As all of us have watched the sad and frightening images around our nation in response to the death of George Floyd, I know we’re all deeply troubled. His death was sickening and tragic, an outworking of the fall of man and a broken, sinful world. What’s happened in its aftermath is also tragic. Although I know as followers of Christ none of us would condone breaking the law or violence in response to violence (least of all those who are genuinely trying to effectuate change), I also know a great deal of what we’ve seen is so much frustration and anger at generations of sin. Our world is so broken and sad, and what we’ve all endured over the past few months, as well as the past couple of weeks, is sharp evidence of that brokenness.
Which is why, in our spirits and hearts, we desperately need the gospel more than ever. The gospel speaks seeking and granting forgiveness in the midst of wrongdoing; reconciliation in the midst of broken relationships; redemption of things that are lost and destroyed; and, new life breathed into things that are dead. I deeply believe if our culture is to have any hope whatsoever, it will come from the people for whom Jesus bled and died, and who now live in His name.
Our philosophy of unity and diversity at GCS says that God and His people delight in the diversity in which He created us, as a means by which to better image and worship Him. And, at the very same time, we rejoice in the unity we have as brothers and sisters joined as family by the Cross. This unity that Christ prayed for in the upper room (John 17) would give testimony to the world that He was who He claimed to be.
Celebrating both diversity and unity are what it means to be people of God’s Word. We can’t really claim to be His without it (1 John 3). Both of these things are true, this idea of celebrating both unity and diversity, and in an “either/or” world, where people are so polarized over black or white, blue or red, and whatever else I am and you are not, our minds seem to default away from the gospel reality that God is a god of “both/and”: mercy and justice; love and judgment; grief and joy; respecting and supporting the authority God has placed over me and working to make it better; and, diversity and unity. To be His is to embrace a “both/and” perspective on so many things. And, in a fallen world fractured by generational sin, all of these things are very, very hard to achieve. But, just about everything God calls or commands us to is hard. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t need Him desperately to achieve it.
In my blogs and writings, I really try to keep my politics to myself. Part of being a discerning follower of Jesus Christ is knowing what is political and what is biblical, and not confusing the two. These issues we have been talking about the past few weeks are about justice and mercy and the human dignity we’re all entitled to as image bearers of God. It’s also about reconciliation and forgiveness that can only come through Jesus. All that flows directly from God’s Word, and we are people of the Word. As the Body of Christ, we have to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.
For all of us, this begins with prayer, asking the Lord to bring healing, restoration, and justice to our world. Recently, I saw a great prayer from John Piper, a resident of Minneapolis, that captures so much of the spirit of what I believe we as Christians ought to pray (https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-sorrows-of-minneapolis). Piper’s prayer captures this spirit of “both/and” as he prays for the heart of everyone impacted, as should we.
As a school community, we’ve always tried to be a people of grace, however flawed that may have looked over time. I’ve heard it said by others outside our school off and on over the years that our school, among others, was started as a response to desegregation in our city. As a student of history, I know other schools started in other places that way, so I can see how those who haven’t actually done any research might believe that to be the case with ours. But, nothing could be further from the truth as it pertains to Grace. At the time Grace church was considering starting a school, there were, in fact, a small group who wanted to start a school as a reaction or a response to desegregation in Tyler. John Morris, the first pastor at Grace and our elders at the time steadfastly refused, declaring that if and when we had a school, it would be based upon the gospel of Jesus and not on prejudice or racial animus. Plans were shelved for a full two years, until that “white flight” element went away, and the school could be then founded according to the gospel-centric intent of its founders.
I’m grateful that God guided our people that way. Since then, we haven’t always been as intentional in actively pursuing diversity and unity in our school as we could have been. And, it’s one of those things you have to be intentional about, because it’s like the longshore current at the beach- if you’re not pushing against it, it’s pushing you downshore. But, actively pursuing unity in diversity is the heart of God, and our hearts must be aligned with His.
In my conversations with several of our school family members right now, many are saddened, angry, and hurt in ways I can’t begin to understand; yet, love compels us not to deny or neglect it, but to embrace and encourage others like us to rally around those we love, to try to understand, and to try to be better and do better, and leave this 400-year-old problem better off for our children than we found it. Like I tell my kids, whether it’s trafficking, or abortion, or racism, as a child of God, whether or not you’re guilty, you are responsible for doing something about it.
I’m always proud of our school community, and the way it loves. Our alumni are salt and light to the world around them, and I know they learned it here. My prayers is that we’ll continue to be a testimony of the truth of Christ with which we’ve been entrusted.