The Privilege of Being Simul Justus Et Peccator

In late August, no small kerfuffle ensued because Black Lives Matter activists Shaun King was accused of lying about his ethnicity and co-opting blackness for personal gain. This situation along with Ekemini Uwan’s tweets (above) started me thinking. Why doesn’t our black family receive the privilege of being sinners without it discrediting an entire group of people?

The accusations leveled against Shaun forced him to share painful family history to set the record straight:

My mother is a senior citizen. I refuse to speak in detail about the nature of my mother’s past, or her sexual partners, and I am gravely embarrassed to even be saying this now, but I have been told for most of my life that the white man on my birth certificate is not my biological father and that my actual biological father is a light-skinned black man. My mother and I have discussed her affair. She was a young woman in a bad relationship and I have no judgment.

I love my mom and my gut hurt that his mother’s past indiscretions were drudged up. However, the Shaun King scandal highlights a common tactic used against black leaders and their movements—attacking the character, morality, or actions to discredit a black social concerns.  For that short window when the slander might have been true, Shaun’s personal failure immediately was presumed to hurt the Black Lives Matter movement even if everything they had been fighting against was just and right (whether it is or isn’t is a topic for another day).


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Politics: In God We Trust?

As the political season (Is it rabbit season? or duck season?) ends in the next couple weeks, I thought about the candidates and the general worldview of American Christianity in conjunction with politics. There’s been some serious works by the like of Francis Schaeffer, Wayne Grudem, Abraham Kuyper, and of course many more in the field of developing a Christian worldview but I began to see some application from the story of Israel related to the way we view politics.

When God was the King of Israel, he more than faithful and demonstrated his love for Israel in a thousand tangible ways--freeing them from Egypt, manna, quail, water, curing the bitter water, protecting them from their enemies. Yet when Israel was settled in the Promised Land

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, "Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations." But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us." And Samuel prayed to the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, "Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them." (1 Samuel 8:4-9)

Now I’m not arguing that we should set up some kind of theocratic government or that America has been led by God directly. However, there seems to be some parallels from this story with our own. The Israelites were being led by God as their King in a very earthly way. The Christian church also advances the kingdom of God spiritually by living in the world. Jesus prayed as he sent us into the world (John 17:14-19) to make more worshipers for him (Matt 28:19-20). Then and now, the reality that God reigns in Heaven (Ps 135:6) and that he rules over the heart of the king or in our case president (Prov 21:1) cannot be dismissed.

However, having God as their king who provided them redemption and rest from their enemy was not enough for Israel. They wanted something tangible--a king like other nations. Are we so far off? Conservatives and liberals are both looking for a political messiah. Someone they can see and rally behind. Someone to save them. Yet the Christians among both parties are not satisfied with the only real King. The One who redeemed them from slavery, provides daily rest from their enemy, and who still holds the heart of the President, Congress, and the judges in His hand.
I’m not saying we should not stridently seek justice for our country and exercise our right to vote but our hope should not be in the outcome of any election. We must realize that the outcome belongs to the Lord in every case. If Cyrus was God’s anointed then isn’t every president? That doesn’t mean we can’t criticize and challenge but our response should be positioned in way that demonstrates we believe God is in control. May we not put our hopes in horses and chariots but in the Lord (Ps 20:7). We should remember In God We Trust.

Neighboring, LOVE, & Social Welfare

Just finished reading The Art of Neighboring (buy here). Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon address the issues of neighboring and social issues. They say.

What if the solution to our society’s biggest issues has been right under our noses for the past two thousand years? When Jesus was asked to reduce everything in the Bible into one command he said: Love God with everything you have and love your neighbor as yourself. What if he meant that we should love our actual neighbors? You know, the people who live right next door. . . .

In 2009 I (Dave) gathered a group of twenty lead pastors in the Denver area so we could think, dream, and pray about how our churches might join forces to serve our community. We invited our local mayor, Bob Frie, to join us, and we asked him a simple question: How can we as churches best work together to serve our city?

The ensuing discussion revealed a laundry list of social problems similar to what many cities face: at-risk kids, areas with dilapidated housing, child hunger, drug and alcohol abuse, loneliness, elderly shut-ins with no one to look in on them. The list went on and on.

Then the mayor said something that inspired our joint church movement: “The majority of the issues that our community is facing would be eliminated or drastically reduced if we could just figure out a way to become a community of great neighbors.

Later he explained that often when people identify a problem, they come to civic officials and say something like, “This is becoming a serious issue, and you should start a program to address it.” Frie shared candidly with us that, in his opinion, government programs aren’t always the most effective way to address social issues. He went on to say that relationships are more effective than programs because they are organic and ongoing. The idea is that when neighbors are in relationship with one another, the elderly shut-in gets cared for by the person next door, the at-risk kid gets mentored by a dad who lives on the block, and so on. (pp. 15, 18-19)

I live in the south--in the very politically and religiously conservative upstate of South Carolina. Most (although not all) of the people I interact with regularly are Republicans and Baptists. Nothing wrong there.

One statement I hear over and over again--on my facebook timeline, in conversations about politics, in conversations about religion, and in just personal interactions--is “We have a nation full of people who feel entitled to welfare. Most of these people are lazy and won’t work.” Whether some, none, or all of this is true would be a discussion for a political blog.

But let’s get back to the conversation Jay and Dave had with their city officials. “The majority of the issues that our community is facing would be eliminated or drastically reduced if we could just figure out a way to become a community of great neighbors.

I wonder how many of us complain about the high taxes required to fund our social welfare programs yet we aren’t interacting with the very people the Lord has sovereignly placed in our path. In the Old Testament, the Israelites had to make provision for helping their neighbors and the poor. For example, they donated 10% of their harvest and living to provide for the Levites. They also were not allowed to go back and pick up grain that may have fallen out on the ground.

My main point is--they were intentional about serving their neighbors and the poor. The beauty of the system the Lord laid out was that it was built to serve the poor while also preventing any family from being perpetually poor. Being intentional about serving your neighbors and the poor doesn’t mean you allow people to take advantage of you. Jay and Dave make that point emphatically in The Art of Neighboring.

However, how much difference could we make in our community and our country if all the Christians would be intentional about serving their neighbors and the poor that God has placed in their path? Maybe that’s inviting the single mom and her kids in your neighborhood over for dinner once or twice a month. Maybe that’s using your talents (fixing cars, handiwork, sewing, etc.) to save your neighbor money. Maybe that’s providing free babysitting. There are a thousand opportunities.

So often by our very inaction and lack of love for our neighbors we’re creating the welfare state we often despise. We must invest our time, talents, and resources in those we live around. Love them unconditionally and don’t pull the bait and switch with the gospel.