Open Letter – June 11, 2020
June 11, 2020
Dear Church Family:
I wanted to write to our church as pastor of Rose of Sharon and share with you regarding the turmoil our nation is witnessing. The church should be a refuge to its members and a witness of God to those outside the church. As the pastor, I have a responsibility to be a shepherd to church members. God has lead me to share this letter with all of you in that role of shepherd. I hope you find encouragement and truth in this letter. If you want to ask me any questions or want to discuss anything further or have other questions please reach out to me.
In the last few months our country has been rocked by the outbreak of COVID-19, the video of Ahmaud Arbery’s death, the video of the death of George Floyd, and protests that turned into violent, destructive, and deadly riots. As we watch these events unfold before us and live through their impacts, there has been so much information spoken about them. It seems every person has an opinion declared as the ultimate truth. It seems competing sides can take the same exact incident and claim it supports their narrative despite their narrative being completely opposed to the other side’s which claims the incident as their proof. In the midst of this, I want to share what I hope you find as wise words.
First, as you hear opinions shared and stories proclaimed; please know there is more than one side to a story. In our current time, it seems all news outlets function mostly as activists trying to sway opinion rather than independent journalists reporting facts. Unfortunately, this makes finding the truth difficult, and it may be impossible in many instances to know details of an event with accurate truth. One thing I personally try to do, is hear from both sides of opposing views and search for true impartial reporting of an event. Often, this means I have to be patient in my search for truth and in my own decision making. Scripture teaches an approach of patience in decision making and before speaking our opinion (James 1:19 and Proverbs 10:19). I encourage you to look for discernment – the wisdom to view information accurately. Solomon in 1 Kings 3 gives us an example of discernment. He is presented a difficult case in which two women are trying to claim one child as their own. In order to render accurate judgement, Solomon declares the baby will be cut into two halves and one half given to each mother. The false mother accepts the judgement. The true mother loves the child and desires life for the child and offers to forfeit her claim so the child can live. Solomon judges the responses and is able to discern the identity of the true mother. I encourage you to pray for patience and wisdom to understand the circumstances around you. And as part of this, we must learn to separate our feelings and emotions from truth. Your emotions and feelings can be strong, but they are not always right (Jeremiah 17:9).
As you hear the competing narratives, remember the Bible is also clear that our world is going to be full of deceiving people (Matthew 7:15). They come having themselves been deceived by Satan who is the great deceiver and looks to destroy all people’s lives (1 Peter 5:8). One thing we must learn to do is to look for God’s truth among the narratives. While there may be multiple points of view in society, there is one source of ultimate truth and that is God and His Word (John 14:6). The Bible should be used as the standard to test the narratives of people for truthfulness (2 Timothy 3:16). The Bible tells us to also look at people’s works to determine if a person is genuine in their motives or is trying to deceive people (Matthew 7:16). My encouragement to you, as you navigate the life we are living and the different voices we are hearing, is to seek God’s wisdom and to compare the voices of people to God’s Word in order to know where to stand.
If you follow the above guidance, I believe it will help you see the world as you should, through God’s lenses and not through the distorted lenses of other people or of self. It is imperative we strive to see the events of our life through God’s lenses rather than our own or anyone else’s. In order to see the world through God’s lenses we must know and search God’s Word. We can do this through personal Bible study. We can do this through consulting other Christians about Scripture and truth (Proverbs 11:14). And we should do this as families (Psalm 78:4). Children and teenagers – if you are blessed to have Christian parents – listen to them. Your parents have experience on their side and have lived through and seen things you’ve not yet seen. You would be wise to follow God’s command (Ephesians 6:1) and heed their teaching. For those of you who do not have Christian parents, you still obey your parents (provided a command does not contradict Scripture). I would encourage those of you without Christian parents to seek guidance from a Christian family member. Parents and guardians – make time to speak to your children and teenagers about what is happening – you have that responsibility, and they need to hear from you.
