If we will call racial conflicts a “gospel issue” then truly let that gospel bear fruit, for “love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” What is more, “perfect love casts out fear.”
Any gospel that we apply to the painful conflicts in our nation that does not drive us this way is not actually the gospel. It is merely a theological paper bag conveniently placed over our heads to block out what we choose not to see. It is a lie that co-opts the name “good news” and morphs into bad.
Can we rightly say we are patient and kind? Can we examine our lives and see where we have insisted on our own way or passively allowed the insistence of our ancestors to continue wreaking racial havoc? Can we recognize and loathe the wrongdoing in our own lives and in our collective response (or lack thereof) to the tragic deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner as much as we point it out in the riots of Ferguson or the shoplifting of Brown? Can we search for truth to rejoice in with our black neighbors instead of facts we claim as truth to hold over their heads and win arguments? Are we bearing with our hurting brothers and sisters? To bear you must acknowledge that a burden exists to be borne. Will we hope and endure with them by sticking it out, not letting this go, refusing to be swept away by the next phenomenon in our 24-hour news cycle?
What we cannot do is use the gospel as an excuse to be distant, a reason to dismiss minorities, a conceptual think-piece to be discussed and pontificated upon, or a high-level idea that is so big as to be inapplicable. Rather we must break it down to its components, its implications and its applications and begin taking steps. Begin doing. Like all our efforts to reflect Jesus and follow Jesus, it will be slow going and there will be missteps. But godly progress with missteps is infinitely better than sitting tight and hiding behind “the gospel.”