1. Perspective: If all you see is race, then you’re looking through a broken lens.
Jesus didn’t see race…he saw people. People with names, stories, cultures, languages, and histories. Jesus saw and knew George Floyd before you and I ever did. Jesus knows every person who has ever experienced injustice and pain…and he cares more than you and I ever will.
Race is not even a biblical concept or an idea that Jesus would use to describe the people that he created. Yea that’s right, Jesus claimed to be a part of the Godhead, as the Son, with the Father and Spirit, Jesus was part of creating the heavens and the earth and all the diverse creatures in it (Genesis 1:26, John 8:48-59). Race has never been and will never be the lens by which God sees his people created in his image.
Race is an existential sociological term that we created to try and describe the disunity and brokenness we have as a result of human disobedience towards a holy God (Gen. 11:1-9). Humanity once walked with God in a garden in perfect relationship as one family… but that’s not the story today (Gen. 1:26-31). The scriptures and Jesus often used the word “nations”, or ethne, in Greek, to describe different languages, tribes, and groupings of people (Matthew 24:14, 28:19-20). Jesus believed that all humanity and every person was distinct not because of the amount of melanin in their skin but by the creative capacity in their hearts and the characteristics of their culture.
Jesus himself spoke a Semitic language, which meant that his ethnicity was Jewish. At home Jesus made jokes in Aramaic, in the temple he read the scriptures in Hebrew, and in the marketplace by the sea, he bought bread using the Greek he knew…all while speaking with a Galilean accent. Jesus knew what it was like to be a despised ethnic-minority from a ghetto-ass backwater like Nazareth and to grow up under the oppression and systemic racism of the mighty Roman Empire. Jesus knew that because of sin, ethnocentrism – the belief that my peeps are better that your peeps – existed within every culture and nation on earth.
When Jesus, a traveling Rabbi, met a Samaritan woman (John 4:1-42) at a well during a hot afternoon…he didn’t see a woman that societal customs told him not to interact with. He didn’t see a half-breed, Samaritan baby mama with five different baby daddies. He saw her for who she really was; beyond the color of her skin, beyond the stereotypes of culture, and beyond the content of her character. It was this Kingdom perspective that led to transformation in her heart, reconciliation within her family, and justice in her community.
2. Prayer: If you’re not motivated by personal conviction, then you’re just a victim of public opinion.
Jesus personally advocated for people of all groups and ethnicities before his heavenly Father, through prayer (John 17). More importantly, Jesus believed that issues of sin and brokenness had deep spiritual roots – one that was fought in realms unseen (Luke 22:7-46). He prayed for all his disciples and all that would believe through them to have unity by experiencing God’s love. Prayer was Jesus’ way of connecting heaven and earth. And this was a practice/spiritual discipline that was formed early on in his life while in community.
Before Jesus ever took any action on the streets, he waged war on his knees…as a good son, brother, cousin, and friend. For 30 years Jesus lived in, listened to, and loved on his community. He grew publicly in “wisdom and stature” as he learned of his own ethnically diverse history which included; Abraham’s descendants leaving Egypt with a multi-ethnic “mixed multitude” of people (Exodus 12:38), Moses’ Cushite (Black African) wife (Numbers 12), Rahab the Canaanite (Joshua 2-6), Ruth the Moabite (Ruth 1-4), and many more.
Jesus saw the entire scriptures as one grand narrative about God’s glory among all peoples – it was never just about Israel, like many people around him believed. Jesus was tempted by multiple voices but was never swayed by the crowd. He prayed to and lived for an audience of One seeking only to please his Father. His heart was compelled, not by activists, politicians, preachers, articles, media, or YouTube, but by the vision of a reconciled people and restored creation promised by his Dad.
3. Protest: If you don’t act when you see injustice then you commit the sin of indifference.
Jesus’ personal conviction was never separated from his public activism. Jesus’ ministry never separated the spiritual from the physical. At the age of 30, Jesus began his “public protest” emphasizing repentance of sin and reception of the Kingdom of God which according to Jesus, upset the status-quo of every sphere and system known to man (John 18:36). This made Jesus the most controversial and counter-cultural activist in the universe.
Jesus was gangsta. One time he stormed the outer courts of the holy temple in Jerusalem, turning tables, yelling, and driving both people and animals out of the area…with a whip. Bad hermeneutics (bible study methods) tells you that this was because Jesus was angry at greedy money changers and religious hypocrites…but nah, this interpretation is bad and far from the truth. Jesus, with righteous anger, announced, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations…” fulfilling the same words spoken by the prophets Isaiah (56:7) and Jeremiah (7:11). The great injustice that was being committed was keeping the nations (all tribes, languages, and ethnic groups) from worshipping the living God. Jesus protested against exclusiveness and advocated for the inclusion of all people who sought God.
Another time Jesus stood alone before a religious mob that was ready to stone a woman for being a “skanky hoe” caught in the act. Both culture and religion dictated that this woman had no value and deserved death. Jesus wrote something in the dirt and said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” The mob left in shame while the woman was forgiven and empowered by Jesus to live a new life. The great injustice of the mob was testing God and using self-righteous violence to enact shallow justice. Jesus protested against violence and advocated for compassion and fair trial.
Jesus rescued the helpless from the hands of oppressors, officials, and mobs. He advocated for the poor, the disabled, the immigrant, and the stranger. He protested against gender inequality, religious hypocrisy, political corruption, racism, segregation, and more through acts of love. Love wasn’t a sign, sticker, or banner that Jesus raised but it was the standard by which he lived. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. If we, as followers of Jesus, do nothing in the face of evil than evil prevails. God will hold us accountable for our silence.
