Trayvon, Race, and Gospel Ministry (Ask Pastor John)
Excepting a few tweeted links to various articles, Pastor John didn’t write anything new himself in the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict in the Trayvon Martin case.
In a Q&A discussion this week at the Campus Outreach Global Staff Conference in Orlando, a group of African American ministry leaders asked him why he chose not to respond. We served up the same question to him, and he responded from Orlando on the phone yesterday in a special episode of Ask Pastor John.
What follows is a transcribed excerpt from his answer, and from each episode released in the last three weeks (click on hyperlinked titles to listen).
Jesus Christ has a message of repentance and forgiveness and substitution for us on the cross, so that if we come to him, some of the root issues that are feeding into the injustices of the world can begin to be solved. So that is the way I would want to encourage ministers on the campus, or just any Christian, to deal with this: listen, engage, but don’t leave it at the level of asking, “Was justice done,” or, “How would you feel if you were Trayvon’s mom?”
But go to that deeper question that asks: “Where is all of this coming from in our world? Where is it all going to lead?” And Jesus has some deep, profound, glorious things to say. He is not just about transforming racism at a superficial level, as though he says, “If I could just produce some ‘humble racists,’ I would be happy.” He is eager to go way deeper than that, down to the place where all of our sins — whether it is racism or pride — start, and to sever the root with faith in the finished work of Christ.
Thanksgiving is the dethroning of a god and turning it into a gift. When sex is starting to exert an enslaving, god-like force on our life, thanksgiving humbly says, “You are not a god. You are a gift from God. And I will let him determine how this gift is to be used, and I will be filled with humble thanksgiving. I will not worship you. I will receive you, or not, as a gift by God’s design.”
Giving thanks at mealtime is a wonderful, well-timed opportunity to obey the command to “give thanks always” (Ephesians 5:20). And what better time to build obedience into our lives than at a very moment when God is freely giving us something we need for our very lives? It is also one of the clearest ways of teaching children massively important truth about where everything comes from.
We are more closely bound to brothers in Christ in other countries and other cultures than we are to our closest unbelieving compatriot in the fatherland. God is our king, and no man. His kingdom is our final allegiance. But under that banner, it is right to be thankful that God gave us our land freely, and thankful that people paid a high price to preserve it.
I think the wise thing to do would be to mix it up. . . . Years and years ago I wrote three prayers, one for the morning, one for lunch, and one for supper.
Okay, since you asked for one, here it is . . .
Admiration is one of our greatest pleasures. We love to admire sports figures and music figures and acting figures and admire beauty and sunsets and sunrises and mountains and rivers. We are admiring creatures to the core, and I think we are wired to be satisfied by admiring the most admirable, and the most admirable is God — and therefore “delight yourself in the Lord” means delight yourself in seeing his infinite admirableness (Psalm 37:4).
Writing is an art. When people appreciate writing, they are not appreciating just a nugget of an idea that have incidental words around it. That is not what is happening. If a book is well written, people are enjoying the craft of writing. And who is getting the credit for the craft? The guy who did not produce the craft. That is just wrong.
Psalm 107 has made it possible for me to reach out and rescue, I think, some folks who feel like there is no hope for them — they have sinned too many times, or they have sinned in too horrible a way, for God to have any future for them.
I want to encourage people to memorize Scripture, say, two or three verses or a chapter, and then be on the lookout for what I would call immeasurable moments, moments where the insertion of that text from your heart, eyeball-to-eyeball, without having to open a book and read it, coming from your soul, would make that moment explode with significance.
The core essence of evil is preferring anything more than God, loving anything not for God’s sake. So evil is an act of preferring. Where there is no will — no volition — there is no evil. Evil is a function of willing. Satan is willing. Demons are willing. Humans are willing. It is not a function of stuff, it is a function of willing.
I found this to be one of the most provocative questions I have heard in a long time. . . .
We love people by telling them the best news in all the world: The God against whom you have committed treason, offers complete amnesty, freely. He will commute your death sentence. He will forgive your treasonous intentions and actions and feelings. He will put away his just and holy anger against you. And not only that, he will adopt you into his royal family and make you an heir with his Son. And lest you doubt that this is possible for him to simply justify the wicked, he put forward his Son to bear the death sentence and duty that you have failed to perform, if you would have him. He raised him from the dead so to show that the death of his Son was sufficient. He offers you now all of this through his Son. It is all free. You cannot earn it. You cannot deserve it. The condition is to lay down the arms of treason, the arms of rebellion, and bow in humble helpless dependence on free mercy from the King and receive his full pardon and amnesty and acceptance. We preach that, indiscriminately, to everybody.
Ask Pastor John is a daily podcast series of 3–8 minute conversations released each weekday at 10:30am (EST) through the DG Facebook and Twitter feeds (four times weekly during July). You can tune in to the new episodes through the free Ask Pastor John mobile app for iPhone and Android. We’re currently hosting all the recordings on SoundCloud, a website making it easy to listen to several of the podcasts in one sitting. They’re also archived on the DG website and syndicated in iTunes.
We want to hear from you. To submit a question to Pastor John please include your first name, hometown, and question in an email to AskPastorJohn AT desiringGod DOT org.
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