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The closest thing I can recall in my life to experiencing even the smallest amount of racism toward my family goes back to when we adopted our 2 girls from Bulgaria. They have brown skin and black hair. They don’t match my wife and I who are white and blonde. We were at the gate in an airport about to board a plane when we were pulled aside instead of allowing us to board the flight like others in line. They took us and searched our bags and asked us some questions before allowing us to board. The reason they did it…our skin colors didn’t match so they thought something might be wrong so we got treated differently than other passengers. That was a mere 5 minutes of inconvenience and I found myself asking why would they do that to us? I recognize that some of, if not many of, those who are black in our nation have had to ask that question far more often than I for sure. I’m not trying to equate such a small instance with the lifelong challenges African Americans have faced. If anything, I’m trying to point out how little I, as a white person, understand the feelings of those who are black.

Racism is no doubt unacceptable; it’s disgusting. It hurts my heart that our country hasn’t been able to move beyond this unthinkable viewpoint that’s persisted since the early days of our country’s history. It hurts me personally to see others treated so poorly because my 2 daughters, who are Roma, came from a country where they were on the wrong side of racism. Roma people come from gypsies, a derogatory term for them in Eastern Europe. Gypsies by stereotype are lazy people who don’t want to work. Roma children don’t have access to the same schools as other Eastern Europeans. Roma children weren’t treated the same as other Eastern Europeans. Roma children weren’t wanted by Eastern Europeans. This is exactly why they were up for international adoption. We brought them to America, the land of the free. A place where they shouldn’t have to experience the difficulties of the early portion of their lives. Yet, my heart hurts as I’m reminded that America just isn’t that different. People aren’t that different. Great focus at this moment is on racism related to black people, police brutality towards blacks and systemic injustice in law enforcement and government in many places. While those things are of massive importance to deal with, we can’t lose sight of the big picture. It’s time to stand against these things and to listen to those impacted. At the same time, if we don’t keep the big picture in mind, I fear the cause will be lost. Here are some big picture things we need to think about to truly make a difference in these areas that so desperately need attention and change.

We will continue to struggle to solve the symptom which is racism, if we don’t solve the cause of racism. Sin is the cause. The fallen nature of man is the problem. The Bible is clear in Romans 3:23, all have sinned. There isn’t a single person: red, yellow, black, and white…and any other color that may be out there, that has not sinned. Sin impacts every aspect of our lives. Sin destroys. Sin separates. Sin is infectious. Sin is hated by God. Racism is one manifestation of sin in our lives. Systemic Injustice is a manifestation of sin in our lives. Looting and Destruction are manifestations of sin in our lives. This isn’t to demean the importance of this moment in our history when hopefully we can finally deal a death blow to racism. This is to say that if we cut off the weed of racism but leave the root of sin and unrepentance, the weed will grow back. It always does. Any gardeners out there know that a weed isn’t truly gone until the root is gone.

The narrow focus of some in this moment is exactly why we will likely continue to struggle to be able to truly get rid of the root. These issues do warrant focus no doubt, but we can’t lose sight of the big picture. Some of us are passionate about police injustice and brutality, racism, looting/destruction, terrorism…and the list goes on. I’m glad you’re passionate about those manifestations of sin…but when we begin to look at others who are also pointing out manifestations of sin and say…those things don’t matter as much. We lose sight of the root issue. Some people are so focused on trying to fix systemic racism and injustice, they say that the looting and destruction doesn’t matter. It’s not as important. They would say property is not equal to people in value. While it’s true that in God’s eyes people have more value than property, it doesn’t change the fact that God hates all sin. Are there different consequences for sin…sure…does God value people over property…sure…but that doesn’t mean God thinks any sin is tolerable for the sake of fixing something else. If we truly want to make a difference, we’ve got to rally around a common cause. It won’t be just racism, it won’t be police injustice or any other systemic injustice, it won’t be terrorism and it won’t be looting or destruction of property. Are all those wrong…absolutely, but by fixing one of them you don’t fix the root issue in our country. To fix the root issue, we need repentance. We don’t need to pray for revival, we need to pray for and ask God to help us repent. There are way too many of us marching on streets, throwing up all over Facebook and other forms of social media that haven’t taken time to repent recently, if ever. Don’t hear that as me saying we need to stop talking about racism, police injustice, or the looting and destruction of property. Do take that as a reminder that it doesn’t matter how many times you post on Facebook or how many marches you take part in, if our nation doesn’t repent of it’s sin, you won’t make the difference you wish.

Some of you are fighting so hard, you’re yelling as loud as your little fingers can type. You’ll argue and debate with the best of them. You draw lines in the sand, alienate people with your views all for the sake of justice. I hate to tell you this, but on social media, the people you generally impact are those who agree with you. They’ll gladly endorse your finger pointing and ranting. You lose the audience that you’re actually trying to impact. Look…bottom line here is let’s not lose sight of the real battle here; where the fight truly lies. Ephesians 6:12 says “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood”. The big picture here that this verse talks about is, there are ongoing battles in the spiritual realm between good and evil. Do I think evil tries to use a bad cop? Yes! Do I think evil tries to use terrorist organizations or racist white people to make blacks look bad? Yes! Do I think evil uses corrupt or racist local prosecutors? Yes! Do I think evil tries to get white people to dismiss the idea that racism exists in our nation? Yes! Does that mean people who are doing wrong should be excused, absolutely not! But when you look at another human who has done wrong, we can’t lose sight of how they’re not truly our enemies. Those that think differently than you are not your enemies, even if they think sinfully. If you want to deal with the evil that’s impacting these people, you have to deal with the heart. If you want to deal with the heart, it’s going to take repentance that comes from the Gospel.

I can’t help but think about the book of Jonah. Read the book of Jonah. God calls Jonah to go to Nineveh to call the people to repentance. In Nahum 3:1, Nineveh was described: “Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims!” Nineveh was known for brutally treating people, from the government level, all the way down to the streets. Jonah didn’t want to go. He didn’t think they would repent. He didn’t think they deserved God’s word. You could say the same thing in a lot of ways about our country. We’re a country of blood…black blood. We’re full of lies…from the media, our government, and racism denying citizens. We’re full of plunder as terrorist and others riot and pillage our cities. We are never without victims…George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the list goes on. But what did God do? He sent Jonah to call the people to repentance. Skip the fish part and jump to when Jonah finally goes to Nineveh…what happens? Read Jonah 3 where from the king all the way down to the citizens they repent. Here’s part of what the king said: “Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.” The Ninevites humbled themselves, repented, and turned from their evil ways. Repentance brought on by the Word of the Lord changed a nation that treated people awful who were different than them. Stand against racism, stand against injustice, stand against terrorism but most of all stand against sin! It’s time to call our nation to repentance…but that starts in my heart and yours!

Posted by Jeremy Shirley with
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You made it! You graduated! You have crossed a major milestone in your life, one that propels you forward into a new arena of adulthood, full of new opportunities and responsibilities. You did this, in a unique and unpleasant set of circumstances. You involuntarily sacrificed many of the happy events that conclude high school—you may have complained, you may have cried, you may have questioned why—but you’ve accomplished this too. You are experiencing that life goes on, you are learning that all suffering is temporary, and you have shown that you can adapt, compromise and persevere—and you should be proud!

While you’ve been home, you’ve probably seen a commercial or two-- or two million, that use some phrasing like “in these uncertain times.” “In these uncertain times, you can buy this product from insert company name because we LOVE you (and your money),” or something like that. These commercials have gotten annoying and seem a bit out of touch, but the point of uncertainty isn’t wrong. This period of time has been very uncertain and still is. So, while we are all wallowing in uncertainty about when things will open and events can be rescheduled I want to remind you that we serve a God who is in control and that there are still many things that are certain.

Graduate,

  1. It is certain that you have a future ahead of you

No matter how it feels to be a graduate now, which for many of you it may seem lackluster. There is still a strong and bright future for you to pursue. God is sending you out whether it be to further your education or join the workforce, your life is shifting forward to a new phase, full of opportunity, and new potential. It is okay to be sad and sorry about the recent past and present, but do not lose the hope you have in your future and the exciting things you are setting out to accomplish. In doing so, you can point others to your ultimate hope in Christ.

  1. It is certain that you have a God who loves you

Fear, anger, sadness—all of these are emotions that you may have experienced recently in the wake of your situation. All of these feelings are valid and understandable. However; we want to anchor ourselves in God’s love. That we do not stay swimming in these feelings that drag us down, but remember that we have a God who loves us and is working all things out for our good (Romans 8:28). When more and more things are stripped away we have to remind ourselves that God is and always has been enough.

  1. It is certain that God wants to use you

One day, all of this will be a distant memory. It will be a story you tell. It may become a part of your testimony. Remember that all that is to come from this point forward, you are still being sent out to where God has for you to be. Your future ahead of you, loved by God, reveals that you still have much to do. You have hope to share, love to show, and a Gospel message to present to others who are lost, confused, afraid, and hurting. Graduate, you have a unique perspective, and therefore a unique message, to reach those around you and who will soon be around you in a way that no one else can.

Church, we need to be praying for our graduates. Pray that they, like all of us, will cling to our certainties, know that God is in control, and remember the mission has not changed.

Posted by Alec Erhart with

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