“Races” Don’t Reconcile, People Do: How to Love, Listen and Live like Christ

2020 Messages

In this Sunday outdoor message, Todd shares how we are to love others, listen to their stories, and live like Christ during this time of racial turmoil and injustice in our country.

Todd WagnerJun 7, 2020Acts 17:26; Proverbs 18:2; Micah 6:8; Genesis 4:7-10; Luke 10; Luke 13:1-5; Proverbs 18:2,13; Job 6:26

Discussing and Applying the Sermon

  • Who is one person in your life that you could move toward and get to know better? To ask questions about their story?


Have you ever wondered how to talk to people who are hurting? People who appear to be different than you? Todd Wagner teaches how to have conversations with people who are hurting and look different than you do…how to love, listen, and live like Christ.

Key Takeaways

  • We are unified as a people biologically. There is one race. There are different ethnicities, but we are one race.
  • I can’t talk about racial reconciliation because race doesn’t exist. I also can’t talk about it because races don’t reconcile...people do!
  • Reconciliation always starts with being reconciled to God and then each other.
  • Every single person has a story, and one of the most loving things you can do when you meet someone is to get to know their story...to move into their world and get to know their pain and their joy.
  • When you have chronic pain it affects everything you do. You also don’t bring it up a lot...you try to live your life, even though you live in it continually.
  • Hurt people hurt people.
  • One of our problems is that most of us are more influenced by the eyes of the enemy than we are by the eyes of Christ. Other people aren’t our enemies…Satan is.
  • There is a Savior who rescues people from judgment and sin, and He cares for you.
  • If we are going to protest, we must have clarity about what we are protesting.
  • Racism and injustice are not the problem. They are symptoms of the problem. Sin is the problem, and it has always been the problem.
  • The poor, racism, and injustice will always be with us until Jesus comes back. However, as Christians, we are to fight against all of them until He does.
  • Understand other people’s chronic pain and see if there is something you can do to help them.
  • Sin is what creates broken policies & systems and what causes all of our pain.
  • Jesus and repentance are not just one of the solutions to the problems we are facing. He and His gospel are the only solution to the problem.
  • Before we deal with systemic injustice we must deal with the people who make up the systems.
  • Quit calling for revival. Revive. Quit calling for racial reconciliation. Reconcile.
  • The key to effective interpersonal communication is to ask questions and listen.
  • Ask your friend who is hurting, "Do you want me to just listen, or are you seeking counsel from me?"
  • Sometimes when people vent and come at you they are doing it out of pain, it’s not personal.
  • We are all responsible for our words and one of the marks of a Spirit controlled person is self control.
  • We should respond to others’ stories the way we would want them to respond to our story.
  • Christians, you are the perfect people for such a time as this. You are the salt of the world. Please bring the solution!

Well, let me tell you what I'm not going to talk about today, and that's racial reconciliation. The reason I'm not going to do that is because that's impossible. First of all, when you talk about race you may as well be talking about unicorns. Forgive me if you're here with your child, but unicorns don't exist, and neither does race. That is a social construct. It is not a biblical idea. In Acts 17:26, the Scripture says, "…he made from one man every nation…"

When we were together a number of days ago on Saturday night outside, I shared with you the fact that when my kids were sometimes given the assignment in elementary school to talk about their most famous ancestor, you know, they were always a little disappointed when we didn't have anything really great to share with them.

So I always said, "Just go tell them your most famous ancestor is Noah! And tell them he built this ark in the middle of a desert when there had never been rain before and warned the world of pending judgment because the hearts of men have grown cold. And that your great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, grandfather saved literally the human race." That was always an interesting conversation that that started with their teacher, but specifically in Acts 17:26, it's not talking about Noah; it's talking about Adam.

We are unified as a genus, as a people biologically. There is one race. Now there is differentiation within that we call ethnicities. You see that probably show up around Genesis, chapter 10, where you have the formation of nations, and due to God's beautiful design, he allowed, as we moved away from one another, to adapt different characteristics that allowed us to thrive in different parts of the world, or for other reasons that are just unknown to us.

