The Church and Ferguson

“For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.”
-Ephesians 2:14-16

In A Christian Response to Ferguson I encouraged my friends and family not to take sides in this whole ordeal involving the Ferguson case and the protests that have come as a result of the grand jury’s decision. Reminding them that ultimately our duty in every situation is to take up the cause of Christ. It is to Jesus and Jesus alone who we owe our allegiance. We will know if we are being true to our allegiance to Christ in situations like this if our attitude and involvement is one that brings the truth, hope and love of the gospel.

I also stated that I don’t believe silence is an option for the church. Especially for pastors. There is a gospel-centric way for the church to take the lead in this. If we don’t then those who have less than godly motives or concerns will step up to lead the people we should be shepherding down a path that is largely humanistic in its agenda. By humanstic I mean exalting the human to hold intrinsic value because of his humanism and not because of his Creator.

The unique value of the human comes from our being created in the image of God. In contrast, humanism teaches, whether directly or indirectly, that the unique value of man comes not from his Creator but from his humanity. It exalts the creature above the Creator. When the church does not reach deep into the issues that affect humanity and seek to bring a gospel-centric perspective and approach to them the humanist will be there to bring a humanistic prespective and approach.

Whatever your views are on Ferguson, the nationwide peaceful protests that arose out of it are to our nation what swollen lymph nodes are to our bodies. Have you ever been to the doctor and they start feeling around on your neck? They’re checking to see if your lymph nodes are swollen. Lymph nodes are like little military bases for your white blood cells. When you’re sick or your body is fighting off an infection the lymph nodes swell up because they’re sending out more white blood cells than usual to fight off the infection. So the doctor checks to see if their swollen because swollen lymph nodes indicate that something is going on. The size of the swelling is usually a pretty good indicator as to the seriousness of the infection or sickness.

America’s lymph nodes have swollen up this week. Personally, like many other Christians, I wonder why the people of America would at this time choose to step out for this cry against systemic oppression and racial divides while they have at other times sat idly by while other injustices reak havoc in our nation. But I also believe the church will do more harm then good debating that.

The protests are not the issue we should be debating. The grand jury’s decision is not the issue we should be debating. There is a bigger issue at hand which is more deserving of our efforts. Should the church get involved? Yes. If we don’t we will be failing in our stewarship of the gospel.

The reach of the gospel is not isolated to our eternal salvation like air in a vacuum is isolated from everything else. In the above passage from Ephesians 2 Paul address a racial divide of his day by showing how the gospel applies to it. The divide he spoke to specifically was between the Jews and the Gentiles.

What I find most interesting about the passage is that he doesn’t address the issue for the sake of the issue. He addressed it for the sake of the gospel. He in effect says to the church in this passage, “We cannot let this issue divide us because Christ who is our peace tore down that barrier so that we could all be made one in Christ.” If we read it too fast we miss the “so that” which indicates why Paul even bothered saying anything about it. It was important to Paul not because of the issue itself but because of the gospel. He says Christ became our peace “so that” all men could be reconciled into one body in God through the cross and that is why this issue matters. To ignore it is to ignore an essential factor of why Christ became our peace.

This is the message the church should be holding out to the community at this time. The answers they seek are found in Christ who is our peace and the barriers of hostility that exist between people are torn down when we are united in Christ. We should be concerned with this message precisely because Christ tore down the barriers so that in Himself He could make all men into one new man, reconciled into one body in God through the cross.

This is the gospel of hope which God has called us to. We would be selfish people to sit back while we have this hope and experience this new reality but don’t share it with the people who are crying out for a solution which will ultimately only be found in Christ.

– Joseph Sterling