James Meehan - How Should Christians Respond to Racism?
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Vince Parker: Well, welcome back to Culture Makers. Today we're talking about, how should Christians respond to racism? Taylor Swift's new album. We answer a bunch of your questions. And my name is Vince Parker. This is James Meehan, lets dive right in.
James Meehan: It is going to be an action-packed episode, just like the most recent episode of Falcon and Winter Soldier.
Vince Parker: Whoa, you can't talk about that 'cause I haven't seen it. I was moving all weekend.
James Meehan: Oh, we won't talk about it, we won't talk about it.
Vince Parker: If you spoil this for me before I watch it.
James Meehan: I won't, but it's good.
Vince Parker: Okay, all right, one of our favorite...
James Meehan: Not one of our favorites, our favorite, the one, the only, LeShay Miller.
Vince Parker: Okay, asked the question, here it go. How should Christians respond to racism, James Meehan go.
James Meehan: That is such a beautiful question. And I think it's such an important question, especially because that is something that is so prevalent in our world today are the issues and the conversation surrounding racism, and how best to respond to it. Now to be crystal clear for those of us who are followers of Christ we should have zero tolerance for racism.
Vince Parker: Zero.
James Meehan: Because what we believe is that we are all human beings made in the image of God, regardless of whether we're white, or black, or any other ethnicity or racial background, regardless of if we're a man or a woman, whether we're young or we're old, regardless of what our job is, any of those things. We are all human beings created in the image of God. And one of the things that is so fascinating about the New Testament and the letters that Paul wrote to the early church is how important the idea of a multiethnic community was to witnessing to the future of God's kingdom that was coming on Earth because of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, right? I think it's in Galatians chapter three, the apostle Paul talks about this idea that for those of us who are followers of Christ, we have been baptized into a new family, a new humanity, being stitched together by the Spirit of God. And in this new humanity, this new family the reality is that there is neither Jew nor Gentile. There's neither slave nor free, male nor female, but we are all one in Christ Jesus. And so basically what Paul is saying is that when we choose to become Christians that becomes our primary identifier, Christians, followers of Jesus. And so if we choose to then discriminate against somebody else based off of their race, their background, or whatever, then we're 100% ignoring the gospel message that says, hey, in Jesus, all of us are made new. In Jesus, all of us have been invited into a new family where we are equal, we are one in the eyes of God because we are putting on Christ, so that it's no longer us who lives, but it is Christ living in us. And in Jesus as a part of this new family, we have been restored to our original job of partnering with the God of Heaven and Earth to bring goodness, to bring peace, to bring flourishing to all of his creation. That's what the Hebrew word Shalom means. It's wholeness, it's completeness, it's peace, it's flourishing. It's all of the good things that we wish were true being true. And what we believe is that through the gospel, the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, that Shalom is possible. And the way that God works that out in our present age is through the church, the body of Christ, the people of God living out the will of God, living in a way that is very counter to the ways of this world where we choose to see everybody else primarily as human beings made in the image of God who have been made righteous through their allegiance to Jesus.
Vince Parker: So you're saying we should celebrate the unique differences of how God made us based on what our cultural backgrounds, where we're from is that we should probably cancel racism, not canceled people because they're different, have a different experience than we do. As someone who's experienced racism firsthand, I can tell you, it sucks to be mistreated just simply based on the color of your skin. And here's the deal. I think we should also not dismiss people's feelings and opinions because you just simply think to yourself, well, I don't think that's true. There are a lot of things that I've never experienced that I don't think are true, but it doesn't mean that person has not experienced them and never felt them. So I'm with you as followers of Christ, man, we should embrace and love the unique people that our God created.
James Meehan: Come on, dude.
Vince Parker: Like not dismiss it and be like, well, you know, you don't quite fit this mold, or this making, or I don't like your culture, or your history, or what you choose to do, or it's different than mine, but we should celebrate it.
James Meehan: Well, and I think what's so beautiful about what you said there is acknowledging that it is those differences, those different people from different backgrounds coming together that is supposed to be a picture of Heaven on Earth. Right because it's really easy to be united when everybody's the same. Because actually instead of unity, we ended up with uniformity. But diversity actually requires differences. So often in our world, those differences lead to division. But in the family of God, in the church, it is those differences coming together under the name of Jesus. That is meant to be a picture of God's kingdom in the here and now. And so yeah, we celebrate the differences because it is through those differences that we can be able to have our eyes opened to things that might not be obvious to us. I love the, I think it's Proverbs 28:17 that says something to the effect of every story seems right until you hear the other side. And what's so valuable about that for me is I know that based off of my perspective, where I was raised, based off of being a white man in America that there are certain things that when I see them, I have certain like assumptions that come with what I see. But by actually doing the work of having empathy and seeking understanding from those who see things differently than me then I start to get a more full picture of how the world really works, and what it looks like to represent Jesus well to a world that I believe is desperate for people modeling what true unity is supposed to look like.
Vince Parker: Most definitely, so yeah, racism, cancel that.
James Meehan: Come on.
