Southern District, LCMS, President Johnson Statement on Racism
Racism is sin.
We as LCMS Lutherans believe, teach, and confess that Scripture is the norm for all faith and practice. Therefore, it is important to understand what Scripture says about sin, and about the sin of racism in particular at this time in our church body and nation. We are called upon to let Scripture challenge us and change us; to realize within ourselves the death brought about by sin, to be convicted of our sin by God’s Word, and let that conviction lead us to Confession and Absolution resulting in forgiveness and reconciliation.
Racism, prejudice, and hatred all come from the same source: sin. The fall into sin by our ancestors, Adam and Eve, plunged all of creation into chaos and death. All relationships are damaged and broken by sin. Our relationship with our God, and our relationships with each other, are all broken and marred by sin. No human political, economic, or social program can fix sin.
The Gospel saves.
Only the Gospel offers a cure for our sin. Christ Jesus did all the work in His life, death, and resurrection to save sinful, broken, dead humanity. The only cure for racism is the correct application of God’s Law and Gospel. Christ gives His Gospel gifts to us, to His Church, to those He calls and gathers around His good Gospel gifts of Word and Sacrament. He gives to us the gift of the water of Baptism that now saves us. He gives us these gifts to justify and sanctify us in Himself, and He gives us these Gospel gifts that we may give them away to others.
Hear and see what the Word of God says about sin, racism, Law and Gospel.
We all long for elusive racial harmony:
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:18-25
We are all created in God’s image:
“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:26-27
There is only one race:
It’s the lie of the devil that divides us by race and skin color. “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.” Acts 17:26-27a
In Christ Jesus God loves all people from every tribe, tongue, people and nation:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16-17
Hurt people, hurt people. People hurt and broken by sin, people like you and me, sin against God and against each other. There is no law, no political, economic, or social program that can arrest our sinning against each other. There is only the Law of God that slays and convicts us, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ that saves us, frees us from the penalty of our sin, and leads us to Confession and Absolution resulting in forgiveness and reconciliation. Don’t deceive yourself – you are hurt and broken by sin; you sin against God and against others. We all, you and me, each and every one of us, has sinned against another by holding racism in our hearts and acting upon our sin by being prejudiced and/or hateful toward another person because of the color of their skin. And we, as Baptized children of God in Christ Jesus, are called upon to examine our hearts and confess our sin. There is only one cure for sin, and for the hurt and brokenness that results from sin, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Saint Paul tells us, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Romans 1:16
Law and Gospel; Confession and Absolution; Forgiveness and Restoration:
As sinful people, we will never fully reach perfection in this world; we will never fully eradicate the evils of racism in this world, but we are called upon by the Word of God in Holy Scripture to try.
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” Philippians 3:12-16
Finally, we who belong to Jesus Christ, who have been baptized into Christ’s life, death, and resurrection; we who are filled with God’s good Gospel gifts in Word and Sacrament – we are called upon to live differently than the world around us. We are called to live differently than the Republicans or Democrats tell us to live. We are called to live differently than any political, economic, or social program tells us to live. We are to live as those who have already died to sin in Christ Jesus and have been raised to new life in Christ. In Christ we are all one race, one blood, one Spirit, one faith, one baptism. In Christ we are all the same color, we are the color of the blood of Christ given and shed for us; we are all the color of the waters of Baptism, the very waters of grace flowing from the throne of God. Saint Paul tells us,
“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:27-28
This is a good Lutheran question: What Does This Mean? First, allow the Word of God to slay your sinful nature, allow the conviction of the Holy Spirit to prick your heart leading to contrition and the confession of your sin. Confess where you have sinned against another. Confess your sinful beliefs and attitudes about others based on race or skin color. Receive from Christ Jesus that your sins are truly and indeed forgiven. Then, being forgiven, speak words of forgiveness to others and press on toward the goal for the prize for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus to reconcile with those who have hurt you and sinned against you. Work toward justice for all people. Work to share the Gospel of forgiveness with all who are hurt and broken by the sin, and particularly at this time of the sin of racism. Work toward the goal we are given as Americans, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [people] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in your heart through Christ’s Gospel gifts, and work toward the goal of realizing that all people, created equal by our Creator God, therefore have great worth and deserve our diligence to ensure the unalienable rights of all people, no matter the color of their skin.
Written by Rev. Eric Johnson, District President, Southern District, LCMS
Rev. Eric Johnson, District President, Southern District, LCMS
Rev. Dr. McNair Ramsey, 1st Vice President, Southern District, LCMS
Rev. Ferry Nye, Chairman, Black Ministry Task Force, Southern District, LCMS
Rev. Dr. Ulmer Marshall, Board of Directors, Southern District, LCMS
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation
to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.