For most of recorded history, people have experienced conflict with each other as the result of sin and societal systems built by sinful people. All people are created with equal dignity and worth in the image of God, and yet having turned from God the first sin we see in society is the murder of brother against brother. Since then, we have all had the tendency to divide, dismiss, and dehumanize. As a result, the Old Testament people of God were specifically instructed to care for those who were oppressed and who were unable to advocate for themselves. God had to tell His people not to mistreat others (Exodus 22:21). Don't take advantage of them (Deut 24:14). Instead, apply laws equitably and provide justice (Deut 1:16, 27:19). They should even love these sojourners and strangers, because doing so reflects God's disposition toward them (Deut 10:17-19).
The New Testament details the plan of God to reconcile all people to each other in Him. Jesus, as the source of our peace, "made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall" (Eph 2:14). Paul recognized this, saying, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28). In this way, Jesus restored our understanding of the image of God reflected in all people, particularly those who had been historically overlooked. In his ministry, Jesus acted intentionally and often to affirm disenfranchised people. He met with tax collectors. He befriended women. He welcomed Samaritans and children. He sought them like a shepherd seeks after lost sheep in order to affirm that they mattered and were missed.
Therefore, diversity and inclusivity have been a part of God's plan for the church from the beginning. It is our shared history. When the Holy Spirit descended, Jewish people from around the world were given new life. And not only they but God-fearers, Samaritans, and Gentiles were specifically affirmed as members of the church. These groups were not included to capitulate to social pressures or valued because they offered unique perspectives. They were--and are--welcome because the God of Heaven and Earth welcomes them and loves them. As followers of Jesus, we must follow after God in this way.
It is for this reason that we oppose racism in all its forms. We empathize with those who have been denied justice, and pray for swift and significant reform (James 2:8-9). We mourn the death of George Floyd. We acknowledge that the work of justice will not be complete until Christ comes again, but we accept the responsibility to seek the welfare of the city until such time (Jer 29:7). So we pray and act to promote a more just society (James 2:20).
As the church of God, would you join us? Perhaps God might have you reflect on our biblical history to value people of other backgrounds. Maybe you will have a conversation and hear about life experiences different from your own. Perhaps you will speak out against injustice that you see. Maybe there are opportunities available to you to make a difference--in your workplaces, by training your children, or through some other way. Whatever specific form it takes, we must oppose the sin of partiality.
If you would join us in prayer, here are some requests:
- Pray for the family of George Floyd and others who have had their lives unjustly taken. As our nation reacts to his unjust death, we mourn the loss of his life and pray for comfort for his family. All peoples are image bearers whose lives are precious in the sight of God.
- Pray for the protestors and looters. Protests are taking place in every state. Looting is similarly widespread, although only a small percentage of protestors are looting. Pray that protestors would be safe, that looting would subside, and that our country would take notice of the proximal reason for which civil unrest takes place.
- Pray for our law enforcement. The peacekeeping and community services that law enforcement provide are invaluable and we pray for their safety. We also pray for transparency, accountability, and training for officers. Pray for endurance for the many officers who lament the horrific acts done by some in uniform and have to work to rebuild trust in their own communities.
- Pray for believers to work to understand and respond with empathy, wisdom, and advocacy to racism in society, police brutality, and the reality of prejudice and sin in our own lives. Pray that we may contribute to order and justice through the gospel and specific actions to seek the peace of our communities.
- Pray for reconciliation within our nation. This is a pivotal point in our history. We pray for our president and those who lead us, that they might be agents of harmony and peace. We pray against divisive rhetoric, mischaracterization, politicization for personal gain, and partisanship. Pray that we might identify with one another and love each other as we love ourselves.