Pastor Matthew shared the following remarks with the New Hope Church community during the time of lament in the worship gathering on Sunday, May 31, 2020, less than a week after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis.
These past several days I’ve been in Tennessee because, as many of you know by now, my mom died suddenly. Just a few days ago we buried her. But even though my family and I have been away, these recent days you need to know our hearts, our minds, our attention have been focused like a laser on what’s going on right here in our own community. We’ve been devastated with you regarding what happened to George Floyd and the things that have been unfolding in not just Minneapolis and St. Paul, but in cities across the nation these past three or four days. We’re hurting; we really hurt with you.
I want to take a moment and invite you to a couple of things. First, I just want to invite you to not let go of or lose sight of the Spirit-led angst and conviction that so many of us felt immediately after watching the video of George Floyd–that holy sense that something must happen that glorifies God and brings good into the midst of this pain; that brings light into the darkness. Don’t let the events in the Cities, tragic as they are, overshadow or somehow remove from us that initial pain, because its that initial pain that’s indicative of a whole history of issues that have to be addressed.
And friend, the second thing I want to invite you to remember is that there is no greater witness than the church of Jesus Christ to address those things. And I need to decry yet again any sense that the church has no business talking about issues of race or supremacy and hatred of this kind, as if that’s some social thing that the politicians and others in the public square are to address. The realities are, brothers and sisters, there should be no greater witness than the church of Jesus Christ to speak into these matters. We have not done that very well. The church in the United States has done this horribly. Oh, there have been glimmers of fruitfulness, but overall we have failed. But it need not be that way because we have a glorious Savior who is all-powerful, and He desires that His people stand up and be repairers of the breach, and there is a great breach that needs attention.
I want to have you remember just a few important pieces here. We have a Redeemer. Jesus Christ’s blood is more than sufficient to wash away the sins of racism and white supremacy and hatred and bitterness and discord. And because He has risen from the grave, the same power that has raised Him to life is the same power that we can employ to be that bright witness that shines light into darkness and brings healing and hope to those who are broken and divided. We have a Redeemer.
And this Redeemer wants us to recognize something. Especially, He wants those who look like me, those who are within the white community, He wants us to recognize something very important. He wants us to recognize the searing pain that continues to linger among our friends of color. He wants us be a people who lament that pain, and who join with our friends of color and weep with them. He wants us to recognize, this Redeemer does, our own personal biases. I need as a white man to recognize my own personal biases that shape how I think and feel about the world around me, and I need to recognize the established systems and structures that set someone up like me to enjoy all kinds of privileges while demeaning and denigrating our friends of color. We need recognize that this is a dynamic that has been at play not just this week, this year, this decade, but in this nation for over four hundred years. And we need to see it for what it is.
And having seen it, friend, we need to be a repentant people–a humble, repentant people; a people who recognize that that blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient to cover all our sin. But to affirm that we have to bow before the God of Heaven and Earth and decry our own sin and confess it for the ugliness that it is. And I know, friend, trust me, I know the comebacks here: “Oh but pastor, I wasn’t there for that,” “O pastor that was in the past,” “O pastor I’m not part of that equation.” But friend, if you and I settle on that then we are stepping away from the spirit and vision of the Word of God. Because in the Word of God you have people like the most righteous Daniel, the prophet Daniel, who in Daniel 9 gets on his face before God and cries out pleading for mercy because of the sins of his fathers and himself. Over and over and over again, over twenty time in twelve verses, he uses words like “us” and “our” and “we,” and he capstones that passage by saying “we have sinned, we have done wickedly” (Daniel 9:15). He wasn’t there for those things but he understood his own complicity as being part of the family and the narrative of it all. And he was willing to step into it and repent of it, and so must you and I.
So must you and I.
And as people who repent and confess it all, with that kind of humility, that posture, we must move toward one another in proximity and relationship. I am so thankful for the friends in my life that are people of color who are among my closest friends, and the things I learn from them and the love they give to me. And the way we can live in community together– this is God’s design. It is His vision that many tribes and many tongues come together with a peaceableness that bears witness to a watching world that the power of gospel can make this come about. We must live in relationship with each other and “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15), and be allied together and share power and platform and privilege together as citizens of the better Kingdom, who, as the Lord God says in Isaiah 58–which may be one of the most profound passages on biblical justice that you’ll find–who together became repairers or restorers of the breach (cp. Isaiah 58:12)–the big gap that creates the pain.
I share these things with you, friends, because I want you to hear from me loudly and clearly these are the reasons we talk about and seek to act out this vision at New Hope Church. This is why we pay the price for it. This is why we continue to have the conversation. There can be no greater witness than the people of God to step into this breach, and we will do that because our King and Master and Lord–Jesus Christ–has paved the way for us to do that, and, importantly, to do that together.