Missio Dei Family,
We love pastoring this church – this family. There have been two times in our brief history where we, as your elders and pastors, have sensed a calling from the Spirit to write a letter speaking directly into a current event. Today is the third.
No doubt you have seen or at least heard about the two latest videos of black men being shot by police officers. The response of some, as in Dallas, is to wrongly call for violence and retribution. Others are calling for silence as talking about the painful situations, “only make them worse.” So how are we, as followers of Jesus, going to respond?
This letter is not about taking a side: white vs black, conservative vs liberal, cops vs black men, etc. It is about helping shepherd the Missio Dei Communities family to be a faithful gospel presence in God’s broken world. We write this letter to make explicit that we are re-affirming our stance against racial injustice, restating our intention to lovingly lead our family to be peace making ambassadors of reconciliation, and renewing our commitment to leading Missio Dei Communities as a multi-ethnic expression of the kingdom of God.
We suspect that most in our Missio Family fall into one of the following three groups:
First, there are those in our family who have been deeply wounded by the racism in our country. You have experienced it firsthand. Watching these videos confirms what you have known, your lived experience. We stand with you. We grieve with you. We want you to know you have a church family and church leadership that cries with you and wants to stand up for you.
Second, there are those who flinch toward caution. Let’s be honest, you are already a bit nervous that we are writing this letter. You may be thinking things like, We need to reserve judgment. Isn’t the Black Lives Matter movement anti-cop? For that matter, don’t All Lives Matter? What about black-on-black crime? We want to make two things really clear to you. As a leadership we do not believe these responses are in line with the gospel, because they belittle the massive suffering of those experiencing loss. Furthermore they are not reflective the way Jesus calls his followers to respond to a hurting community in moments like this. We want to make this clear up front. Yet at the same time, we want to create safe environments where you can talk about these things. We don’t simply want to shame you for thinking, saying, or Facebooking these things. But we do want to state this clearly so that we can have real dialogue about this.
Finally, there is the majority of the Missio family. You read the latest headlines. You are disgusted. “Not again!”, you think. You say a prayer. You are moved today. But the danger is that tomorrow your concerns move elsewhere until another headline of a black man being shot. The cycle repeats. The main goal of this letter is to say that as Missio Dei, we are not going to play that game.
We do not support violence and hatred as a response. We are not anti-police. We are pro-justice. To be very clear, we agree with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in disavowing violence. But, like Dr. King, we will not allow silence on issues of injustice. Our response cannot be silence. We will love. We will act. We have a faith that leads to compassion and action.
Here are five ways we are lovingly committed to leading our Missio family as we strive towards racial justice in a radically divided culture.
1. We will not turn our faces away. We are sent to announce that just as God is reconciling all things in heaven and earth (Eph 1:10), so we are to embody that in our human relationships (Eph 2:10). As we continue to see brutal evidence that humans are divided along racial lines, we do not have the luxury of neutrality, but as followers of Jesus, we must give our efforts, time, and energy into reconciliation. We know this will involve confronting our own idolatry, moving towards those who are hurting, and choosing to use our power and privilege to serve.
2. We will listen. Our first posture is one of prayer. We must sit at the feet of Jesus and listen as he directs us to love our neighbors. We must sit at the feet of others who have different experiences, not to speak, but to listen (James 1:19). We must become educated both in the personal suffering but also the deeply flawed systems that have created and enforce injustice, wherever they may be found. We are choosing not to attempt to justify ourselves, but to listen then confess, repent, and respond as the Spirit leads us together.
3. We will lament. We have teaching schedules and we have plans. We also listen to the Spirit and follow where he is leading. This week each of our congregations will lament the systemic injustice, prolific pain, and deep chasms of experience that are being drawn along racial lines in America and beyond. We will cry out “How Long O LORD” as we cling to the hope of the gospel.
4. We will press into the personal discomfort. We’ve felt it too. It’s uncomfortable to have these conversations, see our own sin, and be confronted with a problem we can’t solve. But as followers of Jesus we intend to follow in the way of the cross and press into personal discomfort so that the gospel may be experienced both by our church and by our neighbors. As pastors we intend to lead our family into some uncomfortable spaces so that we might find healing and restoration and be a light to our cities of good news that is making all things new.
5. We will act in love. We believe the gospel calls us to more than retweets, likes, and clever hashtags. We cannot simply throw a filter over a photo and feel like we have done our part to see reconciliation taking place. The gospel calls us into action on behalf of the vulnerable, to do justice on behalf of those experiencing injustice, and to mourn with those who mourn.
We live in a world that flinches toward blame and misunderstanding. We live in a world of sin, brokenness, and burials. But we serve a God of peace, love, and reconciliation. Let us choose to listen as a discipline of love, to speak loving words, and to offer the love of Jesus to all who need it, especially those who are suffering the ills of systemic injustice.
We have seen how bad it can be and we don’t want Missio to bury our heads in the sand, but we do want to press into the pain and discomfort. We want our church to be willing to sit in situations where we can’t solve everything and mourn with those who mourn. We want to be the kind of church who doesn’t flinch towards excuses or embarrassing inactivity, but stands in the hard place, and is the body of Christ in a deeply wounded world.