Having considered the way we view the events of the world – let us now consider who we are to be in the midst of all that is going on. As Christians we are children of God, brothers and sisters to Jesus (1 John 3). As Christians we are to be God’s witnesses (Acts 1:8) and God’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). This is our identity – it is in Christ. We are not defined by our skin color, our gender, our profession, our relationship status, our feelings, our income, our politics, our ancestry, our likes, our past, or anything else. We are defined as redeemed sinners, covered in Christ’s righteousness, and marked by the Holy Spirit. As such we are to leave sin behind – we are to practice repentance (1 John 3). We are not to be led astray by the deceptions of the world and instead we must do what is right (1 John 3:7). We must love God and love people (Matthew 22:35-40). And we must speak, demonstrate, and live God’s truth. A witness must speak about what they saw and know in order to be an effective witness – a silent witness is of no use. An ambassador must speak and live according to who they represent. A silent ambassador will never impact those they are sent to influence on behalf of their sender. An ambassador that does not live by the principles of who they represent, fails in their mission to give the appropriate influence that the sender desired.
We need to reject the world’s narratives that are bombarding us with false identities and demanding we choose one for ourselves. The world elevates characteristics we may have as identities and demands we embrace a characteristic as our whole identity. We are more than a characteristic. We are children of God! We are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27). We must also view all other people as more than a characteristic. All people have been made in God’s image. It is sinful and it is wrong to elevate any group of people above another group based on a characteristic; be it race, gender, age, background, and anything else. It is wrong and sinful to demean a person based on any characteristic.
As Christians we are to be holy and righteous in the world around us. We should shine the light of God’s truth into the darkness of sin and the world (Matthew 5:16). This means we should not use our words or take actions frivolously or in a harmful way (Ephesians 5). Rather we should be peacemakers and do good in the world (Psalm 34:14). The good we are to be doing includes the pursuit of justice, showing mercy, and walking humbly (Micah 6:8). It includes helping those who are in need and cannot help themselves (James 1:27). It includes condemning sin and showing people that there is a better way that is apart from sin (James 5:20). It includes sharing God’s love with people (Mark 16:15). And it includes trusting in the Lord and seeking God first in all things (Psalm 37:5 & Psalm 118:8). Remember: knowing what is good to do, but choosing to not do good, is sin (James 4:17).
We must be certain that we make the most of our lives to do good and to avoid evil (Ephesians 5:15-17). Being watchful and aware within the world is important in at least two ways. In one way, we need to be wary of how our actions and words influence others. If we lead others away from God by promoting evil agendas we misunderstand or by lies developed in our own hearts, we will be held accountable by God (Matthew 18:6). Secondly, we must stay above reproach to bring glory to God and not to disqualify our witness (Matthew 5:48 & Philippians 2:15). The Bible instructs us to avoid even the appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22). Avoiding the appearance of evil – what a powerful concept. How many lives would still be with us if people had adhered to this verse? What harm can you prevent for yourself, your family, or your future, by avoiding the appearance of evil in your life?
In these past few months we have seen so much in our country: A sudden pandemic with lives lost. Our economy failing and bringing with it so much uncertainty regarding our future. A policemen take brutal actions that resulted in a man’s death. People everywhere trying to take justice into their own hands and kill people: be it a man running through a neighborhood, law enforcement officers simply trying to do their job, people desperate to protect their business, and people caught in the crossfire of warring parties. And through it all there has been the constant accusations flying in every direction against every person. We are to the point now where it seems person “A” may champion the position of person “B” yet person “B” accuses and reviles person “A”. It is chaos. And the chaos is the work of evil.
But, there is hope because Jesus has overcome the world and all the trouble and evil in it (John 16:33). One day Jesus will make all things new and there will be no more sin (2 Peter 3). One day the believers in Christ will dwell with God in a new creation that is perfect (Revelation 21 & 22). I look forward to that day and I encourage you to put your in hope in the Lord and that day. As we live through this world let us be mindful of our witness, let us stand for truth, let us do good at every opportunity, let us share God’s love and the way of salvation with others, let us seek God first in all things, and let us put our trust in God!
Love you and God bless,