4. Passion: If you don’t suffer and sacrifice for your enemies, then you are not a disciple of Jesus.
Jesus’ ultimate act of protest was demonstrated in a way that no one on earth could replicate – through his passion. When someone is passionate about certain issues like justice, human trafficking, climate change, or Tik-Tok videos, we say that’s clutch or dope, and commend them for pouring their heart and soul into a matter. But that is not the passion that Jesus modeled. The passion of Christ includes the pouring of one’s heart, soul, and body – through suffering and sacrifice.
Jesus’ passionate pursuit of reconciliation is much more than donating towards a GoFundMe page, more than posting on social media, more than holding a sign or marching the streets, more than casting a vote or preaching a message. The reconciliation of all peoples cost Jesus his life. He paid for our holistic freedom with blood on his brow, skin off his back, bruises on his face, nails in his hands and feet, and a spear in his side.
It was at the cross that all peoples, groups, ethnicities, and languages were brought together and bought at a price, shame was covered, and fear was defeated. Jesus stood between every protester and every police officer and took the tear gas upon himself. He felt the shock of the stun guns, the bash of the batons…and yes, Jesus felt the knee pressed upon his neck. Jesus also took the brunt of all the bricks and bottles that were cast by the crowd. He absorbed all humanity’s hurt, pain, anguish, injustice, fear, and anger…and he looked up and said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Jesus made this passion the pattern for every believer to follow. He said that if you are to be my disciples then you must “deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow me”…follow me as I carry the injured from both sides, as I pick up the trash and sweep the broken glass the morning after, as I cover the hate with new paint, and break bread with my persecutors and those who’ve betrayed me. Jesus said, “whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).
5. Power: If you are not enacting Spirit-led justice, then you are in bondage to human-centered works.
The passion of Christ reconciled us to God, and the power of Christ’s resurrection enables us to act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8). At the cross, Jesus died a criminals’ death and was buried in an unmarked tomb. On the third day, several women discovered that tomb to be empty and were met by a resurrected Jesus, with scars on his hands and feet. For 40 days Jesus lived with his followers, loving, laughing, eating, and teaching. Before he went up into heaven, he promised to send a helper, the Holy Spirit, who would give them power to be witnesses of the gospel in their communities, countries, and every culture on earth (Acts 1:8).
Jesus never commanded us to be enactors of justice – for God is justice and only he can set things right – but he commissioned us with his authority and power to be agents of reconciliation through the power of the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Jesus’ final command was not to go and change human systems but his command was for us to love all peoples by making disciples of all peoples. When we love people as God intended is when we change systems.
All believers are commanded to make disciples, yet Spirit-led justice looks different for each person according to faith and calling. Some are called to be ministers of racial and ethnic reconciliation in their homes and within their spheres of influence through adoption, neighborhood block parties, or community projects. Others are called to take their witness to new communities through music or art, or by incarnating themselves in multi-ethnic neighborhoods or working faithfully in the marketplace to bring gospel transformation. And others are called to cross cultures as pioneers among unreached peoples and places or be advocates for policies and laws that promote human flourishing in the political arena.
Truth is, no one gives a $@&T about what you post or say online regarding justice because that rarely changes anyone’s unjust reality. If you’re gonna post or tweet about it, then be about it. Acts of justice (whether personal, programmatic, or policies) must be rooted in relationship in order to affect change.
In the same way, God cannot accept any of our human-centered good works, which is worse than trash, because it doesn’t add anything to God’s perfection and goodness. If your good works are for you then consider yourself enslaved. Acts of justice that the Father honors must be rooted in our relationship with the Spirit through Jesus Christ.
6. Purpose: If you’re not intentional about living a holistic lifestyle of activism, then stay seated.
Jesus gave us everything we need to reshape the world according to his purpose and vision. Jesus promised that every injustice, not just racial, is made right in God’s New City (Revelation 21). The final chapter of all humanity is centered around God’s throne, where God’s people from every language, people, and culture, stand in eternal worship (Rev. 5:9, 7:9).
If this future reality is not your vision of absolute reconciliation and justice, then stay seated. Your half-hearted activism is not gonna get you into God’s eternally lit party. This promise is for those who are actively following Jesus by grace through faith…and not for those who are following the mob of religion, pop-culture, or politics.
Rioting and looting is not activism but if you’re gonna loot at least do it right. Cover your face, grab a cart, and head to the electronics to gank that 55 inch 4K HDTV. Don’t be the idiot that loots Walmart on camera without wearing a mask and leaves with 5 bags of Flaming-Hot Doritos…even though I like Doritos, that’s just stupid. In the same way, it’s stupid to be part of the mob without clarity or an activist without purpose and vision.
Jesus saw his mission with clarity – to be a catalyst of God’s reign and extend God’s glory through his life, death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus didn’t measure success by counting clicks, tweets, votes, signatures, policies, laws, or even churches. Jesus used faithfulness, obedience, and love as a filter and measured the fruit of reproducing disciples. Jesus’ activism continues to this day through the fruitfulness of his disciples who intentionally make disciples.
In summary, Jesus’ answer to racial injustice is to:
- see people through God’s perspective
- pray for all with personal conviction
- protest against injustice with compassion and love
- display passion, humbly serve, and willingly sacrifice for your enemies
- display God’s power through Spirit-led justice within your spheres of influence
- live with purpose for God’s glory through intentional disciple-making