Standing in the Gospel

Addie Michaelian, Guest Writer

Sitting around the dinner table, my family and I have had many uncomfortable conversations during the past few weeks about the reality of the sin and racism that permeates our world. Navigating this season as an interracial family has often felt overwhelming, and  presented many opportunities for painful growth. Throughout these often difficult discussions, we have intentionally rehearsed the Gospel over and over again, and what it means for the way we engage with one another as Chistians. Our society often provides only two options, telling us that we can simply ignore the sin and brokenness of racism, or demanding that we live in despair and bitterness. The Gospel presents a third option. It wounds us, shows us our sin, breaks down the places where pride has festered, and then offers healing and deliverance. The Gospel does not allow us to ignore our sin and racism, yet neither does it leave us to despair. If we as Christians do not place the Gospel at the center of how we engage with one another regarding issues of racism, our conversations will resemble the world. 

The Gospel forces us to acknowledge the reality of our sin that often manifests in individual and systemic racism. We as humans are hopelessly lost and unable to craft a good society.  Sin warps relationships, penetrates the goodness of creation, and twists our systems. History tells the story of individuals who were broken and held captive to sin. Upholding the image of God in others is not second-nature. Systems are broken because we choose to slander that image by instituting unjust laws and seeking our own welfare above that of others. The Gospel forces us to acknowledge this reality and take responsibility for the ways we have chosen to reject God and degrade those around us. As Christians, we do not have the option to remain ignorant or apathetic. The Gospel does not allow us to escape the heaviness and brokenness of sin or the way it is manifested in our systems and institutions.  

Neither does the Gospel abandon us to despair. It is only when we are forced to confront the brutality and brokenness caused by our sin, that we can truly understand the magnitude of the Gospel and the incomprehensible beauty of grace. Christ did not leave us alone in our brokenness. He loved us first. He took our punishment. His death offers hope. Nothing we did or can do could possibly earn his grace. He bent down in our sinfulness and cherished us. Systemic racism does not have the final word. Injustice does not have the final word. The media does not have the final word. Society tempts us to despair because it places the burden of atonement for sin on our shoulders. Christ has already paid the price. He has already conquered sin and death. 

The Gospel enables us to move forward in love and transforms the way we engage with others. As the Church, our conversations surrounding issues of systemic and individual racism should not resemble the world’s despair. Christ’s resurrection equips us to pursue transformation in our own lives and in the society around us with hope. In this culture of divisive and self-righteous rhetoric, the Gospel changes our conversations and the way we view one another. It turns our eyes from creation to the Creator, who loves his creatures with an unbreakable love more powerful than anything we can imagine. It calls us to remember the unmerited grace we’ve been given and offer that to others even when it is uncomfortable, doesn’t align with our party values, or puts us to shame in the eyes of a culture that often views grace, forgiveness and true empathy as weakness. The Gospel calls us to die for our accusers, to lay down our lives for those who hate us as Christ did on the cross. It forces us outside of our comfort zones, beyond party lines, and past popular slogans. We serve a Savior who engaged in uncomfortable conversations and invited the marginalized to the table. We serve a Savior who hung on a cross and cried out to God to forgive his oppressors because “they know not what they do.”  We serve a Savior who loved us first and always pursues. It is through this love which does not come from ourselves that we as the Church can reach out to others with true empathy, and refuse to succumb to the bitterness permeating so much of our current rhetoric.

The gospel doesn’t allow us to ignore sin and racism. Yet neither does it allow us to live in despair. The Gospel offers a healing grace that transforms despair into hope because we know Christ has already paid the price. It is in his power and not our own that we can love those around us with humble empathy, and uphold human dignity in every area of our society. Unless we as Christians choose daily to place the gospel at the center of our conversations, our actions and rhetoric will resemble the world. We must stand in the reality of our sin. We must stand in the reality of God’s grace that transforms. We must stand in the reality of the simple Gospel.