I can't talk about racial reconciliation because race doesn't exist. Also, I can't talk about racial reconciliation because races don't reconcile; people do. What God wants us to do is to be people who are reconciled to God; therefore we reconcile with one another. Nations can make treaties, leaders can make agreements, but people reconcile.

When you talk about racial reconciliation, it's a lot like talking about repentance and revival, and how we pray for revival, and it's crazy we pray for revival like it's some mystical group of people out there somewhere who will suddenly have the Spirit of God fall on them, and there'll be revival in this group of people. Revival always happens in a person who then invites other people into that conversion, and they are also revivified, and then together there is a revival in community. But it always starts with us, and reconciliation starts with us.

What I want to speak to you about today is how to talk to people who are different than you. Every one of us is different, if not in external experiences. We all have different nurturing. We all have different circumstances. We all have different stories. Every single person you meet is a story. One of the most loving things you can do when you first begin to have a conversation with somebody is say, "Tell me your story."

One of the things I've seen that's absolutely true of my friends who have not been loved is that they don't know how to ask questions or think about other people. One of the marks of us as God's people is that we do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind we consider each other as more important than ourselves, which means I don't want to just sit there and give you my resume, I don't want you to respond to my world, I want to move into your world among other things, and understand your pain. I want to know your joys.

I want to rejoice with you in what there is to rejoice about, and I want to mourn with you in what there is to mourn about. That's what Jesus did. He came and brought us joy and multiplied our joy, and he grieved with us over sin and death, and because he's King of Kings and Lord of Lords and God of Gods and our Rock and our Redeemer, he delivered us from that which was the cause of our mourning. And Jesus wants us to be that to one another. Races don't reconcile; people reconcile.

Now I don't know if you know this about me, but let me talk about myself for a second. And I think it'll help you with where we're going as we learn to talk to one another. I don't even really remember when it was, but I guess it was about three to four years ago. For the first time in my life, I experienced chronic pain. I had never experienced chronic pain before, but I began to. Through years of abusing my body, through just sports and activity, something happened, and I'm not even sure what, that caused a disc to rupture in my back.

I woke up one day, and my right arm was numb, and there was massive tingling in all my fingers, and I really didn't have much feeling as I moved my right hand. My right side got so weak, I could not lift my right arm to shampoo my head. I would literally do this, and then I could squeeze it and do that with my other hand, and then I would bring it back down.

There was one position that gave me relief. It was this. I just looked like, you know, somebody who was constantly wanting to ask everybody else a question. This is how I could find any relief. I don't know what it was about that position, but that was the position that allowed me not to be thinking about my neck and my right side.

If you go back and look, there were about six months every morning at Watermark when the bumper was playing, and you guys were stopping your conversations with one another, and I was getting ready to speak. The last thing I was doing while the bumper was playing was I was standing up front like this, and then the bumper would stop, and I would drop my arm, and I'd go, "Good morning, Watermark! Here we go!" And off I'd run.

Now those who knew me well understood that I was experiencing this. My wife knew it because she was with me all the time. I shared with my community. Friends prayed for me, but here's the thing about chronic pain. You don't want to remind people. I just kept moving. You know, when I was with people, I'd just kind of would sit there and do this and move as best I could. I didn't have to raise my right hand very much, so no one really knew, but it affected everything I did.

I didn't bring it up a lot. I didn't go, "Hey, man, do you know how much I'm hurting right now?" I just lived my life and tried to love others and not make it about me. Even the folks who love me the most, because I would just do that, would stop after the first week really asking me, "Hey, Todd, how's your neck doing?" They loved me, but they'd see me, and because I didn't talk about it, it didn't come up as the first thing we mentioned. And I didn't bring it up every time, but I was living in it continually, and I frankly felt a little self-centered and bothersome when I kept asking people to pray for me.

Now look. Here's the thing with that. Mine was physical, and eventually through a couple of procedures and some flushing out of the toxicity that was leaking out of that herniated disc, I got to where I'm functioning pretty normally with just a little numbness in my fingers, but my point is this. It's that physicality of suffering moved away from me, but there are a lot of us in this circle and watching online certainly who have emotional pain and life experience that can't have a little saline and steroid and treatment to make it go away.

Sometimes they're angry, and sometimes they're suspicious, and sometimes they're awkward, and sometimes they're difficult to be around. Hurt people hurt people. Hurting people hurt. You might wonder why somebody responds the way they do, and what I would say to you is something really wise to do would be to just move towards people and ask, "Tell me your story. Tell me what's going on. Let me be your friend."

Proverbs 18:2 says this. "A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind." I don't really care why, you know, you have one arm that is an inch bigger than the other one. I don't really care why you don't get over there and lift that. I just want to assume it's because you're an idiot and you just do curls with one side of your body. I think you're lazy and so you don't want to contribute when other people are moving things. Or I could move towards you and just say, "Hey, man, I've noticed," or, "I don't know you. Can you tell me your story?"

I want to talk this morning about how you communicate to people who aren't like you, how you move towards folks you think you have nothing in common with, and I think it's going to be really, really helpful for us. My story is I grew up in a fairly mixed ethnic environment. I had people of different ethnicities who were my friends. I played sports with them. They spent the night at my house. I'd spend the time and nights at their house. It was just no big deal for me.

But I realized as I moved out of that particular environment and into other places, and even as I've been pastoring Watermark, people don't assume that about me. They don't know my story. They just assume I've never known anything but what they think they know about me from where I'm at. I have a responsibility to pursue people. This is what we're doing. We are devoting ourselves today to God's Word. We're going to pursue each other relationally.

We're going to love those who aren't going to love us because they're hurting, and they're suspicious of us because they've never seen anybody love them. They've lived in a world that has been abusive towards them, or it hasn't offered them any kindness, and we're going to be the first expression of kindness they ever run into because the kindness of God has changed our hearts. And the fruit of the Spirit is in our lives, and so love and kindness and goodness and gentleness and self-control will be our way because it's Jesus' way.

I have many friends who are on the color scale differently than me. All of us are people of color. Some of us have less color than others. I realize that people who have the same color as me have had different experiences than me, and I shouldn't assume because of the same color as me that their life experience is the same as mine, and that is also true of people who aren't the same color as me.

I had a chance yesterday just to text with a friend. His name is Thabiti, and he sometimes in times like are going on in our nation, he's one of the guys people want to speak with and learn from and hear perspective from. He always teases that Thabiti is Swahili for "Let's let the black guy talk about race." We shouldn't let the black guy talk about race because, as he would tell you, race doesn't exist, and secondly, we want to let Jesus talk about ethnicity, and brokenness, and confusion.

But yesterday, Thabiti posted some things I think would be really helpful for all of us just to hear, and then I'm going to walk you through very quickly four points I think are going to be helpful to the topic I told you I want to speak about. But listen to him, because he did you a service by sharing with you a perspective that is both biblical and personal to him.

One of the problems we have is that most of us are more influenced with the eyes of the Enemy than we are with the eyes of Christ. Whenever the Enemy can make us think we're the enemy to one another and not him, he has already won half the battle. I tell folks all the time who are in marital discord that your mate is not your enemy; Satan is your enemy. Your mate is a gift from God.

So now at times you can go, "My gift is not acting in a way that's a blessing to me," but that's because they're not following Jesus. They're following a liar and a deceiver and the one who comes to destroy and to kill. Your mate is not your enemy. Jesus would let you know that even your enemy on earth is not your enemy, which is why he wants you to love your enemies, because he wants your enemies to see who he is so they can be delivered from the snare of the Devil.

Listen to what my friend said yesterday. He said, "Here I am again with one of these threads." He posted this for everybody. Thabiti Anyabwile is his name. He says, "Here I am again with one of those threads trying to express something I'm not sure I have the current words for. So again, dear reader, grant me grace as I try to clarify a tangled set of thoughts and feelings that will certainly miss the mark in some direction."

I'm going to share this with you because it's going to set up the points. He says this, "I know different people feel a lot of different things right now. And I know that those different feelings lead people to make a lot of different demands on others, most often…" he says, "…white people. And I can see that a lot of well-meaning white people then feel paralyzed and silenced." Have you felt like that if you're white?

Now listen to what he says. "For example, sometimes the demands seem to be 'Just listen. Please listen.' Other times the demand is, 'Don't ask me. Go learn yourself. Go learn about the issues, yourself.' Sometimes it's just 'No, I just you need to feel like this for me.' Then sometimes there's the demand is, 'No, I need you to do something.'"

And he says, "All of these have their place. When people feel a lot of things all at once it can come on as just paralyzing and confusion about what direction they should go. Now depending on the context of the person who's saying these things, what they're saying could be appropriate, and maybe what we need to say a lot of times is, 'I just need to say some things that I just need you to listen.'"

He says, "But here's where I need your grace. It seems to me that we need clarity about the goal of the protest. Protests can have multiple goals, but it seems to me there's a hierarchy of those goals, and I wouldn't want people at the kitchen table to lose sight at the order of importance in whatever we're 'protesting' right now as a world.

For me, as a Christian who believes in heaven and hell…" This is Thabiti speaking, "…and judgment and salvation, Jesus and the cross, resurrection and the imputation of sins and righteousness, the highest possible goal is to bring attention to the fact that there is a Savior who rescues sinners from deserved judgment and cares for them." That is the most important thing I'm going to say today. There is a Savior who rescues people from judgment and sin, and he cares for you.

"We need to remind ourselves that not everybody who protests shares that goal, because not everybody protesting is a follower of Jesus. So something distinctively Christian needs to be inserted into the din of the chanting voices that are out there. We believe in a Savior who rescues the repentant and needs to come through somewhere." And that needs to come through somewhere and as a priority for us.

He'll say, "Just speaking for myself…" And I'm going to move out of this. "…after someone's salvation from judgment and hell to be loved by God in glory comes concrete policy, and systems and cultural changes that protect…" And I interacted with him about this next line. "…black lives as a baseline and contribute to black flourishing beyond that."

God wants all lives to flourish. I've been pretty clear about what you need to do when you hear somebody say, "Black lives matter." If you've not heard that, just google "Todd Wagner black lives matter," and you'll hear how I am encouraging you to respond. But let me teach you how to respond, and let me just teach you with a couple of points, and if you're just writing down notes, get your phone out and write these things down.

First of all, I want to say this…Racism (and I'm using that term now from a cultural context) and injustice are not the problem. Racism and injustice are not the problem. They are symptoms of the problem. Sin is the problem. Sin has always been the problem, and the poor will be with us until Jesus returns, and so will racists. So will injustice.

But it is important that those of us who follow a God who knows there is one man from whom every nation on earth came and knows there is reconciliation for sin and redemption for sinners… It's important we offer that redemption, love all people, and speak out against injustice. Micah 6:8: "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"

Don't just say you're bothered by injustice; actively work towards that which is broken. After you work toward the brokenness of the sinner and offer them the hope of the cross, work toward a broken world's systems of injustice. Understand a broken world's injustice, and don't just go, "It's working for me, so I don't think there's a problem." Understand other people's chronic pain and see if there's something you can do about their chronic pain, because people in chronic pain are sick and tired of telling you about their chronic pain. It's just not what we want to do!

"Hey, how are you doing?" "I'm doing good. Hey, by the way, do you remember I'm still really hurting?" You're going to be like, "Man, every time I talk to Todd, all he does is talk about himself and the fact that he can't use his right arm." So I just shut up and go along, but I'm grieving that I can't do the things I used to do and operate the way I used to operate.

There are people who are born with physical handicaps who don't want to keep saying, "Do you know how hard it is to not be able to see? Do you know how hard it is to not be a person who can hear? Do you know how hard it is to never have legs that walk, that work?"

There are people with emotional pain. "Do you know how hard it is to have been sexually abused? Do you know how hard it was to have your dad leave you when you were three? Do you know how hard it is to be a person who systemically suffered from injustices of education, food supply, redlining, [plug it in]?" And you should know what those things are. Sin is the problem. Sin is what creates broken policy, and sin is what creates broken systems, and sin is what makes us not care about each other's pain. Jesus is what can change that.

God wants us to be people who care for one another. Let me just go back to the very first problem we ever had, and it was that sin always leads to broken relationships. In Genesis, chapter 4, we see there is dysfunction in the family of Adam and Eve because of sin, and they have offspring who are according to their kind, and so their sin nature rules in them until they by faith move back towards God the way their mother and father did and accept the shed blood of an innocent creature to cover them in their nakedness and in their vulnerability and in their exposure and judgment.

Abel and Cain were given the same opportunity to offer a sacrifice to God as an acknowledgement for the nature of sin that was in them. We know Cain was a tiller of the land, and we know Abel was a keeper of the flocks. And it says they were told to bring a sacrifice, a blood sacrifice. Cain was bothered. He goes, "Hey, listen. I don't have a bunch of sheep and goats. All I have are crops, and I'm going to bring you what I have, and if what I bring you isn't enough, then that's on you, not on me."

Abel brought what God told me to bring. It just so happened that Abel was a keeper of livestock, and so he brought one of the best of his livestock like God told him to. And I am sure had Cain asked Abel for some livestock he would've gotten it from Abel. He could've given him some of the grain to get some of the livestock. But Cain said, "I'm not going to give you, God, what you say you need. I'm going to give you what I think is right and what is best."

So God refused Cain's sacrifice because he didn't bring it by faith. He brought it by works, by the thoughts of men. If you've ever wondered why God rejected Cain's sacrifice, that's why. The reason God…and there's a Real Truth. Real Quick. on this if you want six minutes on it…rejected is because he didn't bring it by faith, and without faith it's impossible to please God. God made it clear that the wages of sin is death, that there has to be an atoning sacrifice that would be a picture of the ultimate sacrifice that would come.

Cain said, "No, you'll take my best work and my best things, and if that's not good enough for you, then that's on you." And God said, "No, that's on you." So Cain in his anger, it says, let his countenance fall. He turned more to his own way. "Then the Lord said to Cain, 'Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?'"

Now, Genesis 4:7. "If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you…" It wants to control you and own you and destroy you. "…but you must master it." "So there is, Cain, with this temptation to trust in yourself, a way of escape; it's called faith. Not believing in your flesh, not believing in your pride, but believing in me."

Cain didn't believe in God, and so he said, "I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to murder those who believe in you." He killed his brother, and the Lord then pursued Cain. Watch this. What does the Lord do? He pursues the sinner. He pursues Cain. "Cain, where is your brother Abel?" "And he said, 'I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?'"

Now listen. Do you guys hear that phrase a lot? "Hey, am I my brother's keeper?" Let me just remind you who said that. The first murderer. God's answer is, "Well, as a matter of fact, Cain, yes you are. You are responsible for your brother." "He said, 'What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground.'" "You don't care about others; you just care about you." God says that is sin.

A long time ago, you might have even seen actually flying around the Internet this quote by Benjamin Franklin, and it was not said by Benjamin Franklin. Don't believe everything you see on the Internet, right? "Abraham Lincoln said, 'Not everything you read on the Internet is true.'" So be careful when you just come across quotes on the Internet.

Benjamin Franklin is not the one who said, "Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are." What that is is a restatement of a quote that was given by a guy named Plutarch who was an Athenian poet, who basically was asked, "What's the best city to live in?" He said, "The best city to live in is a city where those who are not wronged no less than those who are wronged exert themselves to punish the wrongdoers." Do you hear that?

What's the best kind of city? The city where those who are not wronged care as much about wrongdoers as those who are suffering from wrongdoers and seek to persecute and prosecute wrongdoers. Get rid of their policy. Get rid of their abusive misuse of authority. That's our responsibility.

Jesus, in Luke 10, tells a story. Now I want to tell you, in the story there are a bunch of different people. There's a band of robbers, there's a guy who's just traveling along, there's a priest, there's a Levite, and there's a Samaritan, who the Jews despised. The priest and the Levite did not beat up the traveler. They didn't rob him. They didn't throw him into a ditch. They didn't hate the traveler. They were not biased against travelers.

But Jesus said, "Because you walked on the other side of the road, and you didn't care about the suffering of others, you don't know how to love." The Good Samaritan, just like the priest and just like the Levite, wasn't a racist, but the priest and the Levite go, "I didn't cause the problem. It's not my problem." They just cruised by and went on about God's business. Jesus, in effect, wrote a letter from the Birmingham jail saying, "What are you doing? You are responsible for injustice where there are people suffering."

