Thursday, June 11, 2020

Reflecting on Racial Diversity

You may have already seen the statement that the FOCUS pastoral staff put out on social media last week:

FOCUS is a diverse community in a diverse city. We are a community where many young people are learning to relate to and understand others who are different from themselves, sometimes for the first time. We don't yet mirror the diversity of our broader communities, though we are moving in that direction. We live in a sinful and broken world, but as Christians, we are not without hope! While we wait on God to deliver final justice and usher in a new age of righteousness, men and woman of faith have always stood up for what is good and right, and many have seen positive changes result. This has been true in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, and throughout Christian history. As the writer of Hebrews says of the varied results of living by faith:

I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. (Hebrews 11:32-38)

My seminary classes at Fuller Theological Seminary have been helpful in beginning to understand the idea of systemic, or structural, racism. I recently read a very troubling book called The Trouble I've Seen by Drew Hart. He unpacks some of the history of our country, of our prosperity that was built on stolen land and stolen labor. There are some tragic chapters in our shared American story. As a 21st-century American, I don't need to take the blame or guilt for events I wasn't around for. But as a follower of Jesus, I need to do what He did--take responsibility for the sins of others. He freely owned my sin and paid the debt I had incurred. I can do the same as I look at the sins of my forebears, especially sins that have indirectly benefited me and my family.

Hart is angry (rightfully so!), which made his book a bit frustrating to read, but maybe I need to be frustrated. I think my problem is often that my emotions don't reflect God's--the things that make Him very angry and sad sometimes only bother me a little bit.  Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours! As Christians, we need to be creative, dynamic, honest, and self-sacrificing as we do our part to move our country toward righteousness and justice and mercy. We need to be careful about throwing stones, as our Lord taught us. And, we need to be humble as we seek to bring our lives in line with our prayer: "Our Father in heaven...may your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

I'm praying for us all as we seek to live faithfully in the face of these challenges.

Student Testimony

I got to spend a significant amount of time with Nhala at our Summer Leadership Training last week. He's a wonderful young man, and the Lord is doing some cool things in his life! Thanks for investing to make stories like this possible!

Developing Our Pastoral Team

We are back in August and ramping up for the school year! We have an amazing pastoral staff, and an outstanding group of student leaders. At...