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One Pastor’s Perspective on Race and the Church

By Roderick Montgomery

It is my conviction that it is the duty of the church of Jesus Christ is to preach the gospel as its primary response to (any) sin that is observed in society. The whole church must be committed to collectively proclaiming the gospel as the God-ordained solution to racial injustice/disunity.

Who am I?

I am a black male. I state that I am black on the outset to give you a sense of my perspective of the issues abounding. There are times when I go out of my home and fit the “profile.” Most people who see me probably assume all kinds of things about me. I am also a pastor. I went to predominantly black schools for elementary through high school, and two mixed populous colleges. I go to a multi-racial church and I hang out with others who look very different from me. I married a white woman from college and we have a number of caramel-colored children. Our family is devoted to magnifying the glory of Jesus Christ in all things.

What are my convictions?

Since there is much about me that you cannot know by simply looking, I feel obligated to refrain from judging others based on appearances. I cannot judge all white people, whether police officers or not, based on their color. And I cannot judge other young black men based on their color.

Scripture makes clear that I can discriminate between those who are Christian and those who are non-Christian (Galatians 5:19-24). This is not to discriminate against people based on particular sins, because we all fall short of God’s perfect standard (Romans 3:23). However, I do expect non-Christians to act like non-Christians and Christians to act like Christians. In this way, it does not matter what their skin looks like. I will treat Christians like Christians and non-Christians like non-Christians.

I can hold Christians accountable for their sin and call them to turn away from their sin because their life is different having the Holy Spirit (Colossians 3:12). Christians who have the Spirit are collectively called the church and consist of people from many different ethnicities, cultures and languages (Revelation 5:9-10). We are commanded to love one another, without respect to ethnicity (John 13:34-35; Ephesians 3:17-19).

Those who do not have the Spirit of God, non-Christian persons, will act according to their nature (Ephesians 2:1-3). And when their nature runs in conflict with my life I can ask them to change; but I cannot expect any real change without the work of the Holy Spirit by faith in Jesus Christ.

I also believe that the government bears the sword in order to keep order in society, to hold evil at bay and that this has been granted to them by God (Romans 13:1-7). Yet the government largely consists of sinners. Thus, while they have a mandate from God to uphold order in society, I cannot expect them to uphold the standard with equity.

What about recent events?

Any shooting is tragic, whether it involves the police or not. The lives of the victim and their families as well as the shooter are forever changed (certainly to different degrees). My Lord commands that I weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Those weeping during such times as these include all of those mentioned above, regardless of their role. The church ought to weep both for the victims as well as the alleged perpetrators.

Concerning injustice in general:

Justice with equity is something that I expect from God (Deuteronomy 32:4). It is beyond the ability of any human or human institution to provide it, thus our hope should never rest in any human institution. Pursue justice, just make sure that you are pursuing it whenever there is a tragedy and not only when it involves the police.

Concerning the impact of these events on my life:

I will be mindful of my actions in public and I will give honor to police officers as governing authorities to whom God has granted authority. I will continue to obey them to the degree that they are not commanding me to dishonor God.  I would encourage you to do the same.

Concerning social pleas for unity:

Christians should not align themselves more with their ethnic culture than they do with other Christians. The church, as a whole, must “be diligent to preserve the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).  While theological unity is not always possible, preserving organic unity (unity which emphasizes the organic solidarity of all who profess faith in Christ without respect to ethnicity) must always be a priority.

Concerning the church’s response in times of racially charged crises:

The church should respond with the wisdom of delayed response. Before jumping to conclusions about shootings or other events that happen, try to gather all of the facts. The media is interested in attention. And usually that information is disseminated in such a way to stoke the most controversy, so that you are inclined to look to them first as a trusted source of the latest news. The church must exercise wisdom and lead by example in this.

The church must be convinced and proclaim that the gospel is always the answer. The church must not join itself with any movement that seeks to effect change by means of political or social activism apart from the gospel. The gospel is about reconciliation. It is first about reconciliation between men and God. Sin creates an eternal separation between God and us (Isaiah 59:2). The gospel reconciles us to God and one another (Ephesians 2:19-22). The gospel makes men into one group, one family, one body of believers in Jesus Christ, in which there is no legitimate distinction between Jew and Gentile, black or white. To them, Jesus Christ is all and in all. Thus, any hope for humanity to have peace and unity will only be fulfilled in the church by faith in Jesus Christ, through the preaching of the gospel.

 

Roderick Montgomery is a Th.M. student at Western Seminary. He serves as a pastor at Hope Bible Church in Columbia, Maryland.

 

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