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Just Living

• Greg Boyd

Although all sins in some ways are equal before God, there is something particularly evil and destructive about the dehumanizing effects of racism. Martin Luther King Jr. has by in large been secularized in popular culture as a nice man who wanted us all to get along, but this is an unfortunate caricature of a man whose core foundational trust was in self-sacrificial love and non-violent resistance. MLK Jr.’s message of racial reconciliation, and a refusal to deem another human being as his enemy, is central to the gospel of Jesus.

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We see in Genesis that God created all humans in his image and created them to be equal under him. This was an amazing statement, not only for it’s leveling of the ground between men and women, but also in light of all the tribal and racial violence that has existed throughout history. Every human being is owed supreme honor and dignity in light of the creator whose image they were made in.

In providing evidence of our fallenness, all sins are created equal, but not in terms of their destructive consequences. Racism is an individual sin, but it seems to kill, steal, and destroy communally more than any other sin. It divides, destroys, and dehumanizes people and allows the principalities and powers to reign in our world. Our country was founded with this sin fully present. Manifest destiny assumed the white Europeans were supposed to rule, and the result of that doctrine was the breaking of treaties with and slaughtering of native peoples. Then in the 1600s came the importation of millions of Africans as slave labor. The level of horror and terror these people experienced on the boats over to the US and when their families were ripped apart is unimaginable. And even after the civil war technically made slavery illegal, it lived on through convict leasing for decades. Black codes and Jim Crow laws further advanced the racial hierarchy doctrine allowing racism under a different guise. In her book “The New Jim Crow,” Michelle Alexander argues that the modern day criminal justice system is further evidence of this systemic racism in our society.

It seems more and more countries are being governed and motivated by fear. In the process we are losing our common humanity. Racism is a beast that just keeps getting fed by this fear of the other based culture we find ourselves in. In this moment it is more critical than ever to reflect on the leveling effect Jesus’ death and resurrection have. In Ephesians 2 we read that Jesus is the peace that came to tear down the dividing wall of hostility “and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” Further in Colossians 3 Paul states that, “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” Jesus died to reconcile humanity to God, and also humanity to itself. In this we find racial reconciliation central to the Gospel.

Greg offered 5 practical engagement starting points:

  1. Declare War – Taking a stand against a beast that has been around for a very long time requires great intentionality. Anything in our heart that carries racial judgement must be purged. There is great wisdom and power in recognizing that MLK Jr. required his marchers to never respond to violence in kind. He said not to march unless you are able to march for both the black and white people as they are both in bondage, just different types. His confidence was in the self-sacrificial love he saw Jesus model.
  2. Develop Cross-cultural Relationships – It’s always easier to share life with people who look like, think like, and act like you. But our Kingdom call is to do life on purpose and be intentional about breaking down barriers and dividing walls between us and others.
  3. Serve – Find organizations seeking to fight injustices and offer you time or resources.
  4. Be Informed – Yes, the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of the World are distinctly different, but we need to be informed. How do the issues of the day potentially create suffering for my brother or sister, and how can I be an advocate for them?
  5. Break Unjust Laws – In Acts 3:18-20 we find that yes, we are to be law abiding citizens as much as possible, but if there are laws of the land that come in conflict with our Kingdom call, our allegiance is to be clear.
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Topics: Kingdom of God, Non-Violence, Reconciliation


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Justice Video by The Bible Project


Focus Scripture:

  • Genesis 1:26-27

    Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness… So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

  • Ephesians 2:14-16

    For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility… His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

  • Colossians 3:9-11

    Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

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4 thoughts on “Just Living

    Kevin says: Thursday January 24, 2019 at 9:30 am

    So then, Ephesians 2:14-16 as well as all the other passages that refer to being ‘in Christ’ are concluding that ALL peoples of the earth are In Christ? I ask because i’ve grown to believe that only those who partner with Christ and commit to following Jesus are the ones who are ‘In Christ’. Greg, brother; in many instances, you seem to say that we are to love even our enemies based on ‘the new creation’. How can this be when the Word says ‘those who are in Christ are a new creation’, unless, as you seem to say, ALL are in Christ? Help me out over here?

    Reply
    Matthew says: Monday January 28, 2019 at 1:16 pm

    Dr. Boyd is a blessing to the Church. Thank you Woodland Hills for making his sermons available to those of us who do live in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
    This sermon did raise the following questions:

    If “truncated atonement” is defined as not extending the work of the cross to societal injustices (sexism racism, etc.), can we also define it in terms of limiting the efficacy of the cross? Is not constantly apologizing for sins committed in the past (racism, sexism, etc.) actually undermining the complete efficacy of the cross? Are not constructs promoting guilt more a tool of identity politics and actually foreign to those who have found forgiveness at Calvary?

    If we are concerned about social injustice, is it not reasonable to vote the “pocketbook”? Can you understand how our conservative friends might feel morally obligated to vote for their candidates now that Black and Hispanic unemployment are at the lowest levels ever?

    Can your fifth point justifying civil disobedience be equally used by those on the right in order to protect the unborn?

    Is the really “open” theist (intended) the individual who eschews the language of identity politics for the inclusiveness found as members of the Body of Christ?

    Reply
      Paige Slighter says: Thursday February 14, 2019 at 10:08 am

      Hey Matthew,

      Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Thank you for your questions regarding Greg’s MLK sermon. He is delighted whenever people think critically about his messages. As a member of the communication team, I’m passing on Greg’s response. Below you will find his answers to your questions one group at a time.

      Q1: If “truncated atonement” is defined as not extending the work of the cross to societal injustices (sexism racism, etc.), can we also define it in terms of limiting the efficacy of the cross? Is not constantly apologizing for sins committed in the past (racism, sexism, etc.) actually undermining the complete efficacy of the cross? Are not constructs promoting guilt more a tool of identity politics and actually foreign to those who have found forgiveness at Calvary?

      A1: I claimed we have a “truncated” view of the atonement if we aren’t striving to manifest the “one new humanity” that Jesus died to bring into being. Reconciliation with God entails reconciliation with one another. This involves acknowledging the reality of sins done in the past as well as in the present that have created the unjust structure of our culture., both inside and outside the church. We can’t resist social injustices if we can’t first acknowledge them. It’s not about making anyone feel guilty or about playing identity politics, as you seem to suggest. It’s just about acknowledge reality. I don’t feel personally guilty for anything my European forefathers and foremothers did, but I believe I need to acknowledge what they did, and acknowledge that I continue to benefit (while others continue to be oppressed) by what they did.

      I don’t see how the call to be reconciled undermines the efficacy of the cross. In 2 Cor 5, Paul declares the absolute efficacy of the cross when he declares that the cross brought about a whole “new creation” and that God is no longer holding anyone’s sin against them. But Paul then goes on to say that our ministry as Christ’s ambassadors is to encourage people to BE RECONCILED. My point is that there is a distinction between a) all that the cross accomplishes; and b) the degree to which we align our heart, mind and life with all that the cross accomplishes. Our life mission must be to manifest all that the cross accomplished as much as possible, to bring about God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven.” If we fail to do this, it is not a failure of the cross, but of the church.

      Q2 If we are concerned about social injustice, is it not reasonable to vote the “pocketbook”? Can you understand how our conservative friends might feel morally obligated to vote for their candidates now that Black and Hispanic unemployment are at the lowest levels ever?

      A2: I’m sorry, I don’t understand the connection between concern for social justice, and the reasonableness of voting “the pocketbook.” Nor do I understand the connection between the comparatively low level of unemployment of blacks and Hispanics, and conservatives feeling morally obliged to vote for “their candidates.”

      Q3: Can your fifth point justifying civil disobedience be equally used by those on the right in order to protect the unborn?
      A3: It could, and it has.

      Q 4: Is the really “open” theist (intended) the individual who eschews the language of identity politics for the inclusiveness found as members of the Body of Christ?
      A4: I could be wrong, but you seem to equate any talk about race with the language of identity politics. I’m wondering if you believe there is a way to talk about the reality of racism in America’s past and present without playing identity politics. If not, then I encourage you to rethink your definition, because otherwise the very act of teaching American history is to use the language of identity politics.
      During the message, I was trying talk honestly about the reality of racism in America’s past and present. I would be open to suggestions about how I could have communicated differently so that it wouldn’t have sounded to you like I was playing identity politics.

      Thanks again for the questions, and for thinking so much about the sermon!

      Reply

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