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Posted by Dr. Scott Solberg on Jun 03, 2020 with 2 Comments

A Call for Courage

IT TOOK A LOT OF COURAGE for Paul to stand up to the Apostle Peter. But in Galatians 2:11-14, that is exactly what he did. Looking back on what Paul did, he said in verse 11, “I opposed him to his face.”

Peter, along with James and John were the pillars of the faith in the early church (2:9). Paul was the unlikely newcomer among them. But they could not deny the amazing way God had turned Paul’s life around and that he was called to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. So, they gave Paul their endorsement by extending to Paul the right hand of fellowship (2:9).

Paul was ministering in Antioch, a city 300 miles north of Jerusalem. Peter traveled to Antioch to see what God was doing in the church there. No doubt, he was excited to see how God was moving among the people there. Upon his arrival in Antioch, Peter freely mingled with his Gentile brothers and sisters in Christ. He ate with them. 

But when a delegation from Jerusalem made their way to Antioch, it says in Galatians 2:12 that Peter drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party (2:12). Not only did Paul suggest that their actions were hypocritical, but their actions also had a negative influence on his ministry partner, Barnabas. He too was led astray by their hypocrisy (2:13).

Racial tension! Perhaps the circumstances surrounding the racial tension in Galatians 2 are different than the circumstances we experience in our country; but nonetheless, the conclusion is the same. Paul said of Peter’s prejudice, “their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel.”

So. with the strength that comes from the gospel, with great courage, Paul stood up to the Apostle Peter and opposed him to his face. Courage is a willingness to take a risk.

That is what we need today. We need a gospel-saturated courage to give voice to the injustice of racism that plagues the heart of America. When we see courage on display, it inspires us. 

I was inspired when Sheriff Chris Swanson of Flint, Michigan told the peaceful group of protesters that he was with them and he wanted their voice to be heard. As he gave them his support, they encouraged him to march with them; and he did. That took courage. And it is a courage that is being repeated in many of the cities in our country. Police officers are bending their knees in front of demonstrators in order to let them know that they too are grieved with what has long plagued their image within the community. That takes courage.

If you are asking, “what can I do?” as you watch this drama unfold in our country, perhaps the first thing you need to do is muster up some gospel-saturated courage. Give your solidarity to the ones who have felt the injustice of systemic racism that has long plagued our land. Walk with them. Speak up for this issue.

Don’t allow the rioting and the inappropriate expression of anger to cause you to lose sight of the pressing issue before us. Don’t allow the complexities of this issue to cause you to miss what is the simple reality before us. If we want to be agents of healing, justice and reconciliation; we will need courage.

We will need courage to see the sin of racism that lives in our own hearts. We will need courage to call it out when we see it on display in our own church. We will need courage to stand with others even if we stand alone. But stand we must! 

Let us keep in step with the gospel and let us be a voice that brings healing.

CT Prays has issued a prayer for the churches of this state as we respond to this issue. May this prayer lend you courage.

Father, we lift your name over Connecticut! We declare Jehovah Shalom over our state. We pray for justice to be released for the death of George Floyd. And we repent for our original national sin of racism and slavery. Lord the wounds are old and deep, and they have yet to heal. Lord have mercy! Lord heal! Lord, set things right! And Lord, we ask you to help your people to be voices of truth and to be agents of healing, justice, and restoration in the face of this issue of racial injustice and division and wounding. Lord, please continue to keep our cities safe during this time of great angst and protest. Father, we plead the blood of Jesus over Connecticut. Please bring your cleansing for all our sins--personal and corporate. Please bring salvation to individual souls and to the soul of our communities. Please deliver us from political rancor and please give wisdom and courageous solutions to our elected officials and our community leaders.

Chris Dyer Jun 3, 2020 6:25pm

What a beautiful way for us to react. Thank you Pastor Scott, reminding us of how we can respond to this pain of injustice.

A sincere thought Jun 6, 2020 7:14pm

How in the world can we stand in solidarity or show courage when we don't even know with what cause or with who we are standing? Without knowing what the mission of justice entails, how can courage be summoned? I truly ask, why did the officer's interaction with protestors make so many people feel good? Is it, in part, because it is too hard to face the roaring, justifiable, howling rage of oppression? Is it because we are afraid and want those who have been beaten down, often by the white American mainstream Christian church of our day, to help us feel it is going to be okay?

We speak of injustice and racism as things for which the Christian church has the answer. I humbly and fervently disagree, at least based on the church's current understanding of things. How does the church hold a solution when it does not know the problem? Bob Jones University did not admit black students into its school until, when in the 1970s, it begrudgingly let them through its doors. Yet we do not like to think about our schools and universities as places where these attitudes persist until this day and we do not like to hear about the effects of that type of ostracism. We like to hear about racial reconciliation and people smiling at one another as if smiling and handshakes on Sunday equal true solidarity. Our Christian culture glosses over racism and things such as redlining because it makes most white people uncomfortable. Our culture fosters the denial of history of the sins perpetrated against indigenous peoples and others in the name America and worse yet, Christianity. Christians have mobilized by the thousands and over the years, millions, to fight against abortion and the removal of prayer in public schools. The vociferous cries of Christian organizations to defend the rights of the unborn are important yet there has been an eerie quiet when people of color have described legitimate concern for their lives. Worse yet, blacks are often told "you know, most police are good people" which is really a way of saying, "I do not want to acknowledge the problem and so I will put the burden of this back on you."

As a little brown skinned child, I was taught a few valuable lessons and sadly, they were all needed. One, was how to respect the police and know there still was a good chance this respect would not be reciprocated or that I could be physically injured. Two, was that as a lighter skinned black person, whites (including Christians) would accept me more easily than a darker black skinned child. Three, if I did not accept the history of this country as most white Christian Americans chose to perceive it, I would be accused of being unpatriotic and have my Christian faith questioned. Four, if I succeeded in life, it would be assumed I was an exception and if I failed in an endeavor, it would be thought secondary to my blackness. Five, most whites, in particular, white Christians, would quietly disregard my experiences of inequality.

Therefore, it didn't surprise me when even historic references to injustice elicited remarks such as "that was in the past" or "Jesus loves us all" or "we have unity in Christ". It was as if the self-worth of many a Christian was wrapped up in their chosen identity of what it meant to be an American, not what it meant to be human or a child of God. What I was unprepared for was how much minorities knew and understood about whites but how precious little they knew about us. This used to grieve me but I now realize that I am whole with or without that type of approval or understanding. What brings me to knees in sorrow is the profound injurious result of this unequal relationship.

I want to end with this. Those childhood lessons I referenced were taught to me as a kid growing up in Philly. They were conveyed to me by a black mother and a white, yes, white father. My dad sat me down and even though his father had been a police officer, explained how to keep myself alive and safe with the police. Many of those life lessons were conversations that occurred after anger provoking encounters (such as when a Christian school teacher justified white Christians' reticence about being with blacks as analogous to the response of when "someone has been told their whole lives that tomatoes are poisonous and then they are faced with eating them"). Those life lessons did not scare me or make me hate police officers or white people. They empowered me and enabled me to identify injustice.

I cannot find the right words to end this posting. I can only pray that God knows I wrote this with sincerity and I hope, humility.