Righteousness and Justice: The Foundation of God’s Throne – John Stumbo Video Blog No. 83

June 12, 2020

13:01

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This month, John addresses how The Alliance is responding to cries for justice. Following are the links he references in the video:
NAE Statement on Racism
Message from NAE Leaders on Racial Justice and Equality

Transcript

The primary question I’m being asked these days is, “What is The Alliance’s plan, and what are we doing regarding issues of injustice?” Thank you for joining me today as I answer that question.

As we all know, the death of George Floyd was the culmination of events that sparked a global outcry for justice. Law enforcement, judicial and penal systems, and other policies and expressions of power must not be based on the protection of status of the majority population. It is unjust to build systems, intentionally or unintentionally, that benefit certain people over others. The goal of justice is written into the preamble of the American Constitution. It is repeated in the Pledge of Allegiance and interwoven into what it means to be a democracy.

However, we don’t need government documents or public statements to understand the value of justice. As we open our Bibles, we discover that justice and righteousness are foundational to God’s Kingdom. Psalm 89: “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne.” God will do and can only do what is right and just. His rule has always been and always will be an expression of these powerful, parallel attributes. Some of the strongest fury in these pages is expressed when righteousness is defiled and justice is trampled. Can I suggest, Alliance family, that we’ve done a better job of calling our people to righteousness than we have to justice—and that we can’t really have one without the other. This is a moment in time to repent of and remedy that omission.

To those in positions of power, a prophetic voice arises in the Psalms: “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” —Psalm 82. Nehemiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Micah, and many other voices speak in unison on this subject. Isaiah adds his passion many times even in his opening message: “Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” A full sermon is stirring in my heart for another time, but for this moment I say to the Alliance family: Let’s continue to learn the truths of such passages and live them out.

In whatever manner you interpret this moment in history, whatever your response has been, remember that cries for justice are not only current events, they are biblical texts. When we pursue justice, we seek what God seeks. Again, you may hear a sermon arising, but let me hasten to answer the question I’m being asked: “What is The Alliance doing and planning to do to address issues of injustice?” Well, if by The Alliance you mean the National Office leadership, here’s my answer: We’ll begin doing what we’ve neglected to do, and we’ll keep doing much of what we’ve been doing. We’ve neglected to develop a statement on racism and injustice. I regret that this has not happened during my tenure. The need for it has been discussed numerous times, and I fully support the concept but have failed to press for the necessary processes to see this through. Worse, I must admit that this neglect says something about my own failure to own this subject deeply enough. I’m sorry. Alliance family, please accept my apology. I have not led us effectively toward this end, and hence we don’t yet have such a statement, but we will. Our Board of Directors meets in two weeks, and with their direction we’ll move forward on this long overdue document. We have strong, clear, grace-filled biblical statements on matters such as the sanctity of life and human sexuality. The statement on racism and injustice will be approached in the same manner and will be held at the same level. I look forward to reporting back to you as appropriate.

Additionally, as we further wait on the Lord and listen in community, we may discover other areas of neglect or offense that we on the national level will seek to remedy. What we’ll continue to do on the national level centers around a significant single concept, it’s this: Those in positions of power in Christ’s Church are commissioned to give voice and opportunity to those who would not otherwise have these privileges. We must use our power to advance those who lack access to it. Specifically, we’ll continue to look for opportunities to give access to well-qualified members of non-majority populations to leadership positions, ministry settings, and influence among the broader community.

We have and will continue to invite speakers, welcome authors and artists, appoint to committees, elect to boards and hire on staff a reflection of the beauty of the diversity of the Alliance family. Our National Office hiring policy is stated in such a way that minorities are not overlooked in search processes.

Meanwhile, from the national level, we’ll also continue to partner with those whom we feel it appropriate to team for broader impact. The most significant of these relationships is the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), whose representation is increasingly diverse and whose stand on matters of racism and injustice is clear. *Please note the links provided.

