This weekend marks the newly minted federal holiday, Juneteenth – which is short for June 19th. I confess my awareness of this day goes back only a few years, but Juneteenth is actually the oldest nationally recognized commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. It is the commemoration of emancipation in Texas, on June 19, 1865 – more than two years after President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
Why do I highlight this holiday? I hope you will understand as you read on.
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
Racial tension and racial division are major issues in our culture – and in the Church. This is not a new problem. It was also a problem in the Early Church. But because it is still an issue, Paul’s words to the early church in Ephesus are still relevant for us today:
“Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” (Ephesians 2:12-14)
Whether one see racial division as a “gospel issue” or not, racism and racial division are inarguably Kingdom issues. And these are issues that the Gospel – and only the Gospel – can resolve. Only the Gospel has the power to make us one in Christ, regardless of race or culture.
Therefore, as tensions linger, and even intensify, the Church has the ability – and therefore the responsibility – to show that only Jesus has the power to break down the dividing walls of hostility and bring Shalom – true and lasting peace. In a culture that often, and increasingly, views faith in Jesus to be irrelevant and unhelpful, we have an opportunity to be “Salt & Light” by actively pursuing peace and friendship between all races and cultures in our community. (Matthew 5.9; Matthew 5.13-16)
“Racial reconciliation is not the goal of a gospel-centered church and life, but it is clear from Scripture that it is a beautiful fruit of it.“
A Biblical worldview responds to every circumstance with love, empathy, and understanding even of those different from us, instead of letting popular culture and news soundbites define our attitudes and beliefs. When we listen to more voices, sometimes especially some that sound different from our own, God often reveals to us some of the blind spots in our own hearts.
At Grace Covenant we are committed to mercy and justice. (Micah 6.8) As a church, we believe grace changes everything! The gospel frees us, compels us, and empowers us to seek justice and reconciliation in the midst of brokenness. This is gospel work – work that we’re committed to doing together as we learn, lament, repent, and – by faith – move forward. But “to do justice” and “to do mercy” requires both humility and understanding.
So, using Juneteenth as an occasion to help us move forward toward better understanding, I have compiled a list of resources. This is in no way an exhaustive list, but these resources are among those I have found helpful. Some are from our own denomination, others from the broader Evangelical church. Some of these resources may resonate more than others; and some express viewpoints I cannot entirely endorse. Nevertheless, there is benefit from listening to a broad range of voices and seeing from a variety of perspectives.
Grace & Peace,
W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor
Listen & Watch
- The U.S Racial Crisis and World Evangelism by Tom Skinner
- Just Thinking (podcast)
- As In Heaven (podcast)
- Race & The Church RVA
- Redemption: The John M. Perkins Story
- Just Mercy
- PCA Pastoral Letter on Racism (2004)
- PCA Racial & Ethnic Reconciliation Report (2018)
- Letter From a Birmingham Jail by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Should We Apologize for Sins We Did Not Commit? by Jay Bruce
- Not White Fragility – Mutual Responsibility by George Yancy
- The Bible and Race by Tim Keller
- The Sin of Racism by Tim Keller
- Why I Am Glad We Marched and Wish We Hadn’t by Dr. George Robertson
- Denominational Diversity and Cultural Normativity by Dr. Duke Kwan
- Thinking Theologically About Racial Tensions by Kevin DeYoung
- One Blood: A Parting Word to the Church on Race by John Perkins (Intro Video)
- Let Justice Roll Down by John Perkins
- Dream With Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win by John Perkins
- Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian by John Piper
- Divided By Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Christian Smith & Michael Emerson
- Heal Us Emmanuel by Doug Serven (Editor)
- Free At Last by Dr. Carl Ellis
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
- Dr. John Perkins
- Dr. Carl & Karen Ellis – Ellis Perspectives; Prophets of Culture
- Dr. Christiana H. Edmondson
- Rev. Dr. Mika Edmondson
- Benjamin Watson
- Just Thinking (blog)
- Rev. Dr. Irwyn Ince
- Dr. Voddie Baucham
NOTE: Over time I will add to these lists. So I hope you will bookmark this page, and make use of it both now and in the future.