on our longing for justice

The following is the body of an email I sent to our church family at Life Church – Salisbury on Tuesday, May 12.


On Sunday, we began our worship gathering with a moment of lament over a number of examples of suffering that came to light last week. Chief among those sources of grief was the tragic, racially-motivated murder of Ahmaud Arbery. Corporately we lamented Arbery’s death, and the social injustices that surrounded it.

Regrettably, lament doesn’t get much attention in most modern Christian circles. Christians today tend to gravitate toward songs and books with themes of victory and celebration, rather than mourning and grief over the effects of sin and death in the world. Yet the Bible itself is full of lament, and lament seems to be the most-fitting first response to evil and injustice in a fallen world.

Of course, lament really shouldn’t be our only response to evil and injustice. If all we do is lament the expressions of brokenness we see in the world without ever taking action to combat that brokenness where possible, our lament will be tinged with hypocrisy. As Christians, we must take action – especially on behalf of those who suffer in this world. The book of James tells us, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27a). Care for those who suffer in a fallen world – in James’ day, the orphans and widows – is a necessary ingredient of true, saving faith. We serve a Savior who gave his life to serve the vulnerable; we must do the same. Scripture is clear about this.

Yet Scripture is less clear about exactly how we are called to serve the vulnerable. That service will and should look different in my life than it looks in yours. Each of us needs wisdom to discern what our own response will be when we see expressions of injustice and suffering in the world. We must act, but that action will be shaped by the gifts and opportunities God gives us, as well as the contexts and circumstances of our own lives.

As you consider prayerfully how you should respond to the realities of injustice in the world, I’d encourage you to remember three things.

First, our longing for justice points us to our Creator. As bearers of God’s image, we desire justice because God desires justice and is perfectly just. We protest injustice because God hates injustice. God’s perfect justice is stamped on our hearts. Though sin has marred his image in each of us, we continue to reflect his perfections in part. In this way, our longing for justice is ultimately a longing for God – to know him and to be in his perfect presence.

Second, our longing for justice reveals that we are made for eternity. We will never have perfect justice in this world. While we know that, we are still frustrated by it. That’s one reason why last week was so difficult emotionally for so many of us. Yet that frustration reveals that we aren’t made for this world, but for another. Only in eternity will our God of perfect justice bring about his perfect justice. In the meantime, our discontentment and angst with life in this fallen world reveals that we are created for a world fully redeemed and without sin, the new heavens and the new earth (see Revelation 21:1-5).

Let us not protest against brokenness without first reflecting on, confessing, and repenting of our ongoing brokenness.

Finally, our longing for justice should produce deep gospel-humility. The perfect justice of our God is only good news because Jesus Christ satisfied God’s justice on the cross for all who trust him in saving faith. Apart from this good news, God’s justice would mean infinite, eternal torment. So let us not cry out against injustice in this world without first praising God for his grace. Let us not protest against brokenness without first reflecting on, confessing, and repenting of our ongoing brokenness. Apart from grace, none of us would be any better than those who murdered Ahmaud Arbery. None of us. We can – and should – protest injustice. But we should do so having first been humbled by the depths of our sin and the radical power of the gospel.

why Ruth (now)?

Several weeks ago, I wrote about our church’s commitment to biblical exposition – the practicing of preaching (primarily) through entire books or sections of the Bible, letting the main point of each passage shape the main point of each sermon. Last Sunday, we completed our expositional study of the book of Ruth. There are a variety of reasons why we believed Ruth was the right book to walk through in this season of our church’s life. Why did we choose Ruth, and why did we choose Ruth right now?

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why exposition?

Over the last few weeks at Life Church, we have been walking through the Old Testament book of Ruth. Last fall, we spent three months studying 1 Thessalonians. Prior to that, we spent almost eight months studying the book of Acts. This coming summer, we’ll devote fifteen weeks to studying a section of the book of Psalms – the Psalms of Ascent. From that habit, hopefully one thing is obvious: As a church, one of our primary commitments in preaching is to biblical exposition. That means that the normal pattern of our preaching and teaching involves walking methodically through whole books of the Bible, as opposed to preaching and teaching on selected topics or from selected texts.1

Why is biblical exposition important? Why have we made a commitment to it as a church? Here are four reasons why.

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a prayer about the gospel changing everything

Father: I thank you and praise you for how profoundly you have changed my relationship with you, with your ways, and with your Word through the gospel.

Apart from the gospel, any approach to you was an approach to a severe, wrathful judge who had an airtight case against me. But now, in the gospel, I approach you as a beloved, adopted son, as a member of your family with the full rights and privileges of your other children – even an inheritance from you that will never perish, spoil, or fade!

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transitions

A month ago, I “announced” in this space a transition that had been underway for several months. While I have loved serving the people of Capitol City Christian Church, the Lord was making it clear that he had another assignment in mind for me.

Last Sunday, the people of Life Church in Salisbury, North Carolina, unanimously affirmed their elders’ decision to call me to be their next pastor of teaching and vision.

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a personal update

I still remember where I was and what I was doing when I first heard the name Capitol City Christian Church. Sitting at my desk in my home office in Amarillo, Texas, I was holding our youngest son, Carson, who was about three weeks old. Kristen and I had slept a total of fifteen minutes since he was born. An email came through that mentioned the church and encouraged me to consider putting myself forward as the church was looking for a new lead pastor.

As I processed that, my immediate reaction was clear, simple, and decisive. I thought to myself: that will never happen. If our Lord has a sense of humor, I imagine he chuckled at that. Because, obviously, it did happen. And it happened because God clearly, simply, and decisively made it happen. He called me to serve at Capitol City six years ago. And he did it in such a way that those who were a part of the process have never been able to doubt that he was the one orchestrating that call.

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the power of weak people

God loves to use weak people to accomplish big things. Weak, timid, desperate people make perfect receptacles for the Holy Spirit’s power when they turn to him and depend upon him. God’s kingdom does not advance by human strength but by supernatural power, and his supernatural power is best displayed – not through strong, smart, capable people, but through weak, humble, dependent people.

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