MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Monday, September 24th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Mary Coleman now on a recent evangelical statement that is causing a stir.
MARY COLEMAN, COMMENTATOR: This month a group of prominent Christian men released the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel. More than 8,000 evangelicals have signed on so far. The statement features affirmations and denials on tough issues facing our culture and the church, including homosexuality, the role of women, and biblical marriage.
The authors also make several declarations on race. These naturally caught my attention—especially this one:
Quote—”[W]e emphatically deny that lectures on social issues (or activism aimed at reshaping the wider culture) are as vital to the life and health of the church as the preaching of the gospel and the exposition of Scripture. Historically, such things tend to become distractions that inevitably lead to departures from the gospel.” End quote.
The writers seem to suggest that there are many Christians who want to make social justice more preeminent than the preaching of the cross. In other words, making social justice into the social gospel.
In my experience, that simply isn’t true.
One WORLD Radio listener wrote to me and said—quote—“I’m a 64-year old white man living in a smaller town in Iowa. I have been pondering my role in racial reconciliation recently, but not exactly sure what to do and how to get started. Do you have any resources you can recommend?” End quote.
Many Christians like this brother want wisdom navigating the racialized world God has given us to steward. White Christians are finding gaps in their understanding of American history. Black Christians want to heal from racial wounds and victimology. Far from a distraction, Bible studies, workshops, and yes—lectures—on race, are fostering unity and equipping us to be confident peacemakers. This is applying the gospel.
Here’s another example: Last spring I was invited to speak at the women’s guild of a church nearby. The average age in the room was probably 65, and all of the women were white. My talk was entitled “The Cup of Suffering.”
I had no intention of talking about race, but the leader of the group asked me to touch on it. So, I devoted about 5 minutes of my 20-minute talk to racial issues.
Even though I spoke about depression, miscarriage, financial trials, and many other universal experiences, the women exclusively asked about race during the Q and A session that followed my talk. It was clear these women needed to share their stories and burdens about race without fear and without judgment. Within the safety of the church walls, the Holy Spirit enveloped us as we expressed our collective desire to see our families and our nation healed of racial division.
This kind of discourse and the unity that follows are at the heart of racial justice efforts in the church. Christians have an opportunity today, much like abolitionists had during slavery, to be wise purveyors of biblical authority in the face of modern injustices and sorrow. We may not agree on the methods, but we can certainly agree on the need.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Mary Coleman.