By Grant Hawley
There are about a million articles about what happened in Ferguson, MO on the web that are either throwing red meat to one side to stir up anger, or playing games with subjective morality. This article isn't about either of those things. This is an article calling us all to repentance.
All Things to All Men
The Apostle Paul lived in the midst of deep-seeded racial and social divides and didn't naturally fit in anywhere. He was hated by his own countrymen, oppressed by various governments, and was an outsider to those he was ministering to. Yet, he sets us a great example:
For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ [literally, subject to Christ]), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. (1 Cor 9:19-22)
Paul adopted the concerns and sensibilities of the ones he wanted to reach. He did that for the sake of the gospel, because to him, helping people come to know the matchless grace of God in Christ was more important than his racial identity or enjoying his liberties. Paul could have spent his life arguing against the civil disobedience of the Jews or protesting Roman oppression, but that would have cut off his witness to one group or the other.
How are we being all things to all men if we are dividing from one another on the basis of race, class, or something else? How are we going to reach someone with the message of the free gift of everlasting life in Christ if we are telling them that their fears and concerns are stupid?
People sin. People carry sinful attitudes. People do sinful things. People believe lies they're told, and people ignore truth. People absolutely do make wrong assumptions about people of other races. It happens so often that it shapes how we see things. These things happen because we live in an evil age (Eph 5:16). Does that mean that people need less love, less grace, less compassion, or does it mean that they need a whole lot more?
Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing
In Jesus' High Priestly prayer, He prayed for unity among all those who believe in Him:
I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (John 17:20-23)
Likewise, the Apostle Paul wrote about our charge in ministry:
For the love of Christ joins us together, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, behold a new creation; old things have passed away; all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore men on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor 5:14-21, NKJV adjusted where in italics to better reflect the Greek)
Our ministry is a ministry of reconciliation, reconciliation of human beings to God, and reconciliation of human beings to each other in Christ. That means that we need to accept the fact that people will believe lies and do sinful things, and love them anyway. Specifically, we need to love them in a way that will start where they are and lead them to reconciliation with God through the Savior and then to reconciliation with all of the brethren. This charge is for every believer in Christ, regardless of race, class, gender, or anything else.
I'm not saying that we should accept a lie, or shut up about the truth, or ignore society's problems. Truth matters. All truth matters. But there is no more important truth than that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them." As men and women of the truth, let's not forget that most vital truth.
How can we be all things to all men for the sake of the gospel? If you are greatly burdened with the plight of Black Americans, reach out to your local authorities in peace and see what you can do together to make things better in your community. If you are frustrated with the rioting that is occurring, organize a drive to raise money and labor to help the citizens of Ferguson rebuild. Those things will do a lot more to help the problem than stirring up anger, and I'm sure you can come up with even better ideas. But most of all, pray for peace. Pray for those who are hurting. Weep with them. Love them with the love of Christ, and let the gospel work on men's hearts from the inside out.