Dear Friends in Christ,
What you are about to experience is a labor of love – love for the Gospel, love for the church, love for people. We have all experienced how deeply people feel about the subject of racism and the divides we have allowed sin to cause in our relationships with one another. I don’t believe this has been a conscious decision by most people. It is the result of the limitations we live with because we are all a people broken by sin living in a broken world. We can often only see life from our own point of view. What this resource seeks to do is to help us all see life from a broader perspective – from another person’s point of view. Jesus did this in so many encounters with people in the Gospels, and He calls us to do it, too. We see this in action most dramatically in our Lord Jesus’ coming into the world to become one of us, to take on our human flesh and to experience life as we do. As the letter to the Hebrews shares pointedly, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15–16 (ESV)
When the 2018 Northwest District Convention established a call for a task force to address the question of racism, we had no idea how explosive an issue it would become two years later. Our country has been divided over this matter to the point of violence. It is time for God’s people to begin to bring healing to our culture by listening to and learning from all the members of the body of Christ. We must be willing to learn that the Holy Spirit might change our hearts and our behavior.
The Bible Studies and accompanying videos are a step toward this kind of change. As you work with them, please do so with an attitude of prayer and openness to a new point of view. It is intended that this be done in conversation with other people. The studies can be used in a small group or in a larger group, but it is important that people have the opportunity to reflect upon and talk about what they are hearing from God’s Word about how He calls us to live together and to love one another in the context of prayer.
Here are some thoughts about using this study:
- Use the study in a group setting. Provide the opportunity for people to encounter God’s Word in an atmosphere of learning and growth – just as we do anytime we study His Word as the body of Christ.
- Surround the gathering time with prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to guide the conversation and opening our hearts and minds to His direction.
- Convention delegates should both actively participate and carefully listen to those with whom they are working through the study. They should bring feedback to the convention as we discuss this issue and respond to the presented resolutions.
- Convention delegates should also carefully read the report from the Task Force printed in the Convention Workbook in Section 3 pages 5-7.
My heart is heavy when I think about the experience of our brothers and sisters in Christ who have experienced the burden of racism. It simply doesn’t fit our Lord’s vision for how we are to live together. As we address this issue at our convention it is imperative that we do not do so from a position of being defensive or accusing. It is imperative that we listen carefully to those whose experience is different from our own that we might learn and grow and care for one another.
Revelation 7:9–10 (ESV)
9 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, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
This is God’s vision for His people. Let it be ours as well.
Serving the Lord and His people,
Rev. Dr. Paul Linnemann
President of the Northwest District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod