By / Jan 27

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, explains why the support of evangelicals is crucial to the pro-life movement.

By / Jan 14

What does it mean to be hungry in America? And how do we solve the issue of domestic hunger?

To answer those questions, Congress created the bipartisan National Commission on Hunger, a group tasked with providing “policy recommendations to Congress and the USDA Secretary to more effectively use existing programs and funds of the Department of Agriculture to combat domestic hunger and food insecurity.”

The commission recently released a report on their findings and recommendations. According to the executive summary, “ This report is based on the commission members’ full agreement that hunger cannot be solved by food alone, nor by government efforts alone. The solutions to hunger require a stronger economy, robust community engagement, corporate partnerships, and greater personal responsibility, as well as strong government programs.”

One of the key decisions the commission had to make was an agreement on how to define hunger. They chose a readily available measure of hunger called very low food security, which occurs when eating patterns are disrupted or food intake is reduced for at least one household member because the household lacked money and other resources for food.

For purposes of this report, hunger means the lack of access to food when families do not have enough money, causing them to cut the size, quality, or frequency of their meals throughout the year. We wish to be very clear that hunger in America is not the same as famine and the resulting malnutrition seen in developing countries.

By this standard, 5.6 percent of households—6 million Americans—experienced hunger in 2014, for an average of about 7 months.

The commission identified 6 root causes of hunger:

Labor Market Forces and Job Availability — “The number of households experiencing hunger is sensitive to economic forces.”

Family Structure — “Marriage has a significant impact on whether or not a household will experience hunger: Households with an unmarried head of household are more likely to face hunger than other households in America.”

Education — “U.S. high school graduation rates have improved, with the national graduation rate exceeding 80% in 2012 for the first time in U.S. history; however, economic, racial, cultural, and ethnic differences remain.”

Exposure to Violence — “Research over the last 10 years has found that victims of violence, neglect, or abuse as a child or violence as an adult, are more likely to report hunger.”

Historical Context – “There are significant racial, ethnic, and gender disparities between households that report hunger and those that do not.”

Personal Responsibility — “Although we feel that our nation would make progress in reducing hunger if we made gains in each of the factors above, we also acknowledge one other key ingredient—the actions of individuals.”

The commission also made recommendations in six areas to comprise a total of 20 specific recommendations to Congress and the USDA.

I. Make improvements to SNAP (10 recommendations in three categories: work, nutrition, and wellbeing)

II. Make improvements to child nutrition programs (4 recommendations)

III. Improve nutrition assistance options for people who are disabled or medically at risk (2 recommendations)

IV. Fund pilot programs to test the effectiveness of strategic interventions to reduce and eliminate hunger (1 recommendation; 4 pilots)

V. Incentivize and expand corporate, nonprofit, and public partnerships to address hunger in civil society (1 recommendation)

VI. Create a White House Leadership Council to End Hunger that includes participation by a broad group of government and non-government stakeholders (2 recommendations).

In their conclusion, the commission notes that “there is another aspect of personal responsibility at work: personal responsibility extends to all. Everyone can take direct actions to reduce hunger.”

“Each of us should extend compassion for and help to our neighbors and get involved in hunger relief efforts in our communities,” says the report. “We need more of that kind of personal responsibility, too. With it, we will end hunger in the United States.”

To learn more about how you can help end hunger, in America and around the world, visit Global Hunger Relief.

By / Oct 30

It was around 3 a.m. when the members of the church started trickling into the small basement-level apartment. They came in two or three at a time over the course of an hour. A large crowd coming in all at once would have been noticed by the secret police. Mattresses had been nailed to the walls and ceiling to prevent the sounds of worship from escaping the room. The churchgoers were mostly internationals, but even foreign workers have no right to worship openly in this country.

When the service was over, they left as they came, in small clusters. Many went straight for work—even though they had been up all night—to build and serve the country that prohibited them from worshipping their God openly. As they got to where they were going, they all breathed a sigh of relief that for another week, they had not been caught.

This is not an uncommon story.

According to Open Doors, over 100 million Christians are living in societies where they are regularly persecuted for their faith. This could include laws passed and enforced by authoritarian governments, as is the case in North Korea. It could include violence, discrimination and social pressure that remains unchecked and unprosecuted by the government.

This week, pray for the persecuted church

November 1 is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. On this Sunday, we stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. But more importantly, we lift them up to our good God who hears our prayers.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11 ESV)

Our Lord invited us to ask for good things for ourselves and for our brothers and sisters: “to the one who knocks, it will be opened.” Our prayers are not a small thing but rather are a direct line of communication with our God, who possesses infinite power and infinite ability to come to the aid of those hurting. Isaiah tells us that our God has “measured the waters in the hollow of his hand” (Isaiah 40:12 ESV). To our God, “the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as just on the scales” (Isaiah 40:15 ESV).

Let us approach our God, therefore, with confidence that we serve an infinitely big, infinitely powerful God who is ready to save.

If you are a pastor, set aside time this Sunday to join with churches around the world in praying for those that suffer for no reason other than that they follow their Savior, Jesus Christ.

If you are a church leader, dedicate some time this week with your ministry, Bible study or small group to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters.

If you have a family, spend time praying around the dinner table for those that live in places that do not recognize the fundamental human right of religious liberty.

How you can pray for the persecuted church

We have provided additional resources about the persecuted church below, but if you are looking for a place to start, here are three places where persecution against the church is the worst and some ways you can pray.

China

Ben is a Chinese Christian in the house-church movement who started a private school based largely on the house church model. Both of these endeavors put him at great risk of arrest, interrogation and worse. Ben personally knows pastors and attorneys who have been arrested, and he suspects he is already on a government watch list. Ben and his wife are well-educated and could emigrate to a much safer country, but they won’t. They feel called to live out the gospel faithfully in their own nation and community.

Ben’s experience is one example of a long history of well-documented breaches of human rights broadly, and religious freedom in particular. The number of prisoners of conscience in China has increased recently, leading the Washington Post to label the pattern an “anti-Christian crusade.” Yet the victims include a diversity of religious believers as well as attorneys who attempted to defend them.

Recent detentions include a Christian human rights attorney, Zhang Kai, arrested the day before he was scheduled to meet with the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. Two paster were also arrested for forwarding prayers over a messaging app, as well as ten pastors and elders for attempting to prevent government demolition of crosses on their own church buildings.

Pray for China:

Thank God for evidence of remarkable growth of Christianity in the face decades of regular and systematic persecution.

  • Pray with Ben, that the Lord will continue to raise up a new generation of leadership–both in the church and beyond–who are faithful to sound doctrine and energized for evangelism. Pray for the safety of families like Ben’s and others who remain faithful in this context.
  • Pray that China would continue to reduce—and ultimately cease—restrictions on procreation. Pray for the end to coercive contraception, forced abortions and the selective abortions of baby girls.
  • Pray that the political leadership of China will stop oppressing Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities.

Sudan

On May 15, 2014, Miriam Ibrahim was sentenced to death after being tried and convicted of apostasy from Islam. During the trial, the Sudanese judge had given her three days to renounce her faith. When she refused, her death sentence was issued. Miriam had been arrested while pregnant with her second child, and two weeks later, on May 27, 2014, Miriam gave birth in prison.

Although Miriam was later freed as a result of tremendous international pressure, her case stands as an example to the Christian minority in Sudan and, particularly, to followers of Jesus with a Muslim background. For them, faith in Jesus is punishable by death.

Pray for Sudan:

  • For peace, comfort and protection for Sudanese followers of Jesus, particularly those from Muslim backgrounds.
  • For total abolition of apostasy laws in Sudan and for effective prosecution of family and communal violence against Christians.
  • For a total halt to the closure of churches by the Sudanese government.

Pakistan

Asia Bibi is a Christian mother of five who was arrested in 2009 and sentenced to death under charges of blasphemy. Two government officials, Punjab Governor Salman and Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, were assassinated in 2011 for their efforts to defend Asia and reform blasphemy laws. Her case has seen cautiously encouraging movement, with the government recently indicating in July 2015 there may be some reconsideration of her case, although it upheld her conviction and sentencing in 2014. She remains imprisoned.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom regards Pakistan as among the “worst situations” on the planet for people of minority faiths, including Christians, minority Muslims (Shi’a & Ahmadi), and Hindus. Persecution in Pakistan involves both government restrictions and punishments like blasphemy laws and social hostilities to which authorities turn a blind eye. Forced conversions into some expressions of Islam and forced marriages commonly victimize young Christian and Hindu girls.

Pray for Pakistan:

  • Pray that the Lord will sustain Asia Bibi and that her faith in Christ will be evident to those around her. Pray for Asia’s family who have been forced to go into hiding.
  • Pray for the hundreds of young girls and women who have been forced to convert and marry against their will. Pray that this victimization of young Christian and Hindu girls will stop.
  • Pray with Pakistani Christians, that the gospel would be proclaimed and that God will sustain the witness of the church.

Additional resources on the persecuted church

Just last week, the U.S. State Department released its annual Report on International Religious Freedom. The entire report is available for free online, and the ERLC has provided analysis of the report.

Another good resource is Open Doors’ World Watch List, which provides statistics, stories and rankings of the 50 countries where persecution against Christians is the most severe.

In our country of comfort, where we don’t experience the depths of persecution that our brothers and sisters face around the world, let’s implore God to help us take Hebrews 13:3 to heart: “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.”

By / Jul 22

“Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt 7:1). Our Lord’s words are commonly twisted today as if he is telling his followers to never make any judgments. Of course, it is conveniently ignored that a few verses later Jesus declares, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs” (Matt 7:6). And in the same discourse, Jesus calls his disciples to judge both teaching and conduct:

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits (Matt 7:15-20).

The entire Sermon on the Mount requires moral judgments to be made by the followers of king Jesus. Elsewhere, Paul urges the followers of Christ, “Test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess 5:21-22). The word translated test in this verse means “to prove, verify, examine prior to approval, judge, evaluate, discern” (Ceslas Spicq, the Theological Lexicon of the New Testament [TLNT]).

The abuse of this verse is nothing new. Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) provided an excellent explanation of the problem in his day as he commented on Matthew 7:1-6,

This prohibition, like many others in our Lord’s discourse, if interpreted in its utmost latitude, would go to censure what is elsewhere commended. If we judge not truth and error, good and evil, we cannot embrace the one and avoid the other; neither can we discharge the duties of our station in the world, or in the church, without forming some judgment of those about us. Paul and Silas are supposed to have judged Lydia to be faithful, ere they entered her house; and Peter did not scruple to tell the sorcerer that he “perceived him to be in the gall of bitterness, and in the bonds of iniquity.” We are not only allowed, but directed, even in this discourse, to judge of men, as of trees, by their fruit, ver. 16–20.

It is part of our duty as ministers to declare from God’s word that they who live after the flesh will die; and that they who are carried away by strong delusions and the belief of a lie are in the utmost danger of damnation. They may be displeased with us for thinking so hardly of them, and may allege this passage as a reproof to our presumption. The judgment which Christ forbids is that which arises not from good-will and a faithful discharge of duty, but from a censorious spirit, which takes pleasure in thinking and speaking evil of those about us, puts the worst construction upon actions of doubtful motive, and is severe in detecting smaller faults in another, while blinded to far greater ones in ourselves (The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., vol. 1, J. Belcher, Ed., Sprinkle Publications, 585).

Fuller offers a clear headed explanation of what Jesus is forbidding when he tells his followers to “judge not” (Matt 7:1). I have summarized Fuller’s points in updated language below, and then I offer a positive corollary that reflects the biblical necessity for disciples of Christ to exercise Christ-exalting judgment.

  1. The judgment Christ forbids is that which arises from a self-referential and hypercritical spirit.

The judgment Christ commends is that which arises from a faithful knowledge of the truth of God’s word and never loses sight of the gospel.

  1. The judgment Christ forbids is that which takes pleasure in looking down at others as inferiors.

The judgment Christ commends is that which flows from a broken heart over one’s own sin and never loses sight of the fact we are all fellow sinners in need of grace.

