In a news conference last week addressing the looting and rioting in New York, the mayor came on and called on religious leaders to help calm the tensions and encourage people to stop the violence (an interesting request of a non-essential service, but I digress). The request poses an interesting question about the role that the church should or should not play in society, and what a fine line it is that we walk. Is it the church’s job to stop violent outbursts within the community? No, it is not. Is it appropriate for the church community to have open and honest conversations about the concerns being expressed within our society, and love and care for our neighbors? Absolutely.
This country witnessed a horrific and disgusting act of hatred in the murder of George Floyd, and we’re saddened to admit that it’s not the first such act of violence aimed at African Americans in this country. We live in a fallen, sinful world that will always be plagued by evil until our Lord returns. And yet, within the context of our repentance and salvation, the church should be able to have truthful conversations about the social challenges and injustices that we see in this world. We are each a part of God’s kingdom, but we are also citizens of this country, charged with making wise decisions and attempting to make things better. The fact that we will never fully succeed in eradicating hatred does not mean we should not try, and the church should be the place where we can truthfully examine not only the brokenness in society, but also within ourselves and each other. This is part of the role of the community of the church. Under God’s grace, we learn and encourage each other to live better lives and build a better society, not to earn our salvation, but because of it.
It is not the job of the church to fix society, or advocate for policies. The job of the church is to bring people to repentance and assure them of the salvation they have in Christ. “We are wielding the law not for social change, but for individual repentance; to break a person so that they will know forgiveness” says Rev. Joel Hess on this week’s episode of Ringside. But there is still room for conversations about social justice among God’s people, we just need to make sure we’re always pointing to the correct answer. “The solution to all this is in our Lord Jesus Christ,” Rev. Paul Koch reminds us, and that’s the good news to which we are always pointing. Frankly, that is why Ringside exists.
Just as the church had the opportunity to demonstrate peace and serenity to a fearful world amidst the coronavirus pandemic, we now have the opportunity to exemplify open communication and self-reflection to a deaf and divided world, and to identify and lift up the vulnerable people in our society in love. The knowledge that we cannot save the world should not prevent us from trying to shine a little light into the darkness, and to do so with confidence and courage, knowing that where we will fail, God will succeed.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:1-5)
This article is a brief examination of one of several topics discussed on last week’s episode of Ringside with the Preacher Men. Listen to Rev. Joel Hess, Rev. Ross Engel, Rev. Paul Koch, and Tyler the Intern duke it out over the recent protests and riots, the ripple effects of slavery, the role of the church in policy making, and why throwing bricks through windows is fun. Listen to the latest full Ringside with the Preacher Men episode, “ Racism, Slavery, Sin in the House, Hope .”
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