The following article from Disciple Nations Alliance president Scott Allen, offered here in two parts, originally appeared at WORLD.
We desperately need to speak transforming truth to the culture. In part 1 we treated transforming truth #1: All Lives Matter.
Transforming Truth #2 – God cares for us (and judges us) as individuals
God created us as unique individuals. He cares about each person individually. He counts our tears and numbers our hairs. He also holds us accountable as individuals for the decisions we make, and the actions we take. When we face the final judgement, the book opened will be the book of our lives. There will be no excusing our sinful behavior because we are part of a group that has been oppressed, nor will we be judged for the sins of our fathers or grandfathers. No, we will stand alone before that judgment throne, and all that will matter is what we did, or didn’t do.
Here’s the bad news: God will declare each one of guilty. Our own words and actions will be revealed, and show us to be unrighteous sinners before the glorious brilliance of an altogether holy, just and righteous God. We cannot stand in His presence unless our sins are wiped away, and that would require someone to take the punishment we deserve. Someone would have to pay our debt, exchanging their righteousness for our unrighteousness. Only God could do such a thing, and, staggeringly, that’s exactly what He has done in Jesus Christ. All that remains for us is to open our hearts and our hands and humbly accept this priceless gift. But we must do this individually. Nobody can do it on our behalf.
Yes, our families, churches, and ethnic groups are important. They are God-given and valuable. These communities shape us in profound ways. But here’s the powerful thing: Just as the Bible affirms unity and diversity, it also affirms individuality and community.
Today, the emphasis in the culture is all on community—tribe—identity group. Our culture increasingly defines us by skin color or gender. Not only that, it draws the line between good and evil between identity groups, rather than through every human heart (as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn famous put it). Increasingly, sinfulness and righteousness are seen as functions of group identity, not personal behavior. For example, it is increasingly common to hear the assertion that only white people can be racists (that is to say, evil). Therefore, if you are not white, you are good, or at least not evil. This is a false and dangerous belief. All of us are more than capable of evil thoughts and evil actions, regardless of our skin color, or relative power in society. Evil, including racism, isn’t merely a white problem. It is a human problem.
We must reject this tribal idolatry. We must not treat people merely as members of a group, but as unique individuals. We must never judge others by their skin color or gender, but by the totality of their character and behavior. True justice must always be color-blind. Martin Luther King’s dream of a world where his children would be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin is profoundly biblical, and profoundly American as well. After all, our founding creed declares that all men—black, brown, red, yellow, and white—are created equal, and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. That is why we fought a civil war. That is what the civil rights movement was ultimately about—being true to our founding creed. Tragically, King’s dream is waning and we are casting aside our founding creed. If we continue down this road, we will end up in a very dark place indeed.
Transforming Truth #3 – Gratitude, not resentfulness, leads to life and flourishing
Gratitude—thankfulness—is a bedrock virtue for good reason. It reminds us that we are contingent, dependent creatures. It diminishes pride, the most deadly of sins. We are all dependent on God for our very lives, for every breath we take. We are dependent on one another—on our families, nations, forebears. We rightly acknowledge this dependence, and express gratitude for all we’ve been given.
Today, there is a great deal of effort, money and organization going into activities aimed at stirring up resentment between different identity groups, fostering bitterness and a sense of victimization. Sensitivity to even small slights or “micro aggressions” is now not only accepted but encouraged.
The focus here is never internal—on my own vices and shortcomings, on getting the log out of my own eye. Rather, the focus is entirely external—on the thoughts, beliefs and actions of others. We are increasingly quick to disparage people based on group identity. We cast derisive labels—bigot, hater, racist, sexist. Evil is always over there, not in here. I’m the victim. I’m offended. My feelings are hurt. I’m mistreated. It’s all about me.
In a fallen world, there is no shortage of injustice and oppression. It is real, and it must be carefully identified and fought against by the power of transforming truth. However, to focus only on the bad things, real or perceived, that others do to us—to elevate our sense of victimhood into a kind of perverse virtue—is to move in a very dangerous direction, one that will tear our country apart.
How ironic that the Ku Klux Klan and Black Lives Matter have many of these things in common. They both traffic in a racialized ideology. They both fixate on their status as victims, convinced that they are being “targeted for genocide.” They both foster resentment, bitterness, and hatred towards the other. They both tacitly endorse violence. They both see themselves as a vanguard, and invite us to follow their lead. But where will they take us? To disaster. Consider South Sudan, the Rwandan genocide, or the Balkans. That is the end of this road of bitterness, resentfulness, victimization and scapegoating. It is a mindset straight from the pit, and those that foster it, intentionally or otherwise are enemies of all that is good, true and beautiful.
No, we must never succumb to such thinking. We must choose the more excellent way by nurturing hearts of gratitude rooted in humility and awareness of our own sinfulness and dependence on others. We must first get the log out of our own eye, and then we’ll be able to see clearly to help others deal with their shortcomings.
These are all transforming truths of the biblical worldview. When applied in families, churches, communities and nations, they lead to joy, freedom, and flourishing. When we move away from them in any direction, as we are today, we choose division, hatred, and violence.
As followers of Jesus Christ we are ambassadors of His Kingdom. We are to be salt and light. We must have the courage to champion these truths now more than ever. It won’t be easy. These are increasingly unpopular ideas. We must prepare to be misunderstood, mischaracterized, or worse.
Some will be tempted to filter the Scripture, whether knowingly or not, to conform to the toxic, non-biblical ideologies that are growing stronger in our culture each day. Perhaps motivated by a desire for cultural relevance, or a need for acceptance by the right people, they fall into the trap of accommodating Christianity to popular cultural trends. We must never allow the culture to determine what the Scripture says. Rather, we must allow Scripture to prophetically critique the culture.
Some will be tempted to keep their heads down, lie low, ignore the problem, or even retreat. But if we want to be obedient to our mandate to love our neighbor, and work for the common good, apathy, silence and retreat aren’t options.
We are stewards of God’s powerful transforming truth. God has entrusted us with these truths not for our own benefit, but for the good of our communities and our nation. If we fail to cherish, embody and champion these truths, who else will? This is our time. Let us not shrink from it.
- Scott Allen