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Living out the Gospel in Troubling Times

Living out the Gospel in Troubling Times

This past week has been a difficult week for many people across America. Two different incidents in two different states have brought issue of deadly force by our police when confronting black men and women to the forefront of our country’s conscience. The videos of the events surrounding the shootings and deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights Minnesota have heightened concerns of the African American communities across the land. Emotions were further escalated with the shooting of 12 Dallas police officers, five of whom died.

Our law enforcement community has been reeling from the deaths of Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens, and Michael Smith last week.

From my perspective I struggle to understand how things have gotten so far out of hand. From some of my friends’ perspectives this has been an ongoing problem for many years that has simply come to another boiling point.

How should I respond to the events? What is the correct response to the emotional turmoil in the country?

I know how I want to respond and I’m sure that all of us have our default positions on these issues.

As a committed follower of Jesus Christ I have a responsibility to be a good representative of the Kingdom in the midst of some of life’s tragic and messy moments.

How should I approach these topics?

Remember that God’s Kingdom is not a political party, racially or culturally specific. When Jesus called his disciples he was very deliberate in whom he chose. He called Matthew a tax collector. Matthew was a cog in the Roman Empire’s government. In addition to collecting taxes for the government anything extra he collected over and above what Rome decreed when into his personal pocket. On the other hand, Jesus chose Simon the “Zealot” to also be one of the twelve. Zealots were in direct opposition to the Roman government. They had a reputation of knifing those who were in league with the political establishment of their time. They were considered revolutionaries or rebel insurgents depending on your point of view. Can you imagine Matthew and Simon walking side by side together?

Many Bible scholars think that Judas was the only Judean of the twelve. Politically Judeans were more liberal than their Galilean brethren. Can you imagine the distrust between all of these different factions? And yet Jesus said “by this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). How are we doing with our love and our unity???

How do we create this unity and love?

First we need to pray for unity. Over the years I have found that prayer often changes me more than the other guy. Pray that God works in our heart first and the other person next.

Next I would suggest we take a verse out of James (1:19) and listen more then we speak. Someone has pointed out that God gave us two ears and only one mouth. Therefore we need to listen twice as much as we talk. We need to enter into a dialog with our brothers and sisters who are different than we are.

The early church was commanded to take the Gospel of Christ to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the rest of the world (Acts 1:8). To get them to leave the comfort of Jerusalem God had to allow the early church to be persecuted. Jews didn’t think too highly of Samaritans. They considered them at best half-breeds and at worst dogs. Yet God commanded the church to reach them for the Kingdom. The church also had to be encouraged to evangelize the gentiles, too. Think of Peter’s reaction to the vision of the sheet in the book of Acts chapter 10 and how that led to going to the gentiles.

Finally after listening I think we need to build bridges that will allow us to help our brother and sisters in need. This will probably mean it will cost us time, energy and money to address the real needs of our society. As believers we are called to help the oppressed, the needy, the widows, orphans, aliens, and prisoners. (See Luke 4:16-21; Isaiah 1:17; Deuteronomy 27:19 and many more)

Looks like we have our work cut out for us! Maybe we need to start with repenting of our failures and proceed from there.

What do you think?

Pastor Val

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