Vince Parker: James, let's move on. I know I didn't write this down, but I just remember it was sad. I was sad this weekend. One of my favorite artists of all time passed away, DMX.
James Meehan: Yeah.
Vince Parker: Yeah. Man, ooh, rest in peace, DMX.
James Meehan: Absolutely.
Vince Parker: That's you know, I was listening to DMX all weekend. I don't know if I should, but I did. So let's move on, James. One of your favorite artists is still alive, but re-released some music. Taylor Swift, James, I know you like Taylor Swift. Like you're a fan when she was country, right? Is that how it is?
James Meehan: I think that some of Taylor Swift songs, not all of them, but some of them, absolutely incredible. And so when I found out that she was rerecording and re-releasing the fearless album, you better believe I got fired up because my favorite T Swift song of all time is on that album.
Vince Parker: What's that song?
James Meehan: Go ahead and guess right now, three, two, if you haven't guessed yet, I'm gonna start singing it. One, the song is called Love Story. And here's how it goes. "It's a love story baby just say yes, Romeo and Juliet".
Vince Parker: Whoa, I had to cut that off for you, the viewers. James, you're a talented man in many things. Singing, not one of them.
— Wow, okay, cool, thank you for the feedback.
— We've got another question here. It says by DBG is the person who asked the question, in Acts the Followers of the Way spent lots of their time in fellowship, praying, and preaching. If that's what they did more than anything else, why aren't we living like that now?
— That's such a good question. I think that, you know, I like the way that he asked the question because he talked about the Followers of the Way, right? For those of you who may not know this, actually the first Christians weren't called Christians. They were called Followers of the Way because Jesus made this claim that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And when Jesus stepped onto history, he was introducing a new way of living, a new way of being human that was actually the true way of being human. And so these Followers of the Way weren't just signing up for another religion. They weren't just settling for one more relationship. What they were doing was dedicating their entire way of living to this God who had become man, who lived on Earth, and died on a cross, and then rose from the grave. And so this question about, they spent so much of their time in fellowship in praying, and preaching, like, why is that? And how is it that we don't do that as much? I think it's a really good question. And I think it comes back to this idea that for so many of us, I think that we have lost our way. And I say that pun intended, because oftentimes the conversations now about Christianity are about like is it a religion or a relationship? Is it about grace through faith or is it about works? And I think that both of those miss the mark. I think in reality, the journey of following Jesus is 100% an invitation offered to us that doesn't cost us anything. We don't have to pay to follow Jesus. But at the same time, it costs us everything because choosing to follow Jesus is choosing to let go of what was and to step into what could be. And so around this question, how do we do more of that? I think that we actually have to do the work of making sure that Jesus is really first in our lives and that if we are truly dedicated to following Jesus with all that we are, we have to start asking the question, okay, what would it look like to prioritize every day, to prioritize every week, every month around what I say is my real priority, which is my relationship with God. But I think for many of us we sort of just settle for what's easiest, which is, man, I go to church every once in a while. Occasionally I might, if I really feel like it read my Bible. I prayed that prayer a long time ago to say, Jesus, I give you my life. But the reality is to say, Jesus, I give you my life, but then to not actually live as if that's true is I think settling for so much less than what God has for you. Because Jesus didn't just come to give you a new identity. He did that. He came to invite you into God's family, and to be a part of God's mission, which involves not just part of us, but all of us. And so I say all that to say, I think it's really challenging in our world today because there are so many distractions. There are so many things that are looking for our time video games, Netflix, school, work, YouTube, social media, all of these different things that the question of how do we make time for what matters most has to start with identifying what is it in my life that matters most?
— So basically we've gotta put in the work.
— Come on. And the thing that I think is so beautiful about this is to understand that followers of Jesus were originally called disciples. And the word disciple comes from the same root word for discipline. And so if you're going to try to be a disciple without using discipline, it's probably not gonna work very well. And again, this does not mean that we are saved by our works. That's absolutely not what we're saying. We're saved through the grace of Jesus, but we aren't just saved from our sin, but we are saved for adoption into God's family and participation in God's mission. I think it's that second half of things that leads us to actually putting in the work of becoming the person that God has created us to be.
— I like how you used the word adoption, I've adopted my daughter, but there was still work that needed to be done to grow and make that relationship healthy. I love her no matter what the situation, she loves me no matter what the situation, but you just can't do whatever, and be like, hey, this is just great. You just kicked me in my head. That's just wonderful. There's work in the things that mature, and help it grow in the same way. So that's great. Let's go onto the next question here from Maddie McCumber. How are you supposed to know what God is calling you to do? What is your purpose?
— Well, we actually just were talking about this recently in one of our Switch messages. And just to kind of summarize it for you what I'll do is just give you a few questions that if you ask these questions, then answer them, I believe it will help you get a little bit closer to identifying your purpose. Now to start, big picture, all of us are called to love others and to love God. Like that's a part of what it means to be Christian. Now how we do that specifically is gonna be different depending on where we live, what our skills are, what we like, where we come from, all those different things. And so a few questions to help you identify your calling, and your purpose are question number one, what do you love? Question number two, what are you good at? Right, like what skills do you have? And then question number three, what does the world need? What does the world need? And I think as you begin to answer those three questions, there will probably be a few things that come up where you realize, man, I'm really passionate about this. I'm really good at this other thing. And this is something that the world needs. Then what I would start doing is exploring how you can put some work into that thing. to begin making a difference. And then as you graduate high school, or college, or wherever, and you realize, man, I gotta make a living, just add one more question. How can I make a living doing this thing? Right, so what am I good at? What do I love? What does the world need? And how can I make a living doing this thing? And I believe that those four questions, as long as they're in alignment with you loving God with all that you are and loving others the same way that God through Christ has loved you will be a helpful way for you to take some steps towards the calling and purpose that God has for you.
— I'd just add too that stay in touch with reading your Word, journaling, writing down experiences, seeking wisdom and counsel for those who around you, who are grounded in their faith. You know, you wouldn't ask some random dude off the street.
— Yeah, you might get a random answer from a random dude.
— Don't take advice from random people off the street. Let's go with one more here from Brittany Dubose. So Justin Bieber just released two albums. Okay, so the first one is Justice, which released maybe two or three weeks ago at the time of this recording. And then Easter Sunday, right? He released another album. Now I'm hearing that he got the idea for this album like on a Wednesday or Thursday before Easter, got together with like five or six friends and made it happen. I don't know if that's true or not. That's just what I heard. That album's called Freedom and Freedom is a gospel album. Like, you know, when you think Christian music, like Hillsong, like gospel, like that. But yeah, Justin Bieber style, right? But Justice, it's just a normal album, regular album, got all the merch that goes with it, some might say secular album, right? And so there's this tension that people are like, so like which Justin is Justin, should I cancel Justin? No, you shouldn't cancel people, we've talked about that. Only cancel things like racism and porn.
— Come on, that's good.
— But like how do people wrestle with knowing the fact that people like, is there two different people, and I'm not understanding, explain that, break that down.
— You want me to explain how Justin Bieber works.
— No, not how he works, but just, you know.
— Yeah, well, and I think this is such an important question for us to wrestle with. Because I think that oftentimes in life we want easy, simple answers, but life is a little bit more complicated than that. And I think that requires us to do the work of asking the question, seeking understanding, and then on the other side of that, coming to a conclusion and figuring out, okay, like if I've learned these things based off what's good and what's true, how do I respond? And so what I would say to that is when it comes to Justin Bieber, he is a complicated individual.
— Right? He finds himself in an industry that is oftentimes very opposed to the things of God and the way of Jesus. But he is somebody who is trying as far as I can tell to represent Jesus well. Now I would say, some people might disagree that he doesn't always do that super perfectly, but I think what I want to choose to do is celebrate the good while being aware of the bad. And I think the good that we would celebrate is the fact that he's trying to use his platform to point people to Jesus and the freedom that is found through a relationship with him. It's easy to look at somebody like Justin Bieber and to say, well, he's got this album that is him claiming to be a Christian. And you know, it was about preaching Jesus. But then he's got this other album that has all these other things that seem to be opposed to Jesus. And it's really easy for us to point our fingers at Justin without recognizing that so many of us do the same thing every day. And this is the thing that I try so hard to do is when I read the words of Jesus, when I read the truth found in scriptures to not allow myself to use it as a weapon against other people, but as something to help me reflect on all of the areas where I fall short and to be reminded of God's radical grace for me, and the fact that through opening myself up to his transformative spirit that every single day I can become more like Jesus. I'm not going to give you a clear answer on Justin Bieber. But what I will do is I'll ask you to reflect on yourself. And when you see a guy like Justin Bieber who talks about Jesus in one album, and then talks about some other things in another album, how many times have you been in a conversation where afterward you kind of felt that little bit of discomfort because you realized even though you identify as a Christian some of the things that you were just talking about were not very Christian. When I find myself in those places, what I try as hard as I can to do is just to pause, to pray and ask God for forgiveness. And then for God to give me wisdom and courage to do better next time because I want to become the kind of person that accurately represents Jesus to others. And I know that there are so many times where I fall short, and only through the grace of Jesus can I actually become that kind of person. And I don't want to miss an opportunity to open myself up to God's correction and God's transformation, so yeah.
— What's unique about the whole Justin situation is there are people who will listen to his music and see he dropped a gospel album. People's lives got changed because of that. People came to know Jesus because of that. And so while he might be living in both worlds, God is using that.
— To make a difference in people's lives because oftentimes some of us kind of exist in both worlds and we're just trying to navigate it and figure it out. You know, we're not all perfect, we're not all complete, but one day when Jesus comes back, we will. But I know God's using Justin in a way 'cause you don't make a gospel album like that one.
— Come on, dude, yeah.
— Like, I listened to it, and got saved three more times. Hey, well thank y'all for listening to Culture Makers. Like, subscribe, share, ask your questions below. We would love to answer. Love you guys, we'll see you later, bye.
— See ya.