We just had a snow day.
I prayed for one when we lived in Minneapolis, and it’s hilarious that my prayers didn’t get answered until I moved to Mississippi.
The kids were pumped. No uniform, no scrambling to finish homework, no long-winded PowerPoints presentations!
Until Mrs. Holmes emailed the assignments that they needed to complete by our next meeting, and they remembered: snow days are a momentary reprieve, but once the snow melts, there’s going to be a reckoning.
Gospel Snow Days
The parallel isn’t exact, but I thought about our snow day while praying about this article. Over the last few months, as conversations about racial reconciliation have continued to reach a fever pitch, I’ve heard a barrage of familiar phrases coming from my more conservative brethren: social justice is worldly and imprecise verbiage; racism is hatred and the gospel fixes that
And all of these tend to converge into the ultimate phrase: Just preach the Gospel.
It sounds so right! It’s like waking up and dreading school and getting the email that lets you off the hook.
“I know you felt really uncomfortable with all this race talk, but it’s all good; just preach the gospel!”
We can heave a sigh of relief. God’s got this.
God Has Got This
God has got this.
The gospel is the ultimate answer to all of life’s questions. In Michael Horton’s words, it’s:
“God’s promise of a Son who will crush the serpent’s head, forgive the sins of his people, raise him from the dead, and give them everlasting life solely on the basis of his grace for the sake of Christ.”
We who were once alienated from God have been ushered into the family of faith through the death of His Son, not based on our merit (or melanin), but because of his grace.
This can’t not have implications for how believers relate to one another. We are united with bonds that are stronger than the familial bonds of our kinsmen (Matthew 19:29). Our priorities are organized, not around things of this world, but around another world entirely.
What Is The Gospel?
Yet the gospel that we preach is a very specific message. The gospel isn’t all of the good things we’re supposed to do. And we technically aren’t just preaching the gospel when we talk about the implications of the gospel.
I want to be careful because there are two different ways we could be talking about the gospel. We are either talking about the actual message — the good news, the protevangelium — or the covenant of grace that it entails.
When it comes to race, too often “just preach the gospel,” means “just shut up.” Just tell people that Christ died to save sinners and the race stuff will take care of itself. In Joel McDurmon’s book, The Problem of Slavery in Christian America, we get an excellent example of how “just preach the gospel” can be misused:
When Unitarian minister William Furness preached his first antislavery sermon in 1839, some wealthy members of his Philadelphia church sitting before him held investments in southern slavery, in one case between 200-300 slaves. After his sermon, he received ugly notes inquiring how long he intended to preach such obnoxious doctrines, and that he would be better off to ‘preach nothing else but Christ and him crucified.’ As he continued, members left and others threatened to withhold crucial funds.
Just preach Christ and him crucified. Don’t talk about how my worldview should change as my mind is renewed (Romans 12:-2). Stick to the gospel.
But when sinners become saints and are welcomed into the covenant of grace, the implications of the Gospel get real — and Paul certainly preached them.
“There Will Always Be Racism”
But we can’t eradicate sin! It will exist until Jesus comes back.
Does that mean we ignore the sin in this world?
Misogyny, misandry, and murder will exist until Christ’s return. Christians still advocate against abuse, radical feminism, and abortion.
For instance, with abortion? We’re fine with using not-technially-biblical terminology (like “pro-life”) and discontent to throw our hands up and say, “Wretches gonna wretch.”
With racism (or prejudice), though, we’re hesitant to use culturally specific language because progressives use it (cultural code is fine if it comes from the right camp). Instead of reframing an important conversation that should be grounded in the Gospel, we let culture define the terms. We’re children throwing a blanket over our heads and hiding.
Race as we often use the term (not as in ethnicity or people group, Revelation 7:9) is an evolutionary construct, yes. Our country has a sordid history of using that construct to oppress image-bearers. That history impacts the church, no matter what we call it. Biblically specific language is a must; dismissing issues based solely on terminology isn’t helpful.
“It’s Not About You”
Inevitably, conversations with proclaimers of “Just preach the gospel” turn to an exasperated eye roll about the “perceived” sufferings of black Americans in the church. “You’re there to worship. Church isn’t about making you comfortable.”
Amen. Nor is it about the comfort of our white brethren. If we’re passing around big boy pants, everybody should get a pair.
I’m not advocating that we pretend not to be offended or confused when we are. The “stiff upper lip,” mentality that’s often advocated for offended minorities is pushed more out of majority comfort than actual biblical truth. Yes, as believers, sometimes we will be called to suffering, but the Word, church history — and our nation’s history — is full of examples of enduring that suffering while still proclaiming God’s truth, one’s personal dignity, and the need for change. Similarly, silencing white brethren for the sake of minority comfort is not a dialogue, but a dictatorship.
The Gospel does not compel us to have a stiff upper lip, but to cling to a Savior who bears our burdens (Psalm 55:22) and a church that does the same (Galatians 6:2). Yes, we believe the best (1 Corinthians 13:7), but we also confront (Matthew 18:15-20). We are co-laborers whose bond goes a lot deeper than hard conversations. So let’s have them (instead of having dialogues about how to shut up the dialogue).
Someday, we’ll worship together without baggage (eternal summer!) Until that heavenly day, false reprieves from the discomfort of this issue just serve to pile up the mountain of homework we have to do to learn how to love the Body well (John 13:34-35).