This three-week series biblically addresses the topics of both racial tension and gospel-centered reconciliation. It’s no stretch to say that the issue of race has become a hot topic recently. This teaching guide looks at the different ways the local church can better reflect the diversity of God’s Kingdom, listen to those who are different than us, and pursue justice in all areas of life.
Read the SERMON SUMMARY from week 3
“The culture is failing because the Church is failing” Dr. Tony Evans
Back when I was in college, I was a salesman part-time for a cutlery company called Cutco. I was in Miami on a sales visit, when I got lost. I am born and raised in Tampa, FL, and yet I still get lost in my own home town, let alone a different city. The only part of Miami I am familiar with is the street where my cousins lived. Unfortunately I had no cell phone or GPS and I couldn’t find my written directions to lead me back. I had two options. Keep going or look for help. I didn’t want to end up farther away to my destination, so I looked around and remember that Miami has a grid system when it comes to there street signs. Miami is divided into NW, NE, SW, and SE. I followed the signs, counting down, until I arrived in the section of town where I had family. I was able to find my way back.
In much the same way, many Americans have a universal sense that we are “lost”, wandering through ideologies and personalities, trying to go from where we are to where we believe we need to be. The truth is that as a whole, our culture has progressively rejected God, in hope to produce results that only He can give. Instead, we are experiencing a greater sense of political, social, and racial turmoil while all the while struggling to find peace and joy.
We are all lost, and the church is called to lead the way. But if we want to see the country turn to God, Christians must first return back to God with a deep sense of seriousness. If not, we will be the blind leading the blind.
God once called the prophet Amos to lead the lost nation of Israel back to God. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr once described Amos as an extremist for love because he was willing to relay a very difficult and serious message to God’s people who had failed to take their covenant with God seriously. Throughout chapter 5 of his book, God was lovingly calling the nation of Israel to “Seek me and live”. Instead they chose to stray farther from God, only to find death and hopelessness.
“O you who turn justice to wormwood and cast down righteousness to the earth!….They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth. Therefore because you trample on the poor and you exact taxes of grain from him, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins—you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate. Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time, for it is an evil time. Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said.
Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord: “In all the squares there shall be wailing, and in all the streets they shall say, ‘Alas! Alas!’ They shall call the farmers to mourning and to wailing those who are skilled in lamentation, and in all vineyards there shall be wailing, for I will pass through your midst,” says the Lord. Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord?
It is darkness, and not light, as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it? “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:7-24
God is not pulling any punches with this message. His people had abandoned justice and righteousness and have rejected the Truth of God, and as a result there would be much wailing and struggle. Also, the fellowship of believers didn’t take their worship seriously. Their relationship with God was reduced to a routine. They were a lost people, unable to find life outside of God, thus producing a greater sense of frustration as efforts would prove to be ineffective. They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. This is why I say that if our good intentions are Godless, they are useless. Both injustices and unrighteousness was on the rise as a consequence, and God was not happy about how to weak and vulnerable were being treated.
We are created in the image of God. This is why people sense this same need to stand against oppression and injustices, but if we do so with their own form of understanding, and the results that they are striving to see will fall further and further out of reach. The war against poverty has succeeded only is enslaving more people to economic struggles as they are living on the new government plantation. Like wise, the war on drugs has created new problems in an attempt to solve another.
Do you hear the waling in the streets today? There isn’t a shortage of voices who are crying against racism and oppression. But there is one detail that seems to be ignored when it comes to the problems we are experiencing. We have seen a sharp increase in the rates of broken homes, out-of-wedlock births, high school drop outs, poverty, and incarcerations. The rates begin to rise sharply starting around the 1960’s, which marks a significant moment where our society had chosen to abandon God’s ways and replaced it with man’s reason. The less we seek God and follow His way, the more we see that we are loosing our way in this world. It doesn’t help when we refuse to look up for God’s signs and directions. But instead we continue to wander, all the while content with asking the wrong questions.
Do black lives matter? What about blue lives, brown lives, or white lives? While everyone is focused on what life matters most I haven’t noticed anyone stop to ask if God matters at all. When they do, they will see the answer that they’ve been looking for has been right there all along. It’s only when God matters most that we are able to acknowledge the life of another, and are then better equipped to establish true justice and righteousness. This is why Christians must not just be woke to what is going on in the world but they must also allow God to work through us for the sake of all those around us.
A well used protest chant you might here in the streets is “No justice, no peace”. A few thousand years ago. The Psalmist wrote in chapter 89, verse 14 that true righteousness and justice are the foundation of God’s throne. You cannot separate them. To be a just and righteous person is to strive to live in right relationships with people through love, and to look for ways to right a situation when someone has been wronged. This is called social justice. This is primarily the responsibility of the individual. Government has a secondary role. Unfortunately, the term social justice has been co-opted by progressive socialists and communists. They tend to believe that government is to best instrument to establish justice and righteousness, while also going beyond righting wrongs and declaring what God calls right is wrong. People who do so will be like the people Amos said who were building a house that they would never live in it (verse 11). Meaning they will be working towards something that they will never be able to enjoy or experience because they are doing it their way instead of God’s way.
This is the work of of the devil, who knows that the easiest people to enslave are ignorant people. The Church cannot fail to fight for them and reach out to them. But we we first must not fail to seek God seriously. We cannot expect for those in the White House and in the Court House to live in this way if we are not willing to live likewise in our own house. Amos, both now and then, is calling us to be conductors of the power and presence of God. An electric conductor is something that allows electricity to flow through it in order to power something else. When Jesus followers are connected to the power of the Holy Spirit through faith, we are now positioned to be a conductor of God’s presence and power to those we come into contact with. We are able to channel hope to the hopeless, healing to the hurting, liberty to the slave, peace to the hateful, and love to the fearful. One great modern day example of this found in the greatest conductor of the underground railroad.
Harriet Tubman was not satisfied with using her freedom to enjoy life, while knowing that so many friends and family still remained enslaved in literal chains. Harriet risked life and limb to return back over to a land where she was once a slave, in order to rescue those who dreamed of liberty. Not only was she successful in doing so on many individuals journeys, but she also proved helped to Colonel James Montgomery during the Civil War, as she helped lead a raiding party, liberating another 700 slaves from their Democratic slave owners. Many know who Harriet Tubman is and what she has done but very few know why she did what she did.
“I freed 1,000 slaves. I could have freed a 1,000 more if they only knew they were slaves”
“The Lord who told me to take care of my people meant me to do it just so long as I live, and so I do what he told me to do.”
“Twasn’t me, ’twas the Lord! I always told Him, ‘I trust to you. I don’t know where to go or what to do, but I expect You to lead me,’ an’ He always did.”
She wasn’t just a conductor on the underground railroad. She was a conductor of the power and presence of God. She was woke to the world around her and sought after God alone to work in her for the sake of others. This calling is not for a select few. The Holy Spirit can empower you to live in right relationship with others and equip you to love, serve, and right anyone who has been wronged. We too can be connected to the same power and be conductors of it to a lost and dying world, all because of the greatest conductor of them all. Jesus left the comforts of Heaven to go behind enemy lines, and through His life, death, and resurrection, made a way for us to make it to an even better Promised Land! This is our calling and our destiny, but it will not be a reality if we don’t take action. We must repent of our sins and allow God to sit enthroned in our hearts, so that justice and righteousness can flow like a river. Let us then get serious about seeking God so that we can find life, not just for us but for those all around us.