  1. The judgment Christ forbids is that which presumes to be able to judge the motives of others.

The judgment Christ commends is that which deals with actions and deeds because only God is capable of judging the motives of the heart.

  1. The judgment Christ forbids is that which hypocritically ignores glaring personal faults while nitpicking lesser faults in others.

The judgment Christ commends is that which freely acknowledges one’s own faults and gives others the benefit of the doubt regarding theirs.

By / May 12

Navigating what ministries to begin and which to forgo can be a daunting task for church leaders. The topic of whether or not to pursue a women’s ministry in the local church is often on the top of the list.

For Daniel Montgomery, lead pastor of Sojourn Church in Lousiville, Ky., the answer was clear: He would provide a women’s ministry but wouldn’t lead it. This model has worked well for their local congregation, and I’ve asked the co-leader of their women’s ministry, Amanda Edmondson, and Montgomery to give us a peek into why their ministry has been fruitful.

Did you establish a women's ministry as you established the church or was it developed after? If so, why? If not, what provoked you to begin a women's ministry?

Daniel Montgomery: I think women’s ministry, like men’s ministry, has been semi-provisional at time, addressing specific concerns and issues. We now have a more formal women’s ministry in order to:

  1. To embed a theological vision for life in ministry for women.
  2. For the purpose of creating and maintaining sisterhood among the women in our church.
  3. To empower women to do ministry in the church.

We want to intentionally meet women who want deeper theological reflection where they are. It won’t just happen. Women’s ministry also allows us to directly address the challenges of cultivating friendships across generations—whether someone is mentoring or being poured into. In addition, if you look at any renewal movement in history, women were at the helm. We want to empower and free women to do that kind of ministry.

Daniel, why did you feel it was important to have a woman lead the ministry?

Montgomery: The fact that we even ask this question shows how oppressive our churches can be toward women. There are several reasons to have a woman lead:

  1. Women need to lead women (Titus 2) with conviction and creativity.
  2. It’s hard for me to imagine raising up women in leadership without women leading women.

I believe reform and renewal will only take place in the church when women can fearlessly lead as women—with all their feminine beauty and power that God has specifically designed for them to use in various roles throughout the church.

What is your role in the women’s ministry?

Montgomery: I am there as an advocate and advisor for women’s ministry.

Amanda, what were your first thoughts when you were approached about leading this ministry?

Amanda Edmondson: I have a strong passion for women to know the Lord and to teach them how to know the Lord and make him known. Before I was on staff at Sojourn Community Church, I was leading a Bible study with another woman that took place in our houses. So when I was approached about Sojourn, I was excited for the opportunity but unsure of what it would look like for a multi-site church. I was also excited to be co-leading with a wiser, like-minded woman in our church.

What do you do day-to-day?

Edmondson: I have two roles at Sojourn. The majority of my time goes to being Daniel’s executive assistant. About 30 percent (some weeks more or less) go to women’s ministry. No day is ever the same in ministry. From July to April, a lot of focus and energy goes into our Women’s Leadership School, aside from that I am meeting with and discipling women, working with ministry leaders on raising up women and coaching women from other churches on how to lead or start a women’s ministry.

What are the goals of the women's ministry?

Edmondson: To equip women to know the Lord and lead with strength, using their gifts and talents in order to serve in the church, reach the world and make disciples.

Some would say that women's ministry is detrimental to the church because it could become separated from the mission of the church. How have you established boundaries or a general framework for protecting your ministry from straying away from the mission of the church?

Edmondson: Women’s ministry shouldn’t be a separate entity of the church but rather a ministry that supports the church as a whole. With the majority of seats in churches today being filled by women, there needs to be an opportunity for women to learn from women (Titus 2). I have two suggestions for boundaries:

  1. Use your women’s ministry as a place where women can get equipped. It should be a place where women are learning to lead—specifically—as women, then being released to serve the church along side everyone. The church’s vision isn’t lost when the ministry isn’t siloed.
  2. Make sure men are involved. In our church, Elders and church leadership take an interest in women’s ministry and care what we are taught. They teach on it from the pulpit and partner with us to equip women to lead.

What does a healthy women's ministry look like?

Montgomery: It’s not pulling women out of and away from participating in the church as a whole, but equipping women and training them in godliness to serve the church.

How might a church determine when it's time to evaluate a ministry’s effectiveness?

Montgomery: For us, it goes back to our vision and asking questions like: Is it supporting the overall vision? Are they reaching people? Building them up? Making disciples?

How might you encourage a church to start a women's ministry?

Edmondson: Most churches we speak to have a group structure where both men and women are gathering together throughout the week to discuss sermons. As most churches have moved away from having individualized ministries for both men and women, they are discovering there’s still a need for men and women to gather separately. I always encourage pastors and leaders to listen to the men and women of their churches. What are they hungry for? What do they need to learn about the Lord in this season? Is there a need for the men and women to meet separately?

As we mentioned earlier, we see a great value and need for women to be under the teaching of women in order to learn what it looks like to lead as a woman. If we want a woman to lead as a woman, then women need to see women leading biblically in the church and in the community where they live and work.  

Depending on the size of the church, start with what you have the capacity to do. Provide a space for women to be empowered and taught by women, to gather and fellowship together, and to be free to go deep and grow together. This is going to look different for each church, depending on their need and availability.

Montgomery: Like Amanda said, start with what you have. We are a church that does a lot from art and mercy, so we are always looking for opportunities for women to lead in worship, arts, mercy, and children. If a woman has a gift of teaching, ask how you can we nurture that woman? For example, we noticed that one of our ministries was male-dominated and neglecting the equipping of women to lead, so we’ve taken measures to address it, though it’s not without it’s challenges.

Another suggestion would be to take time to figure out how you can cultivate the ministry, mission and leadership of women in your church, instead of just adding a women’s ministry. We don’t want to merely create a massive silo of women’s events; we want to reach women with the gospel, build them up as the church, and release them in the world to make disciples.

What are some of the things your Women’s Ministry does throughout the year?

Edmonson: Women’s Leadership School: This is a seven-month leadership program that trains women to serve and lead within the context of the local church, the places we live, and work. We believe that the local church has a responsibility to train and equip women to lead with strength wherever the Lord has placed them.

The training is divided into two semesters and covers a variety of topics, such as God’s glory, Bible study, theology, discipleship, leadership, biblical womanhood, and evangelism. Each woman who participates in the Women’s Leadership School is receiving discipleship from their group leader and is using what they’ve learned to disciple another woman within Sojourn.

One-Day Conferences: Women gather from all four of our campuses to worship and learn together.

Women’s Gift Exchange: This event is held at each campus during the Advent season and is an opportunity for women to connect with one another and exchange gifts while participating in a time of worship and teaching.

How do you encourage participation in the women’s ministry?

Edmondson: Most times, it’s from a one-on-one conversation with a woman during the week or on a Sunday. We communicate from the stage/pulpit on Sundays about Women’s Ministry and events and through our Community Groups that meet throughout the week. It’s not hard to encourage women to participate when they are hungry to learn and desire to gather with other woman. As we communicate and share, we are always communicating the bigger vision of why we provide these opportunities for women.

How has Daniel supported the ministry and encouraged your gifts?

Edmondson: Within my first month at Sojourn, he told me to lead out of freedom and not fear. He has to frequently remind me of this, but it has greatly affected the way I lead. Being given the freedom to lead, using my talents and gifts, takes a huge weight off of me. I know I don’t have to fit within a cookie-cutter mold, but I am free to do ministry the way the Lord has uniquely gifted me. He has also been a great advocate and advisor for women—he listens and gives counsel to help us all move forward.  

________________

If you’d like to read more about women’s ministry, you might want to check out these books: Women’s Ministry in the Local Church by J. Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt and the forthcoming book from The Gospel Coalition by multiple contributors, Word-Filled Women’s Ministry.

By / Aug 5

Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Representative Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania have sponsored legislation, The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, protecting faith-based adoption and foster care agencies from discrimination because of their religious beliefs.

The legislation was introduced to protect agencies within states such as California, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Washington D.C. (and any state choosing to join them in the future), all of whom have withdrawn funding from religiously oriented adoption and foster agencies because, in keeping with their sincerely held beliefs, these agencies place children in homes with a married mother and father. States have withdrawn funding in the name of equal opportunity (or, what opponents of religious liberty see as preventing discrimination). The problem, however, is that such action merely serves to hasten the end of adoption and foster services for these ministries.

There is no good reason why any of these care providers should be disqualified from working with their government to serve America’s families simply because of their deeply rooted religious beliefs,” Representative Kelly said.

The states claim to be protecting same-sex and unmarried couples. They claim to be preventing agencies from discriminating, but allowing agencies the right to only place children in traditional homes does not deny lesbian, gay, or unmarried couples the opportunity to adopt elsewhere. There are other agencies that have no objection to same-sex or unmarried couples adopting a child.

The bill isn’t about same-sex or unmarried couples’ rights at all. The opportunity to start a family is still intact through other agencies. But states and same-sex marriage advocates should not drown out faith-based agencies from taking care of orphans by coercing such agencies to actively support something in conflict with their convictions.

No, this isn’t about the couples. It is about the agencies’ right to uphold their beliefs. In the interest of a thriving pluralism that allows diverse viewpoints to operate within America, policy should honor the rights of organizations to care for orphans in a way that honors religious liberty, not chip away at it.

As The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson and Sarah Torre comment:

Protecting religious liberty in this instance takes nothing away from anyone. Couples who do not wish to work with faith-based agencies because of a difference of belief are free to work with another private provider or directly with the state offering foster care services. A diversity of providers only increases the chances more children will end up in permanent, loving families.

And what about the children? According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, there were around 399,546 children in the foster care system on September 30, 2012. Of those children, 24 percent had a goal of adoption. Actions taken that reduce adoption and foster care services harm children.

Faith-based charities and organizations do an amazing job of administering adoption, foster care and a host of other services. Limiting their work because someone might disagree with what they believe only ends up hurting the families they could be bringing together,” Senator Enzi said.

Echoing Enzi’s sentiment, Representative Kelly called the work of faith-based agencies “unparalleled.” And yet, governments in some states are now discouraging such selfless work.

By / May 5

NOTE: The 2015 ERLC Leadership Summit will address “The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation” to equip Christians to apply the gospel on these issues with convictional kindness in their communities, their families, and their churches. This event will be held in Nashville on March 26-27, 2015. To learn more go here.

President Obama’s historic election to the White House in November 2008 spoke volumes about how far the United States has come on the race issue since the dawn of the Civil Rights movement. Unfortunately, many Americans, and especially Americans of color, were naively under the delusion that an African-American elected to the United States presidency would end certain forms of racism and racial discrimination. Some initially promulgated at water cooler conversations that Obama’s victory proves that we are now living in a post-racial America. Even some voices in the media and in different political organizations declared that the election of President Obama and the emergence of several African-Americans to positions of power in the public square demonstrate that there is no longer a need for basic civil rights organizations that work to fight for the equal rights of people of color.

However, the numerous racially motivated crimes in the United States alone (not to mention in other parts of the world); the recent racist remarks directed toward African-Americans recorded in the media, and the recent legal decisions not to allow race to play a role in college admission suggest that racism still exists. In light of the nation’s current racial strife and our recent celebration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington — noted from the White House press room to the dining room, and from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to the steps on many front porches — African-Americans, people of color and other Americans are asking why so many blacks fall prey to gun violence. Why are African-Americans and people of color often racially profiled simply because of the color of their skin, even racially profiled, I might add, by other African-Americas and people of color? Additionally, many African-Americans and families of color are forced to answer difficult questions from their children about racism, and to have difficult conversations with them about the great injustices that many people of color still experience in the 21st century despite the election of Obama. But the question remains: why does racism still exist in 2014?

Many people of color blame racism on the “white man.” However, in my view, to do so is racist. The Bible explicitly states that racism exists because of sin. Sin alienates all races from one another—not just blacks and whites. Sin is the reason why the entire human race needs to be reconciled first to God and secondly to one another. Racism should not be limited to the black and white divide. Race is a biblical category for “otherness.” This otherness can be classified as Jew and Gentile. The gospel suggests that racism is a universal power that rules and reigns like an evil tyrant over all Jews and Gentiles–over all of the different races scattered throughout the world due to the universal power of sin (Rom. 1:18-3:20)–and because of the fall of Adam and Even in the Garden (Gen. 3-4, 11). Yet, the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus died and resurrected from the dead to kill all forms of sin (John 1:29; Rom. 3:25; 5:12-8:11; 1 John 2:2)–even the sin of racism, so that Jews and Gentiles would be firstly reconciled to God and secondly to one another (Eph. 2:11-22) so that those who have faith in Jesus Christ and who live in the power of the gospel can experience genuine reconciliation with God and their fellow-man (Gal. 2:11-14). This way racial reconciliation would actually be practiced and experienced in both church and society in practical ways by those who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ (Rom. 14-15).

Over the course of three blogs, I want to foster a discussion about race and racism in light of the conversation about race that has emerged in recent days. The blogs will emphasize some gospel-centered answers in Scripture with the intent of moving the current discussion of race and racial reconciliation from the political, legal and public relation realms to the biblical, theological and spiritual realms. This approach serves to point people to the eternal hope found in the gospel of Jesus Christ in the midst of the despair that comes from living in a sinful world dominated by sin, especially the sin of racism. My approach is especially necessary since secular discussions about race, racism and racial reconciliation continue to offer the hopeless solution of tolerance, since many Christians unfortunately do not think of race, racism and racial reconciliation from a biblical and theological perspective. Many Christians do not think of racism as a gospel issue, and many people continue to ignore that the category of race or racism exists. To the contrary, I propose that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the life changing solution to the problem of racism. I additionally propose that if Christians believe, live and boldly proclaim the message of a Christ who died, resurrected and who transforms by the power of the Holy Spirit all of those who have faith in him as the Jewish Messiah, then the sin of racism would be mortified. The result of faith in the proclamation of the crucified and risen Christ would translate into Spirit-filled love that would move all people from all nations within the Christ-following community to endure one another in love.

In the rest of this blog, I want to discuss sin as the root cause of all forms of racism and suggest that racism is in fact sin against God and that racism had its origins in the historic fall of Adam of Even in the Garden of Eden. In the second blog, I will discuss that Jesus’ death for all sins and his resurrection from the dead are God’s provision for all forms of racial hostility. In the third blog, I will discuss that Jesus’ death for all sins and his resurrection from the dead actually (not hypothetically) accomplished reconciliation for all who trust in Jesus by faith. The latter blog will also suggest that racial reconciliation must be and can be pursued in practical and intentional ways by those redeemed by Jesus and by those who want to experience it in the real world in both church and society.

Sin as the root cause of racism

Genesis 1-3 is the foundational biblical text that informs us about the reason for racism. In Genesis 1-2, God created the heavens and the earth. The entire creation is perfect and without sin, so God calls everything that he makes good (Gen. 1:18, 25). In Genesis 2:17, God commands Adam not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil lest he dies. Unfortunately, both he and Eve listened to the voice of the serpent, disobeyed God and brought the curse of death and sin into the world (Gen. 3:1-19). In Romans 5:12, Paul emphasizes that death and sin entered the world through Adam and death through sin with the result that all without exception now sin. In 1 Corinthians 15:22, Paul states that “all die in Adam.”

Immediately after Adam and Eve sin in Genesis 3, both their relationship with God is severed (Gen. 3:8), which is why they run away from him. Humanity’s relationship with fellow-man is severed (Gen. 4), which is why Cain murdered his brother. Humanity’s separation from God and ethno-racial division are fundamentally the result of the devastating consequences of sin’s entrance into the world through the sin of our first parents: Adam and Even. Before racism can be obliterated, its chief cause must be destroyed. In my view, the gospel of Jesus Christ suggests that Jesus’ death dealt with humanity’s sin-problem, killed the enmity between Jews and Gentiles and reconciles them to God and to one another when alienated sinners place faith in the crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:11-22), who died to deliver sinners from every tongue, tribe, people and nation from this present evil age (Gal. 1:4; Rev. 5:9). The first step toward racial reconciliation is to recognize that racism is sin and the direct result of the historic fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden.