It may be one of the most pressing questions we have right now: How can we win? 2020 has provided the church with an unsettling amount of conflict to deal with. A global pandemic, a tension straining duopoly election, and us having to face the fact racism is both a present reality and a lingering pain that was never healed. This recent candid conversation Dr. Drew Hart expertly breaks down how the church can win when engaging in the challenge and hardship of healing race relations.
“Most of you aren’t nothing — you are the weak made strong in Christ.”
It was incredibly weird to listen to Dr. Hart echo the words that I have heard from many white evangelicals. A phrase that was well meaning but always was given to missing the point — the phrase “the solution is the Gospel” — an answer that often is given on why white evangelicals avoid the politicism of what is going on. Dr. Hart, though, unpacks this much further. It’s not just if people get saved the problems will be fixed — it is instead if we truly let the gospel transform us, we will fix the problem as we let the kingdom of God take over.
“How does the return of Christ reshape our imagination?”
A big problem that is corrupting our ability to win in this situation is our lack of imagination. Instead of reading scripture through the lens of Christ and seeing that he has addressed the issue, we read scripture through the lens of our political dogma and sociological circumstances. This creates a divide between what is written and what we want the scriptures to say. Scripture tells us to take care of the vulnerable and the oppressed, yet we often miss that scripture is written to the oppressed, by the oppressed, for the oppressed. We minimize this to the universal constant that we are all oppressed by sin, and breeze over the issues of mistreatment of women, segregation of the Samaritans, and the Jews living under multiple oppressive governments. We need to use our imagination to place ourselves in the original context, and then look at where those in our current society fit into those active contexts. Now, how does what Jesus said then apply now? The scariest part is when we do this, we may find we aren’t the character we thought we were in scripture.
“There is no way to be a follower of Christ without being explicitly anti-racist.”
One of the most quoted scriptures is Revelation 3:16: “You are neither hot nor cold, you are lukewarm, so I will spit you out.” What if we applied this thinking to the issue of racism? This type of application applied to racism changes what our actions are. We cannot stay uninvolved and neutral. We would need to actively combat racism. This means being there for the healing of past pains that have systemic repercussions and listening to what is happening and be willing to be radically part of the solutions needed. This is a Jesus position. If he would be in the midst of this, listening and healing, then that is where we need to be.
“Whenever Jesus talks about love, he is especially talking about those that society tells us not to [love].”
2020 is a year that seems to be revealing to us that we have a lot of “enemies.” The discovery of these enemies has reinforced our views and retreating into our tribes. But as Dr. Hart points out, this isn’t how Jesus taught us to act. In fact, he taught a radical love that brought us into the lives of our enemies. Jesus went into the homes both of whom the Jewish leadership saw as enemies, that of sinners, and that of his enemies that were the Jewish authorities trying to kill him. He healed the family of Roman soldiers that were actively oppressing him. Christians need to be more Jesus inspired in dealing with our enemies. Let them storm our gates because we will take care of them and love them. We need to be radicalized by the gospel.
“If we were more faithful, we would probably experience more persecution.”
It is pointed out often that the persecuted church grows like wildfire, yet us here in the United States, the non-persecuted are growing much slower. What if we are mistaken in the correlation? What if it isn’t persecution makes for more faithful believers? What if more faithful believers force persecution to come? What if it is a group of dedicated believers ripping down the systems of this world to bring the kingdom of God that causes persecution?
The old world cannot stand the change and tries to silence the church. Dr. Hart suggests we aren’t being silenced because we aren’t trying to change anything. When the minority of the church tried to fight slavery, the world tried to silence the gospel. During the civil rights movement, the African American church led the charge, and there was a strong movement to silence them.
Co-host Peyton Jones brought up the counter point during this discussion that the church was silent during the AIDS crisis of the 1980’s and also has not been a leader this year when it came to George Floyd’s killing — what could have been if the gospel lived out loud then.
This candid conversation may have been the most challenging one that has been given. The simplicity that Dr. Hart lays out how we win is both disheartening and encouraging. Yes, we can win with the gospel. But the problem is — have we let the gospel win us yet? We may be saved, but are we transformed? Are we trying to plant churches, or are we seeking the kingdom of God made visible?