Prayer and the Gospel: Hope in the Midst of America’s Brokenness

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Our hearts break as our nation struggles through this difficult time. We hurt for the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the police officers who were killed, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarippa. Let’s pray for these families and these communities in their grief.

Unmistakably, our nation faces a difficult time with mounting racial tension and hostility. For believers, it is a time to pray. We need to pray for God to break our own hearts over our sin. We should pray for God to break our hearts over our apathy and spiritual half-heartedness. We should pray for God to move in churches and bring revival. We need to pray that God will move in this nation, bringing a great awakening. We need to pray for our law enforcement and government leaders (1 Tim 2:1-2). Pray for their integrity, wisdom, and protection.

In reality, the true and lasting solution to racial tension and division is the gospel. During the first century, the enmity between Jews and Gentiles was substantial. Yet, through Christ even this division could be overcome. Consider Paul’s words concerning Jesus and reconciliation, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph 2:14). In Christ, even the Jews and Gentiles could be made one! If we want to see an America that is united, then we need to share the gospel.

Further, as believers we must model a love for others within our faith family. Jesus told His disciples that the world would recognize them by their love for each other (John 13:35). Unbelievers should be able to look at our church family and see the reality of the life-transforming power of the gospel. Our church family should be a place where we love and care for each other without regard for the color of our skin, socio-economic factors, or any human construct.

In these difficult days, let’s be a people of prayer. Let’s be a people who share the only true and lasting hope for racism and for all sin. Will you pray? Will you tell others about Jesus?

A Sad Song of Human Depravity: Reflections on Racism and the Hope of the Gospel

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On Sunday and Monday, a couple of videos surfaced of members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity from the campus of the University of Oklahoma singing racist lyrics. In these two short clips, the young men chant that you can hang them from a tree but pledge that no African American will be a member of SAE [1]. Of course, their language is coarse and offensive. It is disheartening and difficult to imagine that young men in 2015 could joyfully chant about the lynching of African Americans.

This awful song points to an ugly reality. Human sinfulness is far-reaching. Our wicked hearts can lead us to the worst and most cruel behavior. Amidst attempts by our culture to right the awful wrongs of our nation’s past, these shocking videos reveal that racism is persistent, and it ultimately points to the fact that we need a cure that gets to the very heart of a person.

Truly, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only cure for our terrible depravity. He is the One who changes sinful hearts and brings true reconciliation among people. In New Testament times, there was often hostility between Jews and Gentiles. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul taught that the blood of Christ could eliminate hostility between the Jews and Gentiles, paving the way for true reconciliation.

Consider these powerful words from Paul’s letter, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Eph 2.14-16 ESV).

What do these verses teach us? The true remedy for human sinfulness, a sinfulness that can bring the worst kind of hostility is found in Jesus. Through the cross, our deep-seated sin can be forgiven and transformed, and we can be reconciled to one another!

Where is the one place on earth where true harmony among diverse people should be seen most clearly? It is in the church where we share this wonderful, heart-transforming, reconciling grace. We all have this in common. We are really sinful, and we really need Jesus! If we can understand that, we can get along. The blood of Christ really does unite us.

May this sad song of human depravity remind us of our great need for Jesus. And may we take hope as one day these sad songs will give way to a beautiful and glorious song. On that day, people from every tribe and tongue will gather around the throne of God in one, united voice, offering a splendid song of worship to our Savior and King (Rev 7:9-12). Won’t it be a glorious Day!

[1] Manny Fernandez and Richard Pérez-Peña, “Fraternity Is Closed Over Video With Slurs,” New York Times, March 9, 2015.