For Christians, death is the enemy
We’re practicing resurrection in Circle of Hope this season. We’re following our Risen Lord and declaring new life in the face of death. Paul tells the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 15:26 that, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” Christianity is a religion based on the conquest of death, and because God made death God’s enemy, we also do the same thing. So to practice resurrection, we practice preserving life. In Circle of Hope, this means we protest gun violence, war, the death penalty, and so on. In this pandemic, we socially isolate for the sake of life preservation. And as of late, we grieve the unjust murder of Ahmaud Arbery because our God grieves the loss of his life too. This may go without saying but ending lives on purpose is antithetical to our faith. Killing is anti-Christian. And in the United States, we need to remember that the victims of death are often victims of systemic racism. That’s why we say Black Lives Matter, because it does not go without saying in the U.S.
Christians need to stand against systemic racism and interrogate their own prejudices as they do so. We say in Circle of Hope that, In the United States the sin of racism impacts all we experience. It is a fact of life for which the dominators are accountable. So as we practice resurrection, we also practice recovery. We’re all recovering from the condition of sin, the condition of death that the world is in. Jesus died once and for all, but the remnants of the death he defeated are still around us. We’re still killing each other. We’re still hurting each other. Racism still infiltrates our society and even our rule of law.
The Good News is that Jesus declares that Black Lives Matter when he resurrected, and he suffered with victims of racism on the cross where he was lynched just like so many black people have been in the United States. Jesus stands in solidarity with those who suffer at the hands of racism, and in resurrection offers a new hope to the victims of racism and also its perpetrators.
We are free to confess our complicity in racism
I think it’s hard to admit that many of us are complicit in racism because we are afraid to be cancelled, or condemned. And I don’t want to be glib about this, but Paul tells the Romans in chapter eight of his letter that indeed:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.—Romans 8:1-2
There is no cancellation for those who are in Jesus Christ. We are free from sin and death and we are free to not sin and not participate in death. We can defeat racism, but we cannot do so by ignoring our complicity in it. But this promise and assurance of salvation and freedom from sin and death permits us to freely confess our sins, and our participating in death, because we are no longer condemned. We can practice resurrection by practicing repentance. Repenting and turning away from our hell-bent lifestyles is what Christianity is about, and the promise of the cross is that acknowledging our sin no longer condemns us, but frees us.
Our freedom from sin and death is an invitation into a new life, not a justification for our old one. So we needn’t be defensive about “not being racist,” because it isn’t our defense that saves us anyway. Our freedom in Christ is not a justification to keep sinning—as Paul develops this theology of grace, he makes this very argument, that grace isn’t a license to sin, but an invitation out of sin without condemnation:
What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?—Romans 6:1-2
Declaring Jesus is Lord is committing oneself to anti-racism
As a church, we are committed to a live preserving way, the way of the Cross, the way of our Risen Lord. This is why we’ve said we’re an anti-racist church. We know that being anti-racist isn’t just something one says and completes, though. We know it’s a process and that the power of sin and death is ongoing, and thus, so is racism.
Ultimately being anti-racist isn’t just about not sinning, but rather, submitting all authority and power to Jesus. Jesus declared himself the one authority and power has been given:
Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth.“—Matthew 28:18
If we are committed to seeing Jesus as our Lord, and the political reality of that, then we submit to no earthly power before Jesus. And on top of that, we realize that our bodies and our positions in society give us authority and power that, if not interrogated with consciousness, can usurp the Lord’s place in our lives. And so, we continue to shed the power and authority given to us by forces other than God.
That’s why Christians must be anti-racist: we are committed to conquering death and preserving life, we are free to repent of our racism without condemnation, and we want to continue to submit to the Lord who has been given power and authority. And that’s why we say Black Lives Matter in a society that so clearly demonstrates that they don’t, so often. Saying that doesn’t get us off the hook, but it does point us in the direction of the resurrection. Saying Black Lives Matter is practicing resurrection.