Written By Hannah Shoue, USA
My husband and I moved to a new area after our wedding earlier this summer, and we are currently searching for a church to be a part of. Every Sunday we have visited a church, whether a new one, or one we have been visiting for several weeks, I struggle.
To me, the Church has begun to feel isolated and unfeeling about the realities of the world around it. Each Sunday that goes by without a mention of racial justice, with no acknowledgment of the deep pain that is rocking our nation and affecting believers and nonbelievers alike, makes me wonder why the Church is not at the forefront of advocating for justice. A mixture of anger, frustration, shock, and sadness swirls inside of me as I try to engage while battling a growing cynicism in my soul.
Maybe you are also frustrated with churches that will only allude to racial justice or that chug on with their usual ministry schedule and sermon series—the life of the Church uninterrupted by the cries of the people outside of it. Maybe you are also wondering when you will see church leadership that reflects what you look like and represents your experiences. Maybe you too, grow weary of having to assume that your fellow church members do not share your heart for justice, or even do not care to know your heart in that area.
I have been working through these feelings and emotions recently, and while I am still struggling, I do have a few points of encouragement for my fellow believers who might be growing disheartened:
1. You are not alone.
I have often felt like the only Christian that cares about racial justice and other social justice issues because I live in an area where people don’t tend to talk about or share their viewpoints on those topics. I have often felt that no one in my community shares the passion I know God has given me, which makes it really hard to participate in church.
I’ve found encouragement, however, from sharing my heart with close friends and also with others online. Sharing my heart with friends I trust and who I know share my values reminds me that I am not alone, and these friends reflect back to me the love and truth of who Christ is. Online, I have found articles and social media accounts where other Christians are expressing frustration and encouragement around these issues (including YMI!).
I have also found hope in Scripture, and in a God who is unafraid to point out injustice to His people. Recently, I have been reminded of this while reading through the major prophets. This passage from Isaiah is one example of words God has for the unjust: “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights, and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people” (Isaiah 10:1-2).
2. Your emotions are valid.
You are not a bad Christian for feeling upset or frustrated with your church leadership. The Church is made of imperfect people and will act imperfectly sometimes. You have an opportunity in these times to lovingly but truthfully share your thoughts with other Christians around you—even your church leadership if possible.
In his letters to different early Christian communities, Paul spoke truthfully as he confronted issues, but he also bookended his letters with an outpouring of love, encouragement, and thoughtful prayer.
For example, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 2:4, “For I wrote to you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.” When it comes to tense issues such as racial justice, we as Christians can follow Paul’s example and share our concerns not to hurt or accuse others, but because of our deep love for the congregations we are a part of and our fellow believers.
3. You are the Church.
Remember that you too are part of the Church, which means that the Church does care about racial justice and other justice issues because you do. The Church is the beautiful bride of Christ and is loved dearly by Him, and that includes you and your church.
Remember Christ’s love for your church as you consider voicing your thoughts and feelings, and remember Christ’s love for you. We’re reminded in 1 John 3:16 what the basic nature of love is: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” Christ laid down His life for all of us, you and your fellow churchgoers.
What I have come to know is that God is present in the struggle, holding us by the hand (Isaiah 42:6) and looking at us with His great mercy and lovingkindness. When I am tempted to despair, I reflect on this image of God, which is true no matter the circumstances, and remember that I alone am not able to or responsible for changing the church’s attitude towards racial justice.
Sometimes, in His great mercy, God provides me with a glimmer of hope to hang on to. For example, just last Sunday, there was a mention of racial justice from the pulpit of the church my husband and I have been attending.
So for those of us who see the pain and whose hearts are breaking for it, let’s continue to remember that we are not alone, that we are the church, and that we are called to share the truth in love.
Let’s not forget that God has given us our passion for justice, and while we cannot single handedly destroy systems of injustice like racism, we can trust that God began this good work in us and will bring fruits from it according to His will.