How do we respond like Jesus to racial crises?
    October 14 2015 by Brian Davis, 9Marks Journal

    Is there anything proactive Christians can do in response to cultural crises involving racial issues? What I mean by “cultural crisis” is the tornado of racially charged events that have been happening in our country, events that have taken racial issues from other places and brought them, in God’s providence, to everyone’s attention: Mike Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York City, Walter Scott in South Carolina and Freddy Gray in Baltimore.

    RCF photo
    Brian Davis is a former church planting intern at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, and is currently one of the pastors for Risen Christ Fellowship in Philadelphia, Penn.

    I want to start by saying something that’s obvious, but it still needs to be said: All African-Americans are not the same, and many African-Americans are very hurt.
    That said, there is a variety of viewpoints even among the black community, and they disagree how to feel. It has been my experience, though, that the majority have been hurting, especially in the past year.
    So, what should the church do? What can the church do?
    I want to look at a passage of scripture that I think helps us as we consider these difficult questions. In 1 Peter 3:8, Peter writes to his elect exiles in the church, and I think he has words for us, too. The passage reads: “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”

    Unity of mind

    I’ve heard it said, “the gospel creates ethics.” I think that’s right, but I haven’t heard many people talking that way about racially charged issues. Forgive me for these generalizations, but I’m using them because they are generally true. It seems white people feel like black people always play the race card, and black people feel like white people never acknowledge racism.
    This has been perplexing, and it has revealed a divided hermeneutic in our churches.
    How is it that Christians in the same church, looking at the same event and the same Bible are coming to entirely different conclusions? These landing-places seem to be ethnically divided.
    By and large, black people in churches feel differently than white people in churches. How is it that our ethnicity is shaping our ethics rather than our Bible or our gospel? Why do we disagree across ethnic lines?
    I don’t have an answer for that. I just think it’s something worth considering. It’s strange at best, especially when we look at a text that tells us to have “unity of mind.”
    If nothing else, we should be laboring for like-mindedness. Racial injustice is a huge, devastating part of our country’s history, and it affects life today. But the Word of God and the gospel still apply because there are things that the church ought to feel together. There are things that the church ought to oppose together; there are things we ought to support and assert together.
    And I’m not trying to put a finger on exactly the correct conclusions but rather to emphasize the “togetherness” of those conclusions. And I think pastors have a responsibility to lead in this effort.
    Many white people have had the freedom to pretend like racial injustice is a non-category. Black people haven’t. And both of those mindsets are in our churches. And we want them to be unified.
    Listen to Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:10: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”
    Listen also to Philippians 4:2: “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.”
    Brothers, it’s good to entreat and to help people in our churches agree in the Lord. I know that’s easier said than done, but leading our churches toward like-mindedness and unity is crucial. We certainly won’t agree on everything, but we must try to be in agreement with the mind of Christ.


    A necessary companion to “unity of mind” is something that’s generally lacking in these situations: “sympathy.” One of the most hurtful things for me, especially in the Mike Brown and Eric Garner situations, was the general lack of sympathy and pastoral concern.
    I received so many phone calls from my black brothers and sisters in Christ who are in churches led by white leaders about how hurt they were because these issues were not addressed. They didn’t get talked to about the situation; they didn’t get pursued in their hurt.
    Pastor, if you didn’t publicly address your church concerning the racial events in our country, I think that is pastorally irresponsible. Why? Because God’s providence has made this an “everybody” issue. He has taken things from random corners we’d never know anything about and he has stuffed it in our faces over and over again.
    Pastors, there are few responses to hurting more painful than silence.
    In too many of these situations, there has been an astonishing lack of sympathy. We are called by God to suffer with those who suffer. We’re called to enter into another’s situation, to understand it, feel it, share it. I don’t mean the pastor goes to them and tells them not to hurt; I mean the pastor goes to them and learns how to hurt with them.
    Perhaps you don’t have anything to say about it? That’s fine. But one of the main things you can teach is what it looks like to be slow to speak and quick to listen.
    During these months, have you listened to the black people in your churches? Have you had conversations with them? Have you said to them, “Tell me. How are you feeling?” Did you gather them up and actually talk to them?
    Diversity without sympathy is how you get assimilation. Diversity with sympathy is the key to unity. The former says “Be here, be with us – but we don’t really care how you’re doing; just be like us.” The latter says something much different: “Come here; affect us.”

    Brotherly love from a tender heart

    In some ways, I don’t understand what all the confusion is about regarding how to respond to racial differences. Brotherly love is intended to be simple. We are to love each other like family – because we are family.
    There are not merely black people in your church; there are black brothers and sisters in your church. They’re your family. In Christ, we become the very family of God. And in Christ, our family-of-God-ness is greater than, more intimate, more permanent than our ethnic identities.
    We are co-heirs with one another, members of one another. This is important because racial issues specifically tend to separate and divide. And how you love your black fellow members can either confront that lie, trying to conquer it with gospel, or it can spread the lie so that it will try to rip apart what God has made one.
    Are you a brother or a sister to those who are hurting? Do you have a tender heart? Are you moved? Do you care? Are you affected by people being hurt? Do you care what they are going through? Are you irritated when someone talks about racial injustice? When you hear “systemic racism” do you get mad? I understand how you could feel accused, but I don’t think that’s the aim.
    There’s a reason people are talking about how black lives matter, and it’s not because all white people hate black lives. Do you care why people say things like that, why they feel like their lives are less valuable? Is there compassion for them? When your brothers and sisters share about their experience in this country, or in your church, is your heart pricked for them? Is it tender?
    A simple, loving conversation goes an incredibly long way, and especially so to shape the heart.

    A humble mind

    We’re talking about love here – basic, bottom-floor Christianity. Sure, the field that we’re currently playing on is comprised of racial challenges, but the playbook of love is the same.
    Consider how Paul links our humility to Christ: “If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.
    In other words, Paul is saying, “Be like the Lord Jesus!” Pastors, you have to lead in that. You have to lead in emulating the one who was not in our situation, but love compelled him to come. He suffered like us; he suffered with us. There are few encouragements more prized than the fact that we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect was tempted as we are.
    So, in a lot of ways, I’m simply asking pastors to love the people God has given them like Jesus. Love them like Jesus.
    (EDITOR’S NOTE Brian Davis is a former church planting intern at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, and is currently one of the pastors for Risen Christ Fellowship in Philadelphia, Penn. You can find him on Twitter at @theservantfella. Visit the church’s website at This article first appeared at
    10/14/2015 1:01:36 PM by Brian Davis, 9Marks Journal | with 0 comments
    Filed under: African Americans, racial reconciliation, racism

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