26 November 2014

Seven revelations of Ferguson

by Dan Phillips

I was just as happy to have my plans to write on this yesterday curtailed by Frank's post, as I usually am. It gave me a day more to ponder. That done — the ponderation having been ponderously pondered — I'll offer some thoughts, which in intent will be very like those I offered about "the Florida revival." That is, they will be Biblical principles whose application is I think fairly obvious.

Frank's focus was on the undeniable human tragedy. I won't reinvent that wheel, but will focus on other aspects. I hope the posts will be complementary. Don't blame his post for not being mine, nor mine for not being his. Fair enough?

To the seven revelations of Ferguson:

First: men outside of Christ are still hateful and still hate each other (Titus 3:3). Anger simmers not far below the surface. Evolution, real or imagined, biological or social, has changed none of that. No Federal program will fix it, no state or local legislation will fix it. It is a problem of the human heart, which lurks beneath every epidermal hue. Someone needs to propose a solution that transforms hearts. Anyone know of one?

Second: it still is better to gather the facts and hear an array of perspectives before coming to a conclusion (Proverbs 18:17). Some spoke awfully quickly when this situation first made the news. There seemed to be some feeling that immediate conclusions and statements should be made and issued.

One of the problems with this is that, once a public statement has been made, one is reluctant to walk it back publicly. Human nature and human pride make it very hard to retract a dogmatic stance, once publicly adopted. Better to wait longer and say less, than to jump the gun (pun unintended) and say too much.

Third: people ought to stick to what they know (cf. Proverbs 25:14). Being an expert in one area has nothing to do with expertise in others. For instance, one Christian brother who is a bookish conference speaker/author offered this:
To that, an equally-Christian brother with twenty years of actual experience in law enforcement responded:
Neither brother, probably, could do what the other does. It might have been well for the former to punt on this question, and stick with Scripture. "A man's got to know his limitations" may not be in Scripture verbatim, but it's sage advice.

As I'm trying to do. I'm a Christian, and I'm a minister of the word of God. If I have expertise, it's there. So I'll endeavor to speak as such.

Fourth: the very best thing parents of all ethnicities can do for their children is (1) repent and believe savingly in Christ (1 John 3:16), (2) advance in His Word as genuine disciples (John 8:31-32), (3) involve themselves in a faithful Gospel-proclaiming, Bible-teaching church (Hebrews 10:24-25), (4) marry before having children and honor the marital bond (Matthew 19:3-9) — and, in that overall context, (5) raise children in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4, among many others). In that context, they will teach their children many indispensable life-lessons. For instance, they will teach their children that
  • The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10)
  • Therefore they should seek and cultivate and embrace the fear of God from their earliest days (Proverbs 2:1ff.)
  • Gangs will appeal to their most vulnerable points, but they must consider their violent end and heed the inscripturated voice of God's wisdom instead (Proverbs 1:10-32)
  • Immoral people will sweet-talk them, but by Dad's instruction and God's word they should see right through it (Proverbs 2:16ff; 7:1ff.)
  • They should pick godly friends who walk in the fear of God, or else they will come to harm (Proverbs 13:20; 22:24-25)
  • They should avoid drunkards (and, therefore, druggies; Proverbs 23:20-21)
  • They should study hard in school and learn a profitable skill while children (Proverbs 22:29)
  • They should know that what will matter and will reveal their character is not how they see or feel about themselves, but what they actually produce (Proverbs 20:11)
  • They should take full responsibility for their own choices and actions, and never blame others for what they choose and do (Ezekiel 18:4, 20; Romans 14:10, 12; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 6:5, 7-8, etc.).
  • They should never steal, but instead should be productive and generous (cf. Ephesians 4:28)
  • They should respect officers of the law as God's servants, knowing that disrespect for the office is disrespect for God which invites His judgment (Romans 13, especially vv. 1-5)
  • If they defy the lawful authority, they should expect God's judgment to fall on them (Romans 13:4-5a).
  • If in any of these things they choose to defy God and rebel against Him and His word, they must expect both of their parents to stand with God, and not to make excuses for, coddle, enable, or otherwise try to deodorize their sin (cf. Deuteronomy 21:18ff.)
Fifth: faithful pastors must prescribe and teach these things without prejudice (2 Timothy 2:14; Titus 3:1-2).  What I'm saying won't make the beautiful people love you. They won't. They won't praise you (as a Tweep did John Piper) for being "nuanced." You'll be told you're insensitive, you're ignoring the real problems, you're impractical. But as a minister of the Gospel, you know better. Sin is the problem. Sin is always the problem at some level; and there's only one solution for sin. The Son's blood buys your freedom (Ephesians 1:7), and the Son's word shows you how to live in it (John 8:31-32). 

That's what you have to give. You're not a social engineering genius. You're a servant of God who has His word. Don't set it aside. It applies here.

Sixth: if the issue of racism is ever to be resolved, people will have to stop thinking of bitterness and suspicion and resentment and prejudice as ills that other people really have to get over (cf. Romans 2:21-23; 1 Corinthians 10:12). Now, hear me: If you can read that sentence and think, "Well, he mainly means whites" or "blacks," you know something I don't. I mean people. I mean you, I mean me. I mean every color on the palette.

I've seen this in marriage. Every pastor has. The sure prescription for deadlock, for stalemate, is two people who are willing to change just as soon as the other person changes. You think that doesn't apply here? Mercy.

Seventh: the only real solution for racism is the one God instituted: the cross of Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:28-29; Ephesians 2:14-22; Colossians 3:11). Astute readers will say, "Some of those verses are about Jews and Gentiles, so they don't apply." To that, first: maybe some of those verses are, but not all; and second, they don't? You think the Cross addresses Jew-Gentile hatred and suspicion and contempt, but not black-white hatred and suspicion and contempt?

There isn't a Federal program that will fix this, or a local one. If one person says, "Let's make it harder for cops to kill people," another will say "Let's make it harder for people to menace cops." And each person will sound like he's enabling some form of sin — either a hypothetical thug's sin against a decent cop, or a hypothetical trigger-happy cop's sin against an innocent teen. You see where this goes? It's all beside the point.

The point is that only God has the answer, and it's the one we find only in His word.

Dan Phillips's signature


10 comments:

Robert said...

Good thoughts, Dan. Blends very well with Frank's thoughts yesterday. I think you're driving home the point that it is more important for us to be about winning souls that winning arguments.

Bob Dalberg said...

No greater truth in the whole matter. Just wish those who are the Top Men would be relentless with the solution you just laid out. Lord have mercy.

Frank Turk said...

I completely endorse this message.

DJP said...

Day = made.

Good night, all!

Terry Rayburn said...

Oh, you pastors are tricky rascals. You set out 7 points, but slip in 13 bullet points under one of them, totaling about 20. :)

Fortunately, those 13 bullet points comprise as compact a foundational presentation of wisdom as one is likely to find, swirling around this tragedy. Well worth printing out and studying with the cited verses, and teaching.

Wisdom cries out in the streets even when they burn.

jmb said...

Very good.

But don't you know that all of us want to know John Piper's thoughts on EVERYTHING? I think that he thinks so.

veritasdomain said...

Good post Dan; just the right tone and Gospel driven.

Susan said...

If you still had star ratings, I'd give this a 5. :)

Burrito34 said...

Some people need to know and obey Christ's words in John 7 :24, Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment. "

Todd Pruitt said...

Excellent. Thanks Dan.