Throughout 2019 the IPHC has focused on the biblical issue of justice. In 2020 we will place our focus on our seventh core value: “We Prayerfully Value Generosity.” There is a correlation between justice, and all our other core values, with the spirit and actions of generosity. Our core values are interconnected.
As we close this focus on justice for 2019, there are three observations I want to emphasize. While some of this relates directly to the United States, the principles apply to the IPHC globally. The justice theme this year has focused on listening to the “voices” of those who suffer injustice. The most important voice is God’s voice calling us to live righteously in our sin-scarred world.
First, over the past few years in my interactions with African-American Christians from across the theological spectrum, I have discovered how difficult it is for me as a white American Christian to comprehend the ongoing impact of slavery, legal segregation (Jim Crow laws), and the latent racism that impacts our society.
I learned that the color of your skin determined “the talk” that parents have with their children. As a white parent, “the talk” is about sexual morality (the “birds and the bees”). For African-American parents, “the talk” is about how to respond when you are stopped by the police. Both are issues of life and death, but one is perceived as more about death.
We all should make a trip to Montgomery, Alabama, to visit the numerous Civil Rights museums there. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice features several hundred large columns representing the counties and states where more than 4,000 African-Americans were lynched from the 1880s to the 1940s. The names of the victims are etched on these stone columns. That history remains real in the consciousness of many Americans.
God is calling the body of Christ to bear witness to reconciliation, healing, and unity in our time. I’m grateful that many IPHC congregations I visit have people worshipping together whose skin colors are different.
May we leave church and go out and eat together in public! May we invite each other to visit in our homes! May we serve together in our communities! May we take time to sit and listen to our stories, better understanding our cultural differences and our togetherness in the kingdom of God!
Second, I am grateful the IPHC has taken a clear stand for life, especially the life of the unborn. I invite you to join me and thousands of others in Washington, D.C., on Friday, January 24, 2020, for the March for Life.
I am also grateful that the IPHC is providing opportunities for women who face difficult circumstances. One such outreach is the Royal Home in Falcon, North Carolina. There are local congregations partnering with local pro-life ministries that provide hope for women and their unborn children.
Multiplied millions of children have been aborted in the United States since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. We are nearly fifty years since this national policy, funded with tax dollars, became the law of the land. Today our nation is without millions of people who would be contributing to our economy, education, culture, and, yes, our religious life.
I encourage the IPHC family to be engaged in the civic discourse of this issue. Respectfully write your state and national legislators. Support pro-life facilities and events in your area. And show Christ’s loving mercy to people facing the difficult circumstances surrounding unplanned pregnancies.
Third, religious liberty is a growing concern globally. In India, IPHC ministers have been martyred for their faith. Christians along the tenth parallel from Africa to Asia face life-threatening conditions and are often treated as second-class citizens. We must remember that our voice for religious liberty includes speaking up for non-Christian religions.
As Jesus taught us, let us “do unto others as we would have them do unto us” (Luke 6:31). In the Western world, religious liberty issues are in conflict with the dominant societal views on human sexuality and identity.
The dividing line in the western cultural experience is human sexuality, specifically the cluster of issues surrounding sexual orientation and gender. The tolerance of the spirit of the age is moving towards intolerance towards any different expression or even thought.
Today, the debate over these issues is in the courts, in the marketplace, in public opinion, in education, and in churches. Sadly, sexual lifestyles that are contrary to the teachings of the Bible are advocated by the United States government around the world. Recently a presidential candidate of a major U.S. political party publicly advocated restrictions (i.e., punishment) against religious institutions that refuse to bow to these new definitions of “rights” and “human dignity.”
This is not only an issue for evangelical Christians. It has profound implications for Roman Catholics, Orthodox churches, and even mosques.
In this matter I want you to join me in prayer and reflection in two areas. First, we need to pray for the political parties in the United States. We must be willing to wisely and respectfully communicate with city, state, and national leaders our convictions and our concerns over religious liberty issues globally and locally.
Second, as IPHC leaders and members we should not be naïve about the negative atmosphere in the culture towards churches and institutions that believe marriage is between one man and one woman, and that God created people male and female.
Just ask Chick-Fil-A, an NFL player, or an evangelical parachurch group at a state university how vicious the attacks are if you refuse to accept the redefinitions demanded by our society. In some political, business, and educational spheres, IPHC members need to be prepared to be falsely labeled as homophobic, intolerant, and hateful.
But we are not those things. We are salt and light in the world, and we live by God’s truth, God’s mercy, and God’s love for our lost and broken world. Let us be wise. Let us be righteous. And let us not be afraid.
Originally published in Encourage magazine