Citizenship, Culture, and the Church

Citizens_SermonSeries GraceChurch

I have lots of thoughts on this week’s sermon, Citizens: Identity. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch below:

It’s important to remember the context of this message, that the sermon is primarily for Christians, the body of Christ. Likewise, virtually all of the Bible was written to those who follow God, or at least say they do.

As the pastor (Matt Williams) said:

“We have to train a culture of Christians to think courageously, and look at the Scriptures and apply them to us.”

Therefore, none of what I say here should be taken as “Those people should do this,” or, “What if someone else (not a Christian) wants such-and-such?” Those may be valid points and worthy of discussion. It’s just not the focus here.

What IS the focus? Click here to keep reading…


Confederate Flag Controversy: What’s Your Worldview and Identity?

confed_flag SC_Statehouse getty miaden_antonovA few weeks ago, I had to apologize to someone in my church. This wasn’t an insignificant apology, like, “I’m sorry I forgot our appointment.” This was an issue when I deeply wounded someone in the body of Christ.

A whole bunch of thoughts were going through my head, as I walked into this mediated apology session:

  • Through my pride, I hurt someone who God cares about deeply.
  • I didn’t deserve forgiveness, but I needed to ask for it.
  • I sinned against this person, against others who were involved, and against God (Psalm 51:4)
  • God values peace, and I needed to do everything I could to make that happen.

But one thing I wasn’t thinking: I never thought that I could walk into this meeting and demand forgiveness. I wanted reconciliation, but I would have understood if this person wasn’t ready to give it to me. (Thankfully, they were a lot more gracious that I would have been, and I was forgiven immediately.)

Even though God commands us to forgive each other, just as we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32), I couldn’t insist on being forgiven. Forgiving is a choice of one who has been offended.

The Question at Hand

I am writing this blog post to my brothers and sisters in Christ, especially my white southern friends. Other people are invited to read this post, but I don’t think you’ll fully grasp where we are coming from. (Truth be told, I don’t fully understand these complex issues, but I’m working on it.)

Shortly after a recent racism-motivated massacre in Charleston, SC, many people were calling (once again) for the removal of the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in Columbia. Others said that people were using this tragedy for political reasons, and it was not the right time to bring this issue up. (But exactly when is a good time to discuss this? It’s been an issue for at least 20 years. Thankfully, Governor Nikki Haley has bravely called on the SC Legislature to remove the flag from the Capitol grounds.)

So, this is the issue: Should Christians support the removal of the Confederate Flag from our State House grounds? And if we want to take it further, we can ask: Should Christians freely display this flag?

Click here to keep reading…

The Injustice of Prison and Slavery

book letters_incarcerated_brother amazonUpon a recommendation from a friend at Allendale Correctional Institute (he is a “resident,” the term they prefer over “inmate”), I bought a copy of Letters to an Incarcerated Brother by Hill Harper. This book would have made little sense outside of my experience working with guys at that state prison.

Even as it is, I still do not fully understand what it’s like to be in prison (and I hope to keep it that way!). Therefore, most of this book challenged my thinking. And that’s a good thing.

But there were also plenty of parts that were easier to understand, even while giving me new insight. This includes when the author makes a connection between historical slavery and the modern prison system.

The Slavery of Prison

In Chapter 8, Harper is reflecting on a statement made by a counselor in a state prison, “I tell all my students who become repeaters, ‘You’re volunteering for slavery.’”

Captivated? Click here to learn more…

Poverty and Violence

Are we trying to solve poverty (through short-term relief and long-term development) when we really should be looking at violence, a core determinant of poverty and hardship?

Gary Haugen, president of the International Justice Mission, explains:


I like the idea that he points out, that there is a difference between having laws and enforcing laws. “Most poor people live outside of the protection of law.”

Decades of anti-poverty efforts don’t address the justice issue of slavery and everyday violence. (For more on this, check out what Dr. Jay Richards says is the first thing you need to solve poverty.)

Haugen speaks about global poverty and global violence. But I wonder how much of this can be applied to poverty within our own country?

Related Links:

Prison and Health

Prison health improvements are needed.

“For decades, though, the U.S. health and criminal justice systems have operated in a vicious cycle that in essence punishes illness and poverty in ways that, in turn, generate further illness and poverty.”

“The general public doesn’t pay attention to what’s going on behind bars, but this is very important if you are concerned about the health of our population and health care costs.”

Read more here.

Then, here’s another article about a potential solution to recidivism.

Racial Reconciliation: 2 Videos + 4 Articles

From Lecrae (via Desiring God):  Engaging Race Face to Face

Lecrae makes the case that a conversation with tension will be healthy and beneficial, but the church is scared to go there.

And check out this video from Leonce Crump (via Verge Network): A Biblical Vision for Racial Reconciliation.

“Is not the mission of God to see people not only reconciled to God, but also diverse groups reconciled to each other?”

More Reading

5 Crucial Ways the Church Can Pursue Racial Reconciliation (Alex Dean). We need to think about this issue from a global, local, and personal level.

Racial Justice and the Gospel (Russell Moore). “Jim Crow is put to flight ultimately because Jesus Christ steps forward out of history and announces, with us, “I Am a Man.””

Jim Crow, Civil Rights, and Southern White Evangelicals (Justin Taylor). A panel of historians answers the questions of how much white evangelicals helped (or hindered) the Civil Rights movement.

You Don’t Have to Say ‘Yo’ Around Me (Trillia Newbell). “To see reconciliation and progress in our nation, communities, and churches, we must recognize that racial bias is indeed a possibility for each and every one of us.” Good words from an author whose book has shaken me.

[Video] Racism by the Numbers

Yes, racism is big and complex. But if you are in the majority (a white American who doesn’t think race bias exists), you should watch this 4-minute video:

But remember, “Data is cold, in a way that humans are not.”

Related Links: