To my Redemption Tucson Church family. I love you. My love for our church has only grown deeper and deeper from the difficult conversations I have walked through in the past few weeks. Simultaneously, my pastoral conviction and commitment to call us more deeply into the gospel has never been greater. Now, more than ever, my deepest sentiments and convictions about who we are as a church falls under the imagery of family. While we have said from day one that we have no interest in ‘playing church’, if there has ever been a time when our commitment to such a statement might be challenged, it is now. We are wading into some very difficult waters that are likely to only become more and more challenging. But the benefit of growing in Christ-likeness far overshadows the pain that will surface along the way. From 2 Corinthians 4;17-18 to Philippians 2:1-10, we know God’s plan is to bring life through death, and (light, momentary) affliction, on the path to the unseen, eternal weight of glory.
Friends, let us not grow weary of doing good (Galatians 6:9)! Everything in us wants to give up and take the available off-ramps that inevitably woo us into a place of complacency. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns his followers about the ever-tempting allure of the kingdom of this world. But His path, which leads to eternal life, is narrow and difficult, and those who find it are few (Matthew 7:13-14). I am deeply convicted that the sin of racism we are seeing so clearly exposed in these days has attached itself like a cancer to the even more deeply rooted sins of comfort and consumerism. The past few months, and the sermon-panel on Sunday were incredibly uncomfortable. We have grown used to a whole way of life that centers on comfort, preference, and self-determination and I believe the Lord is rooting them out of us as a global church.
Please hear me now. To my fellow, white brothers and sisters in Christ Christ: Shame and guilt are not from the Lord! Shame and guilt do not come from the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1, Romans 9:33, Romans 10:11)! For many of us, there are the strong, first-flinch responses to conversations about racial injustice. Shame and guilt come piling on in the form of accusation, and we react with confusion, anger, and defensiveness. The majority of the time we are left to either dismiss, lash out or just check out all together. But accusation never comes from the Holy Spirit. Satan is the accuser and he seeks to tear us down and undo our faith (Revelation 12 and 1 Timothy 4, Matthew 4, & Luke 4). But Jesus has overcome the accuser, and for all of those who are found in Him we have been set free! We are free to face all kinds of sin, personal, corporate, communal, seen, unseen, recognized, or recently revealed, with the freeing power of the gospel.
So, what if we recognize the accusations of the enemy, and our subsequent feelings of guilt, shame, and condemnation, and we bring those before the Lord? What if fear and guilt are washed away by the finished work of Jesus’ flowing blood, and they are replaced with Christ-like lament and grief? If we grieve over the pain others are experiencing, and the sins we are beginning to look at through new lenses, perhaps we will be able to engage in a different way all together. As with every other relationship and every other aspect of our lives, we are going to stumble and fumble along the way. Sometimes, our best intentions will not be received as we hoped or planned. But we will learn and grow along the way, and be shaped more and more into the image of Christ together.
What do we do now? And where do we go from here? We press into Jesus. We come around the table together and have deep, shaping, challenging, and rich conversations about the full and beautiful work of the gospel. We learn. We take every thought captive and renew our minds through the hard work or reading and listening to a wider variety of leaders and resources. Read or listen, then journal, pray, and process on your own and with others. If you feel like checking out or lashing out, that is ok. Take it to the Lord, Remember your identity in Christ. Remember the freedom you have in the gospel. Remember you are Loved! We can love because He first loved us. And we can love one another because He is love, and He has made us his own. The world will know we are his, because of our love for one another (John 17). I love you, and I am humbled and privileged to be your pastor and to grow and serve alongside you.
5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.(Romans 15:5-6)
Love, Pastor Dave
P.S. See this resource guide of recommended resources for further study: RESOURCE GUIDE