A pastor’s thoughts on the recent tragedies

July 8, 2016

Below are lightly edited remarks from Jimmy Scroggins, which he plans to share with his congregation in video form on how we should think about the violence in our country and what the Church must do. They are offered here as a help and an example to pastors who may also be considering how they might address the situation themselves.

Like many of you I have spent the last several days watching the news, following events on social media, and having family conversations about what it all means. Like you I'm frustrated, conflicted, confused, sad, and angry. If I'm not careful, I could get overwhelmed. I want to do something, but I don't know what to do. I want to say something, but I don't know what to say. But this Sunday I will say something because I pastor a multicultural church in a multicultural city and silence isn’t an option. I will expand on the following points:

1. We have a problem.

If this isn't obvious to you by now, you either aren’t thinking clearly or you don’t watch the news. We can pick apart each incident and try explain how it is more complex than it appears on the viral videos, but the sheer volume of these incidents tell us that we have a problem in this country regarding the safety of African-Americans when it comes to dealing with law enforcement. When the black moms and dads in our church are afraid to send their teenagers out in a vehicle, we have a problem. When our brown-skinned brothers and sisters are uncomfortable and even resentful coming to church because they’re afraid that they will be regarded with suspicion, pity, or apathy, then we have a problem. They don't want pity or sympathy; they want solidarity and justice. We will stand with them.

2. We have to care.

It's not enough to exonerate ourselves by personally declaring "I’m not a racist." I have called several black leaders in our church to check on them, listen to them, grieve with them, and learn from them. I can tell you that our black brothers and sisters in Christ are in crisis. They are feeling emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually torn apart. As believers, we’re personally responsible to treat every human being with dignity and respect because each is created in God’s image. But we are also corporately responsible to address structures that perpetrate, facilitate, or ignore injustice. Protests matter, conversations matter, votes matter, jobs matter, schools matter, families matter, and money matters. God was especially harsh in His description of religious people who continued to participate in religious rituals, festivals, and worship services without a serious concern for societal injustice. In the book of Amos God excoriates apathetic believers saying: “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies…take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:21-24). The Bible tells us to "weep with those who weep." Well, black and biracial families in our church are weeping right now. The families of police officers are weeping right now. We cannot allow ourselves to grow numb and we cannot allow ourselves be silent. We have to weep and we have to care because God is calling for justice to roll down.

3. We need the police.

The social order that holds our nation together is fraying and disintegrating. The violence and terror against police officers in Dallas shows us another dimension to this problem. Police officers and law enforcement personnel are here to serve and protect. The vast majority of them are faithful and ethical and brave. Police officers need to hear that we need them and we’re all grateful for their service. Black moms and dads need them too. So while we call for justice in cases of police brutality, racism, and, murder, we have to remember that these cases are perpetrated by a small percentage of those in law enforcement. We still have to stand with and honor our men and women in blue. If we don't, our society will descend further into chaos.

4. Love, peace, justice.

God knows that the authentic peace flows from genuine love, but is always accompanied by righteousness and justice. We long to experience the peace of Eden and truly love our brothers and sisters, but the sin in ourselves and in our society cries out for justice and justice has to be served. Of course believers in Jesus know that justice will ultimately be served when each person stands before God to give account for the deeds we have done. It is there that God, who alone holds the only set of honest scales, will weigh out our actions and inactions, our opportunities seized and opportunities lost, our careless words, and even our secret thoughts. We know that this justice will come and that it will be swift and complete, but what about right here and right now?

5. Jesus is the only real solution.

Thousands of years ago, the prophet Isaiah wrote about Jesus when he said, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound…to comfort all who mourn…that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations” (Isaiah 61:1-4). Christ is the only hope for rebuilding the ruins of our cities and our society. Jesus offers hope for new generations to live in an environment of love, peace, and justice. The peace of God was on Him; the love of God flowed from Him; and the justice of God rolled down on Him when He died on the cross for our sins and all the havoc they bring. Jesus was then raised from the dead giving us convincing evidence that only He has the power to transform a human heart. And only a collection of transformed hearts can transform a community from a war-zone to a peace-zone.  

As events continue to unfold we need to remember that this gospel addresses these very real life issues. Racial injustice is a gospel issue for us. Respect for civil government authority is a gospel issue for us. Our gospel compels us to be compassionate and active, but our gospel compels us to be confident because we actually do believe that Jesus triumphs in the end. Until then we will think gospel thoughts, speak gospel words, and take gospel action. Because the love of God must prevail in us. The peace of God must dwell in us. And the justice of God must roll down through us.

Jimmy Scroggins

Jimmy Scroggins is a husband, father, pastor, teacher and coach. Jimmy and his wife, Kristin, have 8 children—James, Daniel, Jeremiah, Isaac, Stephen, Anna Kate, Mary Claire, and Caleb. Since July 2008, he has served as the Lead Pastor of Family Church—a network of neighborhood churches in South Florida. Jimmy is … Read More