What can Christians do to tackle the topic of racism? In the fifth week of Uncompromised: Holding to Christian Convictions in a Cancel Culture, John Elmore, Marvin Walker, Sierra Sanchez, and Oscar Castillo share how (and why) we can pursue God’s ideals of diversity, unity, peace, and reconciliation.
Uncompromised | Immigration & Persecution of Church Internationally
Uncompromised | Race & Racism
Uncompromised | Sexuality: Gender, Sex, and Porn
Uncompromised | Sanctity of Life
Uncompromised | Law & Religious Liberties
Uncompromised | Truth & Culture
What can Christians do to tackle the topic of racism? In the fifth week of Uncompromised: Holding to Christian Convictions in a Cancel Culture, John Elmore, Marvin Walker, Sierra Sanchez, and Oscar Castillo share how (and why) we can pursue God’s ideals of diversity, unity, peace, and reconciliation.
John Elmore: Everybody, welcome to Watermark. My name is John Elmore, and I serve with re:generation and Pastoral Care. Today, we are continuing the Uncompromised series. We've been going through this as part of the elders' initiative to further equip the body for an ever-changing world. Today in Uncompromised we are talking Race & Racism, and as you can tell, I'm not alone today. We have Marvin Walker, who is the campus pastor for South Dallas; Sierra Sanchez, who is the women's director of re:generation, my counterpart on the team; and Oscar Castillo, who's the pastor of Watermark en Español that meets every Sunday at 11:00 in the Loft.
Here's what I want to say too. It's not just who's here; it's who's not here as well. In actuality, this was a struggle…phone conversations, meetings, grabbing people in the hallway, like, "What do we do?"…because in reality, there should be 200 seats at this table. There should be 200 chairs to represent all of the different ethnicities and backgrounds and experiences and everything. It's just not a reality, because we'd be talking all over each other, and it would be a week-long service instead of just today.
That's difficult, because we're like, "You know what? We'd love to have someone of Indian background and Indian American or Native American." One of my friends is half Native American. We'd love to have an Asian American. It was a difficulty and challenge in our hearts, so you need to know that. Then, also, as we frame up, before we start the conversation, I think it's important to address where we're living right now, what's going on nationally.
I would imagine everybody is familiar with the headlines, but to just set the stage, so to say… Mickey has mentioned critical race theory. CRT, starting as an academic theory and then moving into the public school curriculum, has become an everyday part of the conversation you're probably having at work and with friends and various other places. That's common. Right now, Ahmaud Arbery's trial is being heard and argued whether Ahmaud's killing was racially motivated. That's part of what's going on right now in real time.
You have cities that have been on fire after the death of an individual and a public outcry to defund police because of the racial tension and strife that's there, but then you have others where sometimes it's like we can have the conversation about race and it becomes black/brown/white, and the Asian-American population has been coined the forgotten race, because they're like, "Hey, is anyone going to address what we're going through?" as there are attacks and murders. Racism against Asian Americans is on the increase.
Suni Lee, who's a gold medalist from the Tokyo Olympics… Just now, Oscar pointed me to this article as we were preparing for this panel. He was like, "Did you know this just happened?" Somebody drove by in a car and sprayed Mace, pepper spray, all over Suni while shouting racial slurs at her. Just a random day there on the street.
Then there's the border crisis just to our south that is a crisis. Next week, Oscar is going to talk more about immigration and international persecution, but that's happening right here at our own state border, and all of the families that have been separated are hopefully now being reunited. So, that's something we have to talk about.
Then you also have Gabby Petito. I think we all probably know her name now, and it's a tragedy. She was taken, killed by her fiancé, and left, and now, as internationally people know Gabby Petito's name, it's wrong that we don't know the names of the hundreds of Native-American women who have been sexually assaulted, abducted, and murdered. We don't know a single name, yet "Gabby Petito" rolls off our tongues. There is a disparity there. There's some kind of difference.
So, we have to talk about race and racism as we engage in this Uncompromised series, that we would live uncompromised as Christians in this cancel culture. Now, that's the national view, but we have to think also personally. Where are we individually? It's going to be a spectrum. There are some who are unintentionally unaware, where it's like, "I'm not a racist. I don't hate other people. That's not who I am."
There can be a passivity, an apathy, and an unintentional unawareness, and we hope today in this conversation that would move more toward understanding and action and empathy. Then there's probably the other side of the spectrum where it's like, "Finally! Finally the church is talking about this and speaking into it, because I'm living in that reality, and for my life I have," under injustice or oppression or racism or whatever it may be.
We would hope that, today, you would be met with compassion and hear truths that are spoken as we collectively, as the church, are addressing these things, because while we can't change the past, here we are, church, in the present with thousands who can go out and live as salt and light. Then there's the biblical context. So, nationally, personally, and then just biblically. God addresses this throughout the Scriptures.
From the beginning, he sees that mankind's heart was bent on evil at all times, so he sends the flood. Noah and his family land the boat. He says the same divine mandate he gives to Adam and Eve in the garden. He says, "Be fruitful and multiply." He's giving it again to them. He's entrusting them. "Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth." But they're like, "Nah, we're not going to do that," so they come together and build the Tower of Babel. "We don't want to worship God. We want to be like God."
God is like, "No. That's not the offense we're running." He scrambles the languages and sends them out. We get ethnicities over all the earth. He is going to fill and subdue the earth whether mankind will or will not. Then he gives also to the Jews, "You're going to be a light to the nations," and he says, "And my temple, where I dwell, will be a house of prayer for the nations." There was supposed to be this gathering in of all peoples to meet Yahweh, to live with him, but it didn't happen.
So then, in the intertestamental period, as Israel was taken captive to Assyria and there was intermarrying, and then they returned… These half-Jew/half-Assyrians returned to the land because they wanted to worship. The Jews then have this racist mentality, and there's division, separation, and segregation between the Samaritans and the Jews. Then there's Jew and Gentile. It's just division after division after division that's happening throughout the Scriptures.
Then you have the introduction of the gospel where it's to go and make disciples of all nations. Then in Acts 6, not long after the Great Commission is given where he says, "When the Spirit comes upon you, go to every nation…" In Acts 6, just chapters later, the Greeks are like, "Hey, the Hellenistic widows are starving. You're feeding the Jewish widows. No one is feeding the Greek widows. What's going on?" They repent, and they raise up people to go specifically to care for all of the widows and not just some. So, you see it there as well.
Then you have the letter to Philemon where Paul writes about this runaway slave Onesimus. Paul says, "How you treat him is not as a slave, but as a brother. You receive Onesimus back as you would receive me, the apostle Paul, because in Christ, there's not slave nor free. We are all equal and one together." The Scripture… God cares about it so much. Here's the reality, church. We've always had the solution. God has given it to us. He has entrusted it to us, not to culture.
He has given the solution to the church to be salt and light, but sadly and unfortunately, we have not always been the loudest voice, and we have not always been the most with action, but we have a chance. This is our day, and here we are living, so we need to start the conversation. So we're going to. With that being said, I'm looking to my left, and I think, "You know what? Let's scrap the whole thing. Why don't you just preach?"
Marvin Walker: Well, shoot. Okay. Let me do that then, John, if you're going to tap me in. Open up your Bibles. Let's get going. For the next hour and a half, we're going to be talking… No. That's not what's happening. Thirty-five minutes just isn't enough. I could preach to you for that time and talk to you, but for a topic like this, 35 minutes just is not enough. What I do want to do this morning, church, as we're at this table, is I want to invite you to this table, because it's at a table like this that, as a family, we can have a discussion and talk about the heavy, hard topic of race and racism. So, now let's talk about it and get that conversation going.
John: Appreciate it, brother. That was another decision we had to face, like, "Should we just let somebody preach?" Oscar could go, as well, and it would be amazing. Here's the thing. First point. Oscar and I were sitting around my firepit in my backyard and talking about where we were going to go with this, and this was one of the first points: Differences are beautiful. God made them. He created them, and they glorify him. But with man, differences divide.
With man, our differences divide; with God, our differences glorify him. It's a thing of beauty. And he did that. It says in Acts 17:26, "From one man he created every nation." This is from Noah to go and fulfill, yet here we are in this place of rampant division. I know it's something you feel passionate about, because we've talked about it, so why don't you kick it off here.
Oscar Castillo: As we were sitting around… It's so easy to go to what today's headlines are and kind of let that define even the terms, but we have to go back to Scripture. You see that in God's nature, in who he is…God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, the Trinity… That word is three in one: Trinity. You see that he is also the God of the universe. That word universe…unity in diversity. All of it has been created by him.
As John said, God created diversity to reveal who he is, but man in his sinful heart takes that and separates it and totally deviates from God's plan. Even the word university is actually indicative of us having to have a posture of learning, of teaching one another…unity in diversity. That is the only way we'll be able to really accomplish God's agenda, God's plan for all of us today.
As you think about living in a world that is so diverse and having a lens on how God sees it… What happens whenever we don't do that? Look at what James 2:8-9 says. It talks about how when we don't follow, when we don't see and do what God designed from the beginning, we are also guilty of the sin of partiality.
That word sin… If you're new today, I want to define that for you. That word means the words, actions, desires, and intentions that are not aligned with God's heart, that are not aligned with God's character, God's nature. So, when we do those things, when we sin against the Lord and also our brothers, we are not completing his mission. Partiality then comes in. And what do we do? We do that which God does not desire, and it's to separate. God wants that unity. So, partiality is treating others differently and, many times, with the wrong motives.
Now, the word racism is placing, whether it be your skin color, whether it be your socioeconomic status, whatever it may be… Racism is putting your race above others, and it can even lead to hatred. Racism is actually an outworking of the sin of partiality. When we start to be partial and let our eyes, instead of God's eyes and perspective, lead our interactions with one another, we start to commit the sin of partiality, which then leads to racism.
God is at work, and I see it. I just met my brother here today. He's new. He Googled, he came, and now he's here, and I get to meet him. God is bringing so many people from across the world to come here to Watermark, and we have an opportunity to experience that which God desires, because diversity is a reflection of God and his character and glory.
John: I don't want to miss what you said there as you defined partiality and racism. I think it's really important, because as we think, "Well, I'm not a racist…" You just said if we have partiality in our lives and that's unchecked…we don't respond to the conviction of the Spirit…that will be racism. That's where that leads. That's what you're saying.
Oscar: Yes. Absolutely.
John: I think that's wise for all of us to consider, because we're all going to be given to partiality in different ways at different times. That's what our flesh goes to. That's why we're here in the state of the world. If there's not repentance from that, it will lead to an ultimate racism.
Sierra Sanchez: I love what you were saying, Oscar, that diversity reflects God and glorifies him. Truly, all of us have different ethnicities and races and different giftings in this body, and that is beautiful, and it should be celebrated. It's something we should strive for as the church, but when I say that word strive, some people will say, "Well, why should we strive for that?" and there are two verses I often go to.
One that probably everyone in this room knows is Matthew 6:10 (we can probably quote it) when it says, "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." If that's our goal (on earth as it is in heaven), then the next question is…What does heaven look like? Instead of trying to describe it, I'm just going to read straight from Revelation 7:9-10.
"After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'"
Guys, can you all imagine that? Every people group is standing before the Lord, worshiping him all together as one big, united family. That is such a beautiful picture. So, "On earth as it is in heaven" is something we should aim for. I think, as a church, what we've done is that as we create this culture of oneness, which is good and biblical and right, sometimes it allows us to miss the beauty of our differences and our different cultures, and we don't want that to be.
Instead, I pray that we, as a church, would celebrate those things, and that not only globally would we be able to do it, but we would do it here in our church. May it be so of our church. When I think about that in general, I think about a picture of a mosaic. You put all of these different types of pieces together. They're different shapes and sizes and different colors. Truly, you're taking broken pieces and making a beautiful picture. That is a picture of the church, which is so cool that we get to be a part of that, and we get to be united as one and represent that to other people.
John: Why did you look at me when you said "broken pieces"?
Sierra: Because we're all broken.
John: Is there something there that we need to…?
Sierra: There's a ministry on Monday nights called re:generation.
Marvin: I love the picture of the mosaic, because that's what it ought to be, Sierra. Race and racism aren't new topics. This isn't brand new to us, but what I am extremely grateful for (I want to take this in) is that, as a church, we're talking about this when a huge headline didn't come out last night or this week. We're addressing it, and we're talking through it.
I've had friends who I know genuinely love me, and they've come to me and said, "Mar, man, I want you to know that I don't see color. I'm colorblind, and I love you." I'm like, "I get the motive. I get what's being said." The intention isn't to be hurtful, but it can come across that way. I've received it like that, and the Father of Lies, Satan himself, begins to feed me lies, because that can be divisive.
Again, I understand the sentiment. I do. But the truth in that is… I want to read from Galatians 3. The truth in it all is that there's neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. When Paul was saying that, he wasn't saying we ought to be colorblind or even uniformed. That's not what he was telling them. He was calling the Galatian church to unity, and that's not uniformity.
He's not saying over all we have to all be the same. To say you're colorblind and to use that language is to say you're blind to somebody's personhood. Yeah. It's dismissing their personhood and the distinct uniqueness God has given them. If you have participated in thinking like that or even using that language… I know it may be tough, but we ought to celebrate in our church the different races we come across…celebrate them.
Even for those who may have been hurt by that language, who have been frustrated because they've heard that language… I also want to challenge you to move toward that person who has said it, to acknowledge the hurt. Let people know where you're at, because it is all of us… As the church of Jesus Christ, we all have a ministry of reconciliation that we're called to. That's the Lord calling us to be in harmony together, because the beauty of the body of Christ is that we can celebrate and maintain unity as well as uniqueness. Both.
John: That's great. I hear you say, "Celebrate the uniqueness and the personhood," and I think, also, if someone were to say, "I'm colorblind…" It also can be dismissive of past experiences and the trouble and strife and whatever has been a part of not just the individual's life, but even historical and generational. It's dismissive of that, like, "Oh, I don't see that." It's like, "Man, then you don't know the reality my family and I have walked in," in addition to celebrating the differences.
When Sierra talks about mosaic, I'm like, imagine if there's a mosaic that's all the same color pieces. It's no longer a mosaic. It's just broken parts of the same color. Nobody wants that art. It is the different pieces that make up that whole that do make it beautiful. That's where the value comes from. When I go to the state fair… I've thought this every time. I'm new to Texas. Missouri state fair wasn't a thing. Here, I go to the Dallas state fair, and I'm like, "Dude! This is Texas. Here we are. This is it."
You see everybody together, everybody having a good time, enjoying each other. It's like, "Here we are." I wish it was more and more so the case within the church and that it wasn't just happening at the fair once a year. I went to the Brooklyn Tabernacle once, and I remember thinking this. It was a rock in my shoe. I came back. I was like, "I'll never forget it." There was no majority and minorities. It was just people. There was not a majority of anyone. It was just every tribe, tongue, and nation worshiping together. It was the most beautiful thing.
Y'all, we live in Dallas. All of the nations are here. One of the largest refugee populations, internationally displaced people groups… We have all of the different ethnicities here in Dallas, and the more this happens in church it will be a beautiful thing that will reflect God's heart and the Scriptures we have been looking at. So, I long for that. Here's the thing. It's not going to happen because we had a message on it. The way that's going to happen is by the thousands of us walking out these doors and making an invitation, like, "Hey, would you join me at church?" That this expression of the local church would look more like the kingdom.
Oscar: Hey, John, could we bring the food from the state fair too?
John: Are you talking corn dogs?
Oscar: Well, no. I'm talking about the tacos, the good stuff. Because that's what we're going to do in heaven. We're going to eat, guys.
John: Totally. We're all going to feast together.
Oscar: Every Sunday, guys.
John: Hey, I think we need to go back to partiality, because I'm guessing… There may be some who are like, "No, no. Racism…that's a thing in my life," but I don't think that's probably the case for the majority. I think the majority of the people are like, "I think it's partiality." I think that's where we are in our lives in varying degrees throughout. So, I'm going to define the term again, where it came from.
Partiality is a fifteenth-century word. It means unjust or unreasonable preference. There's no justice for it or reason to it. It just is. There's a preference toward it. Romans 2:11 says, "For there is no partiality with God." Why? Because he made all people, and he desires all to come to Christ. But then sin enters in and breaks that down. So, to be partial, or the partiality that leads to racism, is to mock God.
He created all people, as it says in Acts 17. "From one man he created all nations." So, to treat others differently is to mock the Creator and what he did. I think also it's good to take a look around at your life, and if you think, "You know what? Every area of my life kind of looks the same," that may not be just a population density thing; that could be a partiality thing, and I think it's good for us to think about. So, what more on the topic of partiality as we talk about this?
Sierra: One of the things I like about Scripture is that it truly is "There's nothing new under the sun." I'm going to focus in on one person, Peter, because I think it very much speaks to what you were just talking about. If you see him in Acts 2, he's literally preaching a sermon to 17 different people groups, and he's saying, "We are called to be one." You see in Scripture where he says, "Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified." Like, "Hey, we are one. We are together. We are one body."
Then you also see him in Acts 10. In Acts 10, you see Peter with Cornelius, and he is of Italian descent. Again, we're already bringing people together. Then he says this, and I think it's beautiful. Acts 10:34-36: "So Peter opened his mouth and said: 'Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all)…'"
In that one verse, it's "no partiality," "every nation," and "good news of peace." That is the gospel…all of those things. It is the gospel he's preaching, but then in Galatians 2, the same Peter who was just standing there preaching and saying all of these things to these individuals… What you see in Galatians 2 is that he then separates. He's saying, "You know what? I am going to stay with the Jews," and he kind of pulls himself away from the Gentiles. He's doing literally the same thing he was teaching against just a few chapters before.
Then his sweet friend Paul comes to him and says, "Hey, man. I think you forgot. I think you've forgotten what you've been teaching, what you have been saying to all of these individuals," and he's calling him and reminding him back and saying, "God shows no partiality." I think what's so cool about that is, kind of touching back to what you were just saying, Marvin… Maybe that's you. Maybe you've unintentionally said something, maybe being colorblind, or you've said something that might be hurtful to others.
I realize in that moment there can be a lot of guilt and shame, like, "Man, I feel like I can't do anything right. I'm walking on eggshells. I don't know what to do or what to say or how to handle things." That is never God's intention, and that is never our intention here at this table. I think Paul, just like he's calling Peter to repent… He's saying, "Hey, when you miss it, when you hurt someone, when you maybe cause some division, repent. Turn away from that and go back to what God's design was, which is no partiality."
John: Can I share something on that real quick? This is interesting. I was looking at the passage last night. Paul writes and says, "Peter, Peter, Peter," and then he changes his name mid-paragraph and says, "Cephas." It seems like what may be happening is he's addressing him by his name (which means the same…Peter and Cephas), but then he switches to Cephas, because that's what Jesus called him. I think in that moment what Paul may be doing is saying, "Cephas, remember what your Master called you and what he called you to," as he goes back to the name Jesus gave him.
Sierra: That's so good. I think it's also saying, "Hey, Peter, don't do that," and then I think it's calling us that we shouldn't do what Peter was doing, that he was separating himself. What we would call that is tribalism. We always want to use definitions. Tribalism is defined as a strong loyalty to one's own tribe or even social group. I truly think it's easy for us to do that, moving toward people who look like us or have the same activities as us. It's just easy to do that.
John: Especially if you're hurt or uncomfortable.
Sierra: Absolutely. And just a confession here on the stage… I can easily do that. I mean, I work at Watermark. My friends are at Watermark. My community is at Watermark. Everyone I have direct contact with is at Watermark, and I can often ask myself, "Man, what does it look like to step outside that bubble and pursue others who don't look like me, who don't think like me, who maybe don't love Jesus at all? What does it look like for me to get out of that bubble and step out of my comfort zone and go toward people?"
I just think about my interactions with people. I'd really challenge you guys to do that as well. Who are you consistently around, whether it's your dentist or your doctor or maybe your kids' soccer team, or whatever sports team, or maybe even the grocery store you often shop at? What do people look like around you? Are we often stepping outside and pursuing others and inviting them to coffee and inviting them to lunch and just having relationships with people who maybe don't look like us or think like us?
I think we're called to it. You see in John 17 the word one is consistent, that we are called to be one over and over again, and if for no other reason, we pursue it because it's what our Savior desires, and he's worthy of that. I just pray our church would be an example of that. Like I said before, let it be so of us.
John: Sierra and I serve together on the re:gen team. What she's talking about is one of the things I love most about the re:gen team. We have a deep, family, extension of community bond. Sierra is Hispanic. We have Bryce Nguyen who's multiethnic: part Native American, part Asian American, part white. Y'all, we even have somebody from Louisiana on the team.
Sierra: Shout-out Carter if she's here.
John: Yeah, Emily Carter. One of the things we'll do… After a Monday or whatever, we'll be like, "Hey, let's all go grab bubble tea." (True confession: I have an addiction to that.) There's one right here by Watermark, but we don't go there. We actually get in the car, leave Dallas, and go to Richardson to this little place specifically for what Sierra is talking about: to get out of the bubble, so to say, and go be with people who are different in a good way. So, we'll meet with Nee and Ayesha, who's of Asian-American descent and probably Middle Eastern-Indian descent, to go befriend them and love them. It's very intentional. It's inconvenient, and it's very intentional.
Oscar: If I could just double-click on… Many times, when we think about partiality, we can think about only those people we exclude. Right? But we also have to think through the people we do include. Many times, because of our sinful hearts, we can include people because they give us some special access or they're going to give us a relationship. Do you see what I'm saying? Our hearts can be sinful and have the wrong motives. So, don't only look at the people you exclude, but also look and see and take it to the Lord and say, "Hey, why am I having this person around?" May the Lord lead us in that as a church.
John: Marvin, you've been way too quiet, bro. I know you have more to say.
Marvin: I'm getting stirred up over here, man. I'm waiting for you to tap me in. I really want to go the direction of critical race theory. I know we talked about it a little bit. Mickey brought it up. John has touched on it. This is a hot topic. People have their various opinions. It's in this point of our conversation at the table that I want to challenge you not to base your stance off your favorite speaker, what your favorite talking head has said, but instead…Where do you land when it comes to God's Word?
At times, we make CRT the heart of the matter. We make it, "Okay. This is going to be our starting point." As the church, that ought to not be the case. Something we do want to address is that the people who developed critical race theory were doing so because they saw a problem. They saw something wrong. Well, in the church we also see a problem, but the issue is our solution is different.
The solution they proposed was, "Hey, break everything down, then rebuild it, and if you tear it down and rebuild it, it'll be…" No. It'll still be broken, because we live in a broken world. Because sin is in our world, it's still going to be distorted by sin. So, our solution is injecting this, God's Word, knowing that healing and restoration is only going to come through God's Word. That's it. It's only going to come through Jesus.
With that, I want to go now to 2 Kings and think about the story of King Josiah and how he showed up. He gives us, as the king in that time, more of a KRT than a CRT. You're like, "Okay. What's KRT?" Kingdom race truth. Let's call it that, because Josiah shows us that, as the people of God, we have to submit ourselves to the authority of God's Word always, above all else…above our preferences (things we prefer), our opinions, and even our traditions. It has to start at God's Word.
What did King Josiah do? He wept. He lamented. He missed the mark. I want to read it. Second Kings 22:11: "Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes." Second Kings 22:13: "Go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us."
King Josiah was affected to his core at a personal level because he recognized and realized how far he was from God's Word. In the middle of rebuilding the temple, he realized, "Dang! There are generations of people who have missed the truth." Even thinking of James 1:25… I want to read that now. "But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed…"
"Looking into the perfect law." Jesus said that's the law of love. He described it in the Great Commandment. We violated that, though, by simply not going out and loving people because maybe they don't look like what we see in the mirror. James says before that verse something like, "Hey, you wouldn't go to Chipotle, eat a bowl, have cilantro all up in your teeth, look in the mirror, and be like, 'I'm good. I'm not going to respond to it.'" You just wouldn't do that. You would respond to it. You're going to respond to that problem.
We should also be responding to hurting neighbors and hurting friends, because we're called to love our neighbors even if we disagree with them. Now, this type of love, God's love… It's not easy, but it's committed. We can disagree, but we don't have to be people who are disagreeable. To end this little piece here, I'm thinking of the last verse in 1 Corinthians 12, verse 31, right before that Love Chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, that we all love.
Paul says, "I want to call you to a more excellent way to love." Before he gets into describing it, he says, "I want to call you to this more excellent way." So, we can't just say CRT is a bad solution and then offer nothing. Like Josiah, see the sin, mourn the sin, and then land and stand on what's written. Loving our Lord and loving our neighbors is a beautiful solution to all this, and it's such a much better stance that we ought to take as believers. It just is.
John: Do you know what just happened?
Marvin: Talk to me.
John: Half the people in the room just decided to go to South Dallas.
Marvin: Come on! Bring it!
John: So good, and I think what we need to do is now…
Oscar: Could I just…? I have to say this. There's a more excellent way than Chipotle. Listen. They have to discover all of these different foods. Okay? Don't go to Chipotle, guys. There's something better in heaven.
John: We'll put Oscar's recommendations in the sermon notes, apparently. I want to move this to practical application now. They're going to walk out, and you get a chance to tell them, "This is then how we live." In light of these truths, in light of what culture is saying, here's how we live. I want to frame it up as empathy over apathy.
So, how we live this out. Let's go apathy first. A means without; pathos from feeling. So, without feelings. Apathetic is like, "Eh, it doesn't affect me. I don't have feelings about it because it's not me." Empathy… The prefix em is in. So, in feeling. "I'm in this with you." Empathy over apathy. Now tell them what to do. How do we live this out?
Sierra: I'll just start. Again, going to God's Word is so important. First Corinthians 12:25-26: "…that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together…" I think that's exactly what we're talking about. When we are apathetic and say, "Well, this doesn't apply to me" or "I don't really know a lot of information, so I'm just going to stay out of it…" No, we are called. When one part of the body suffers, we all suffer.
We are called to empathy. When we do that, it's an opportunity to understand another person's experiences. We're actually putting ourselves in their shoes. Now, the reality is when it comes to disparities and racism, and the list goes on… The bottom line is that the perception of where we are and how we got there and maybe even why the cycles continue or don't continue… Those answers are always going to be different between different ethnicities and races.
I mean, if we did a poll in this room, I guarantee you we would all have different answers, which is an even higher call and challenge that we have to be able to listen. We have to listen and lean in and empathize. Just a quick illustration of sympathy versus empathy is sympathy is if someone falls in a hole and you look down and say, "Oh my goodness. I'm so sorry you're in a hole. That's really hard. I'll see if I can help," versus empathy that says, "I'm going to get in the hole with you. I've never been here. I don't know how to get out, but let's figure it out together."
That's literally what Galatians 6:2 is calling us to: "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." We get to carry one another's burdens, as the body of Christ, as we seek to be one. Being part of the body of Christ is being committed to feeling and seeking to understand the pain others are going through. That starts, again, with listening and empathizing.
I think, truly, empathy creates pathways to connections. My friend Mandy this past week even shared that. As we create those connections, it allows for relationships, and while relationships are built, that is an opening for healing, and then through healing, we move to reconciliation. In that, how sweet is it that the church gets to be an example of what it looks like to empathize and to lean in and to be one.
One of the greatest examples that is true of my life… I had two friends, Holly and Jane. Early in 2018, we sat in my room, and we were talking about the topic of racism and how I have been impacted by that. We had been living together for two years, and they said, "Why have you never shared this with us?" I was honest, and I said, "I feel like I can't." It brings me to tears, because it was such an impactful moment.
My friends met me, and they said, "But we love everyone the same." Then I got to lean in even more, just like Marvin talked about before, and I said, "When you say that, sometimes that can invalidate my feelings. Here's how I feel, and here's what's going on." And they sat with me, and they cried with me on my floor in my bedroom. It was a picture of what empathy looks like. They did not understand, and that one conversation didn't change their experiences, but it allowed them to see into how I was feeling and what was going on.
That is a picture of what the church should look like, so that when people look in and say, "Why are they unified? Why do they love each other like that?" we get to say, "It's not because of what I learned in school. It's not because of CRT. It is because of who Jesus is and that he calls us to love and to lean in and to move toward people." They just did what Romans 12:10 says: "Love one another with brotherly affection." Then Romans 12:15 says, _ "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." That is exactly what they did for me, and it was beautiful.
John: Thank you, Sierra. What else?
Oscar: What I would tell you is God is doing something amazing here in our Watermark family. As Sierra has said about empathy, I've sat across from friends who are of lighter skin, what the culture calls white, and they feel guilt, and they feel all this weight. "I just feel like I can't even say anything because everything is taken negatively." All I would tell you is you are not Jesus. You cannot save anyone from sin. The only thing you can do is present Jesus in these moments, and that requires doing what Jesus did.
So, I want to free you from that, because that is putting yourself back in bondage. You can be free in Christ. It is okay to be awkward sometimes. Listen. It's okay. In family you can bring up these topics, unless somebody else is lying and they won't bring it up. In family, we should be able to say, "Hey, I really don't know what to say. Would you teach me? Would you lead me?" So, as we have a diverse Watermark family… We have 70-plus countries in our membership. That is amazing. That is only God. A shameless plug here. Watermark en Español is meeting right now at 11:15 in the Loft.
John: Great. There goes the other half of the room.
Oscar: Yeah. There you go. Come on. Listen. When you come, you may get mariachis. Who knows? It happens. All I would tell you is come. We're going to greet you with a holy, wet, sloppy kiss. I'm kidding. We're going to treat you well, but we would love to bridge those connections and really relate to one another, because it's in those moments where we come together that God is glorified.
I would just tell you: start with your Community Groups, right there. There's actually a good resource on watermark.org/addressingracism. Go there and start having that conversation. Then invite other Community Groups, and you'll start to see God at work. That is our prayer for you today.
John: You know no one heard anything you said after you said "sloppy, wet kiss."
Oscar: Listen. It's part of being a family.
John: Marvin, take us home.
Marvin: There's no sloppy kissing happening in South Dallas, but 11:15, up in the Loft.
Oscar: No shame.
Marvin: I also want to go back to empathy and take a minute there to think about where I'm at, because I have a bride, Amber, who is half-black and half-Hispanic, and I have friends who are biracial and families I know. That's also a people group that is in a space of tension that we could move toward and show that empathy and just have conversations, because sometimes they don't know where to start. My kids are biracial.
I want to share a story about a friend of mine who is a white guy who goes to the dentist, and his hygienist is black. As he shows up to the dentist last year when racial tension is at a height in our nation, he sits in the chair, looks at his hygienist, and says, with all that's going on, "Where are you? How are you? What are you feeling?" This dude in his 20s is talking to a black woman in her late 40s, asking that question. She then stops, looks at him, and says, "In 49 years of life, nobody has ever asked me that." That's what moving toward looks like. Yes, it's uncomfortable. Yes, it's tough, but he leaned in.
That makes me think about John 4:4: "But He needed to go through Samaria." He had to pass through Samaria. That he is Jesus. Jesus had an option, but instead, he chose it to be his mission to go through to Samaria. He had to, the verse says. Most Jews hated Samaria so much they were willing to take the long route and go completely around it, but Jesus had to go through Samaria.
Church, we have to move from being spectators to shalom chasers, chasing the peace of God and not sitting on the sidelines of church using the words colorblind and CRT as an excuse, really, to say, "Oh, you know what? That stuff is dividing us. Come on. We're not showing up for that. We're not here for that." Set that aside and realize that we are called to make peace and pursue peace.
Romans 12:18: "If possible, so far as it depends on you, [do all that you can to] live peaceably with all." Hebrews 12:14, another verse: "Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." Again, James 3:18: "And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace." We are called, in just a few verses, to be those who make and pursue peace.
But from all we just said, how can you make peace if you're not willing to move toward it? We have to move toward people. I'm sure we can land on and agree that, yes, systemic change needs to happen, but it starts in the church house…not the White House, not your friend's house, but in your house. We can do it here in the Lord's house.
Jesus gives us this example in John 4 about moving against the grain and moving toward people. He went toward this woman at the well. People avoided her, and he drew near to her. He met her where she was at. The second commandment, which Jesus says is similar to the first, is to love our neighbor. Who is that? Everyone. Anyone.
Lastly, I want to sit back, because this is tense, and ask you the question…What is it that God is inviting you into in this moment? What might it be? I hope you don't shrug your shoulders and just go, "Nothing." I hope that's not the case, because if John 4 is true (and it is), then we, too, ought to be going through our Samarias, because there are people who are thirsty, waiting at wells for you to pursue them and make peace with them.
They are waiting for us to make peace, but you have to move toward. We have to move toward being peacemakers, the peacemakers of this generation that God has called us to be in this year, because it's in our peacemaking and our love toward each other and our neighbors that the world out there gets an opportunity to see the light and the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
John: Amen. Y'all, let's give a round of applause to our panelists here. I want to close with this. Nehemiah, chapter 1. He asked some people, "Hey, how is our land?" because he was in captivity, away. They said, "It's not good. Our city lies in ruins. Our people are in despair and destitute." So he mourns, fasts, weeps, and he prays. He confesses the sins of himself and of his people, and he prays to the Lord.
Then he goes before the king. He goes before his sovereign, and the king asks, "Why are you sad?" He explains to him what's going on with his people. Then the king gives him everything he needs to go back to that place to bring order and peace to the chaos. I want us to pray with that in mind the words of Nehemiah. Let's pray.
Father, we are looking to you, our Sovereign, confessing the sins of partiality and racism in our land and the destitution and despair it has brought. It grieves us, but may it not stay there. So, Lord, would you give us what we need that is your will for our land, the salt and light that will bring healing, the shalom Marvin just spoke of, to bring peace. It will only happen through you. Lead us, Lord, in all of our different lives, every circle of influence we are in. May we bring about your kingdom as it is in heaven. In Jesus' name, amen.