caring for aging parents, a prodigal child, financial stress from a business that has gone under, doing everything we can to be a good parent/husband/wife/friend/son/daughter/neighbor/Christian. It’s tough to keep track.

For example, it seemed an editorial addressing the protests and racism would be appropriate. I started several times but was never happy with what showed up on the screen. Instead, I kept wanting to read about another’s experiences on being black in America. I’d make another phone call to a black pastor, ask a couple of questions, and listen.

Absolutely, there is a time to speak up. But there is also a time to pay attention. Pay attention to others’ words. Ask them to point out what they see that you don’t. Follow James 1:19-20: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires.”

Perhaps most important, we need to accept that this isn’t going to be a short conversation. That doesn’t mean it has to be the only one. There is no shortage of topics to address or stories to share of God’s work in our churches. But when forced to deal with an uncomfortable subject, what anyone (yours truly included) tends to do is address it as quickly as possible and move on.

We can’t do that.

In 2 Corinthians 5:16-18 we’re told about the reconciliation that happens when we become new creatures in Christ. “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” We are reconciled to God first, but we’re also told this includes God reconciling the world to Himself.

There is more. Paul expounds on reconciliation further in his letter to the church at Ephesus, as he shares how Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection shattered the wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles, thus making peace between the two by bringing them together into one and reconciled them both to God in one body through the cross (Eph 2:14-16). In his epistle to the church at Colossae, Paul expands on the Christian’s new nature as experiencing a transformation in which there is no difference between the “Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all” (Col  3:11). 

So, Paul extended reconciliation in Christ beyond Jews and Gentiles to comprise all people regardless of race, class, etc. The exegesis of the totality of these passages means reconciliation with God and reconciliation among each other.

Churches are going to have a lot to address in the coming days. It starts, of course, with sharing the Gospel. We speak it and live it out so that we become the living difference to what the culture offers. As for the issue of race, living out the Gospel means listening to those experiences different from our own. It means holding our tongue if tempted to give a “But what about” interjection. Perhaps most crucial, it simply means we pay attention.


culture, race relations, Supreme Court

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