Those of us in leadership will continue to be in relationship with people from other cultures: to listen, learn, lament when appropriate, and love from a deeper place. Without relationship there is no understanding; without understanding there are no true efforts for change. On last week’s panel conversation, our African American Association President, Ron Morrison, said, “Change happens at the speed of relationship.” I agree.

And the team I lead is seeking to live in the complexity of multicultural friendships and teams. In this manner and numerous others, we’ll continue to seek to lead by example. But when others think of The Alliance, they’re primarily thinking not of the national but their local district and church. This is good as well.

Obviously, I can’t speak for every district and church, but as president, I will call us to this much.
First, please follow our example and do the things that you’ve just heard me reference. Second, seize the moment. Many churches are looking ahead to the post-quarantine reentry period as a time to, in some way, relaunch their church. As you do ask: “How prepared are we to receive other cultures than our dominant one?” Go further and ask the harder questions, the harder questions of the heart. “Are there communities around us that we would prefer didn’t come to our church?” Do you need to address issues of prejudice, ethnic pride, and racism in your hearts? Could the convergence of reentry to public gatherings and national unrest be the God moment for your church to confess the need for a new start in your attitude and approach toward the various populations within your reach? Repentance, heartfelt sorrow that leads to changes of behavior and spirit. Repentance is appropriate for many, including myself at this moment.

Meanwhile—pastors, as you look ahead at your summer sermon series, take serious inventory as to whether you’ve skipped the numerous and powerful biblical texts that deal with justice. I confess I didn’t do well in this category when I was a pastor. With fourth of July quickly approaching, perhaps it’s time to preach on this topic.

Finally, when some of us say The Alliance, we’re primarily thinking of the hundreds of thousands of people that make up the U.S. Alliance family, you and me as individuals in our neighborhoods and circles of influence. While those of us who are national-level leaders have responsibilities and local and district churches are called to do their part, I must remind us: Most Americans will never know that the National Office of the C&MA exists, and most have never come to your church, but millions of people already know you and me. We as individuals are the clearest representation of Christ many people will ever encounter. So, what does this moment in time call out of us? This is a moment for the church to love our neighbor. Seeing the neighbor we’ve not really seen.

I’ve appealed to the Alliance family numerous times in numerous settings, but I say it again—Get to know people who aren’t of your same social, economic and ethnic, or cultural background. My brothers and sisters who share my same skin color: When was the last time we had someone who didn’t look like us into our home or on our staff or in our small group or circle of friends? My Vietnamese brother, do you have a Hmong friend? Chinese friends, do you know an African American well enough to have a frank conversation? Are your only deep relationships those who share your background? We trust those we know. And if we only know people like us, it’s no wonder we have such division and breakdown in our culture. Even if we don’t have an African-American friend, we can at least honor and enter the grief they’re experiencing.

George Floyd’s funeral services hadn’t even been conducted yet, and I was hearing the “It’s time to move on” message. Mourning with those who mourn is a deeply Christian value and characteristic. Let’s live it out. Shared grief is an expression of love. And this is a moment to broaden the circle of people we know and love. This is also a moment to speak the gospel, the death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ for all people that leads us to belief and repentance, provides the pathway to the grace and forgiveness that this world so desperately needs.

This is a moment to take a good look at our hearts and make sure that we see all people in the image of God. God declared that Adam and Eve were created in His image, male and female. He placed His likeness within us. We are image bearers of the Divine. And from them came every person you will ever meet.

How can we look down on anyone whom God has breathed life into? Fallen, depraved? Yes, all of us. It is only grace that makes us different than anyone else.

But above all people, recipients of the grace of Christ must see every person through the eyes of heaven, not the eyes of ethnic pride. I’m out of time. But perhaps it’s poetic that this video blog doesn’t have a clear ending because it’s intended to be a beginning.

*NAE Statement on Racism
Message from NAE Leaders on Racial Justice and Equality

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