Now listen, it's our job to listen and understand there is injustice. If it's a perspective problem… In other words, if the guy in the ditch was just there because he had an overexposed nerve, and felt like everybody was against him, and there wasn't something that really happened, he wasn't in any way abused, he wasn't in any way beat up, then you need to love him out of that ditch.

But if there really is something that put him in the ditch, it's our job to care for him in the ditch and to speak out against the injustice that throws people in ditches. Do you see that? That's Luke 10 straight up. In fact, it's so important, we're going to spend an entire week studying that next week. So get ready for the parable of the good Samaritan being brought to you.

Jesus and repentance is not just one of the solutions to the problems we're facing; he and his gospel are the only solution. So much so, that when Jesus says, "You've become over-focused on the injustice of others, you have a problem." Now this is going to be one of the hardest things I say, and I want you to listen to me. The problem is sin, and the problem is sin in you and in me, and that's the first place we need to deal with sin.

Before we deal with systemic injustice, we have to deal with the people who make up those systems. It's almost as if Jesus was asked this question, "Hey, man, what do you think about David Chauvin and him putting his knee on George Floyd?" and Jesus said, "Let me tell you what I think. One day, a Sovereign is going to put his knee on you, and you too will die, and so you'd better repent before you become one who is judged."

How insensitive would that reply have been? Had somebody said, "Hey, what do you think about that guy who just suffered under injustice and was killed that way?" And he goes, "Well, let me just tell you something. You too are going to die from maybe an unjust hand. Are you ready? Because you're going to meet a Sovereign that if you don't reconcile yourself to him it will not go well with you." That's exactly what Jesus did in Luke 13, because he understood, like Thabiti said, what the primary issue is.

Let me read to you from Luke 13. It's Luke 13:1-5. "Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to him about the Galileans…" The unjust Galileans. "… whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices." Pilate had taken some worshipers up in Galilee, and when they were offering sacrifice, he said, "There's no God, in effect, but Caesar," and he killed the Jews who were worshiping, in an unjust way.

"And Jesus said to them, 'Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate?'" Do you suppose that George Floyd is worse than you? Yeah, we know he was arrested five times. Yeah, we know he put a loaded gun to the belly of a pregnant woman and ransacked her home and stole from her. Yeah, we know he wasn't a perfect citizen. Do you think George Floyd is worse than you? "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

Luke 13, verse 4: "Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell…" Because now it's just injustice; now you're living in a broken world. There were some people who were doing a construction project in Siloam, and a tower fell on them, and 18 people died! So Jesus is now expanding it beyond unjust idiot Galilean prefects and idiot cops, and until we die there are going to be idiot prefects and cops.

What Jesus doesn't want us to do is be idiots, and he wants us to realize that not only will people suffer at the hands of idiot prefects and idiot people in authority but that we ourselves are idiots if we don't repent and deal with the sin in our own lives, and people who die from hurricanes and fires and car wrecks and drunk drivers are no worse than you and I. So he says at the very end of this passage, "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

So what do we do? Quit calling for revival; revive! Quit calling for racial reconciliation; reconcile! Reconcile! Reconcile. You guys know the Chinese, their alphabet is what's called pictographs or logograms. There are sometimes words that have drawings. Sometimes it takes 12 different strokes of a pen in order to make one symbol. In Chinese pictograph, the word for wise man or sage (not the spice but the person) is made up of a large ear and a small mouth. In Chinese, that's how you spell the word. A large ear and a small mouth.

This again in Proverbs 18:2 and 18:13. Proverbs 18:2: "A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind." He is quick to speak and slow to listen. That's a fool. This is Proverbs 18:13. The wise man knows "He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him."

One of the very first things you should do is just say, "Tell me your story." Move toward friends. Move toward your spouse. Move toward your children. The key to effective interpersonal communication is to ask questions and listen. The key to effective interpersonal communication biblically is to ask questions and to listen. Do you want to improve your marriage? Ask questions and listen. Do you want to improve your neighborhood? Ask questions of your neighbors and listen.

Do you know who doesn't ask questions of me when I meet them? It's the nonbelievers around me. They don't ask anything about me. They don't care what I do, where I'm from, what my story is. They talk about frivolous things, and they don't ever care about me, because that's the way of the sinner. It should not be the way of the Christ-follower. Study your Gospels, and look how many times Jesus pursues. Because he's devoted to God, he pursues relationally.

Now when somebody pursues you, you have to live authentically. Tell your story. Sometimes when you tell your story, they're going to… I'm going to tell them how to respond to your story, but sometimes part of the way they should respond is to admonish you faithfully because you're living with a perspective that needs to be informed by God's grace, and they should do it with gentleness, the Scripture says, and respect.

But just because somebody tells you something doesn't mean it's true. Feelings are real; they're not reliable. What's real is the cross. What's reliable is the gospel. What's true is the Word of God. We as the people of God should love and live in a way that responds to that. Sometimes when I'm talking to friends and I'm living as Jesus wants me to live and they start to speak, I interrupt them somewhere in the beginning, and I say, "Can I just ask you a question?"

So I'm following up a question I asked, which is, "Hey, man, tell me your story. Tell me what's going on," with another question, and that is this question. Write this down. Here's the next question: "Hey, do you want me just to listen, or are you seeking counsel and wisdom from me? Because, I mean, I'm prone to want to run right to problem-solving a lot of times." Sometimes the loving thing to do is just to listen. In fact, it's not just the loving thing to do; it's the necessary thing to do.

In Proverbs, chapter 26, verse 4, it says, "Do not answer a fool according to his folly…" I was recently in South Dallas with a bunch of leaders in South Dallas, and I was down there to have a conversation with them, and it became very apparent to me very early on that they did not want a conversation with me. They wanted to tell me who I voted for, which they didn't ask. They wanted to tell me what I believed about politics, which they didn't ask. They wanted to tell me what I knew about their story, which they didn't ask. And they railed at me.

"Let me tell you, you're part of the problem!" And, "You're this and you're that!" And, "What are you thinking? How come?" And, "Why did you…?" And, "You shouldn't!" And I just let them go until about a minute, two minutes into it. With a bunch of people in the room, I just said to them, "Hey, do you want to ask me a question, or do you want me just to listen?" "I don't want you to say nothing!" And then they just kept tearing into me.

Now hurt people hurt people. I wasn't mad. I didn't feel accused. The righteous are bold as a lion, but the wicked flee when no one is pursuing them. I just sat there, and when they were done, I go, "Are you done? Did I serve you well by listening? Can I repeat back to you what I just heard you say? And if you'd like, I'd love to respond, but if you don't even want me to respond, then that's fine. I'm not going to waste my words."

Sometimes, by the way, when people are venting and are coming at you, you just need to realize they're coming at us out of pain, and it's not personal, and we shouldn't take it personally. Job, chapter 6, verse 26, says this. Job, in his pain, was lamenting all he had been through. In Job 6:26, he just says to his friends, "Do you intend to reprove my words, when the words of one in despair belong to the wind?"

What that means is sometimes in my pain, I'm just saying things that I don't want to have stick with me. Now we're all responsible for our words, and one of the marks of a Spirit-filled person is self-control, but all of us know that at times we all let words for the wind leak out, words that should just be blown away like chaff because they're not born from the fruit of the Spirit. And sinners don't have any of the Spirit. So it's going to just always be kind of words for the wind, and the Bible tells you how to respond to that.

Not to cast your pearls before people who just want to throw out barbs and are underneath the influence of the Enemy who wants to divide and destroy and who wants to continue in hate. Hate doesn't drive out hate, and darkness doesn't drive out darkness. Light drives out darkness. Love drowns out hate. If it's not there, our job is to just be wise, to move on, to pray, and to work against the things that caused that pain.

"Tell me your story," is one of the first things you ought to say, and then following it up with the next thing you should say, which is, "Do you want me to listen, or do you just need to express yourself right now?" Then when you hear someone's story, when you see somebody's ditch, Luke 10, and all of the compendium of Scripture tell us that we should respond to others' stories the way we would want somebody to respond if they heard our story.

We should mourn with those who mourn, and we should act like we would want others to act if there were things that caused my mourning. It's not that hard. There's a ton of pain, but there is a huge Savior, and he is enough. So racism and injustice are not the problem, friends. They're our opportunity. Racism and injustice make the world go, "This world sucks. This world is not our home. This world is not as it should be," to which Jesus says, "Amen!" and to which the Christians say, "Amen!"

Let's deal, though, not with just the symptoms. Let's not act like we can reconcile races. Let's reconcile one another. It is what I always say. I go, "This is what I want to do. I want to pursue you. Will you pursue me?" I want to know if I've done something wrong. I want you to tell me. Sometimes you want to tell me I haven't done anything, and you haven't even asked me what I've done. Sometimes I haven't done enough. Sometimes I need help to do more.

Sometimes you just need to tell me how you're feeling, and I just need to listen and pray. Sometimes somebody just needs to confess their anger and their hatred, and we're confessing our sins to one another, and what the Scripture says I should do when I hear that is pray for them so God can heal them.

Christians, you are the perfect people for such a time as this. You're the salt of the earth. You're God's provision for a world that is broken and scared and hurting and angry, and I beg of you to bring the solution. As others are out there trying to deal with non-priority elements, make sure you keep your priority that Jesus and repentance are not just one of the things we should talk about; they are the only thing we should talk about.

Once we talk about those things, we are not just people who are speakers of the Word, we are doers of the Word. So we love kindness, and we do justice, and we walk humbly with our Lord. Amen? I think when we do that, the world is going to go, "I wish we had more Christians. I wish we had more followers of Christ."

I am so glad to be one of them here who by grace has learned the kindness of God and who devotes myself daily to God's Word, and I'm pursued by others relationally, and I'm pursuing lost people, and I'm living authentically about my own confusion, about my own need to learn, about my own need to repent, about my own sin expressions. Others are admonishing me and helping me and praying for me and counseling me biblically so we can be on mission together. Amen?

All right, church, be wise, be ready, be kind, be bold. Have a big ear and a small mouth. Be unafraid about what the real problem is. Know who your enemy is. There are people who hate goodness and unity. There are some people who don't hate goodness and unity; they just don't think they can find it here.

It's our job to invite them to come and see. It's our job to move into their ditches and to hunt down their persecutors and to say, "I will not stand for injustice" and not just be glad I'm not in the ditch. Let's stop running to the temple and thinking that's more important than caring for people. Know this: worship is loving others. That's what Jesus said.

Father, I thank you for my friends, for a chance just for us to be reminded what you tell us about how you want us to live. How good it is to be together again this morning. Lord, as sweat drips down our back, I pray it would just remind us that blood dripped down yours for us because we are sinners, and we deserve horrible persecution.

You wouldn't be unjust by doing more than putting a knee on our neck. You wouldn't be unjust in throwing us into darkness and hell forever. We have done wrong. We are sinners, Father, and I thank you that you are angry at sin because you're a God of justice. But I thank you that you poured out your wrath on your Son so that all who believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

If there is anyone listening today or who is here now who has never thrown themselves at the foot of the cross and said, "Father, I am a sinner. Forgive me. Thank you for love expressed through Jesus," I pray they would do it now. I pray, Lord, you would deliver them from the darkness of the human condition.

I pray you would impute to them the righteousness and give them the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and that as they rise up to walk with Jesus and to follow him that they would become instruments of peace, that they would become people who love kindness and do justice and they would walk humbly with us as we pursue your way.

Father, as a result of us collectively reviving and revivifying Christ in the hearts of all the nations that have turned from you, as more people who make up nations repent, I know you'll bring us peace. We long for the day when the clouds will roll back like a scroll and you'll come and make all things as they should be. We won't just be unified in Adam, we won't be just unified in Christ, we won't be just unified in the church; we'll be unified in glory forever, and we look forward to that day.

But we thank you for the privilege of today that we can pursue people in ditches, we can pursue persecutors, we can pursue those who are evil, we can speak out against things and do things that bring grace here. But, Lord, help us continue to prosecute sin by the preaching of the gospel and lift up grace by the singing of the "hallelujah" of what Christ has done. Make us your people. Be glorified in us today. In Jesus' name, amen.