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Sunday, December 21, 2014

How Do You Measure Love?

The Measure of Love
Fourth in Advent




Homily Text:  So God loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all who believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16


Today we lit the Love Candle. Christmas, which is soon upon us, is about joy, peace, and love.


When our kids were little sometimes I’d ask, “How much do you love me?” They’d stretch out their arms and say, “This much.”  Then I’d ask, “And how much do you love your Mom?” and they’d nearly pull their shoulders out of socket stretching their arms out till they couldn’t stretch them any further.


I’d like to ask an even more important question: How do we measure the love of God? To answer that think with me about one one of the most important texts in all the Bible, a text that we hear as one of the comfortable words  when we celebrate Holy Communion. “So God loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”


1. We measure the love of God by its object.


What does God love? He loves the world.


When we use the word “world,” we can mean different things. We can this earth and its atmosphere where we live. We can mean the inhabitants of the earth - people. St. John uses the word in these ways, too, but he also has a special way of using the word.


Most often when John uses the word “world” it has a moral or ethical implication. He says in his first letter, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (2:15) But why should we not love the world? “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:15,16).


The reason for all the sin and wickedness in the world is that the devil is the prince of this world (Jn. 14:30). “The world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 Jn. 5:19 ESV). When the Son of God came into the world, even though the world was created by him, the world did not recognize him (Jn. 1:10). He came as the Light of the world, but men loved darkness rather than light “because their deeds were evil” (Jn. 3:19). Jesus exposed the wickedness of the world; therefore, the world hated him (Jn. 7:7) And, as the world hated Christ, so it hates those who trust in and follow him, because they no longer belong to the world or share the spirit of the world (Jn. 15:19, 17:14).


The world is the world of human beings rebelling against God because, unless and until they are set free by Christ, they are captives of Satan. This evil world of human beings does not know Christ, and does not receive him when he comes, but hates him and his people.


It is the world of people that God loves. But it is not a world of good, or righteous, or worthy people. The people of this world are part of a system controlled by the devil and in rebellion against its Creator. He sends his Son into world, and the world hates him just because he came from God.


Now, if I treated you well, and you returned my treatment of you with hate, I would struggle to try to love you, because Jesus told us to love our enemies. But if I treated you well, and you hated my son and hurt him, I would find it all but impossible to love you. I would  lack the desire, will, and ability to love you. Yet, when God looked at this world of sinners, he loved this world and wanted to save it. In his first letter John says if we want to see and understand love we cannot begin with our love - not of other people, not even of God - but we must look at God’s love for us (1 Jn. 5:10).


How big is God’s love? How can we measure it? Look at its object. God loves this world of sinners such as you and I.


2. We measure the love of God by its action.


How does God love the world? He gave his only-begotten Son.


The  nature of real love it to give. The problem with so much human love is that it is more interested in getting than in giving. We can sometimes see ourselves in children at Christmastime. Kids generally are focused on presents, and not on giving them but on getting them. While we parents usually get more joy from watching our kids’ excitement in opening their gifts than in anything we may receive, we can be as selfish as they are. We profess love for a person, and maybe even believe we do, when what we seeking  to get something we want. You’re not loving; you’re manipulating. Or, we  profess our love when what we are really doing is negotiating a quid pro quo: “I love you and I’ll give you what you want, but I am expecting you’ll give me what I want.” You’re not loving; you’re making a deal.


But God’s love is pure giving. What do we have that God needs or wants from us? Nothing. There is nothing in us or about us that would attract his love. It is just the opposite. God’s holiness is repulsed by our sin. There is nothing we can do for God or give to God while we are part of the world that is in rebellion against him, and we all are part of that world until he rescues us. So, if God loves us and gives to us, all the loving and giving is on his side.  God takes the initiative and loves the world unilaterally. God loves, and so God gives.


What does God give? He gives his Son, his only-begotten Son. The only-begotten Son is the unique Son and the only Son.


When can get some idea of what it is to be an only-begotten son by looking at Abraham and Isaac. When God tested Abraham, he asked Abraham to take his only-begotten son and offer him as a sacrifice. Now Abraham had other sons. Ishmael, was born to his wife’s servant girl Hagar. He also had other sons born to a secondary wife whose name was Keturah. But Isaac was unique, because he was the only son born as a result of God’s promise and supernatural intervention and the only son who could inherit all the promises made to Abraham - the only son through whom God’s plan of salvation would be carried on. There was no other son like Isaac. And, because there was no other son like Isaac, Isaac was in one sense Abraham’s only son. Not Ishmael or any other son could take Isaac’s place, if Abraham had to sacrifice his son. Isaac was irreplaceable.


Christ, the only-begotten Son, is the unique Son of God and God’s only Son. He is like Isaac, but he is also different from Isaac. Isaac was literally begotten by Abraham, and there was a point in time when he came to exist - when he was conceived in Sara’s womb. He was different from Abraham’s other sons because he was the only son Abraham had with Sara, and because he was the only son God spoke about when he promised to give Abraham a son, the only son who could inherit the promises God made to Abraham.


The Son of God was not literally begotten of the Father, and there was not a time when he came to exist. What John means, when he says that he was the only-begotten Son, is that he is the only Son who has the same nature as the Father - the only Son who like the Father is truly God.  He is the Word who was there already when God created the world through him. In the beginning he was with God and was himself God. He is the eternal, always existing Son. God has many adopted sons, all those whom he rescues from the grip of Satan and sin, but he has only one Son who is God. There is no other son who is a Son as he is. God has no other Son like him, a Son who shares the divine nature.


It is this Son - the Son who is God - who is God’s only Son. He is, as the Father said when Jesus was baptized, the beloved Son with whom the Father is well-pleased. There is a unique love, a perfect love, between God the Father and God the Son. It is a love that surpasses by an infinite magnitude the love of any human parent for any human child.


It is this Son, whom the Father loves more than we can ever know, that God  sent into the world, because he loves the world. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world…” (1 Jn.4:9). The world into which God sent his only-begotten Son is this world of sinners who are hostile against God.


I am blessed to have five sons. If I could send them where I wanted, I would never send, not even the one of them least favorite that day, among enemies who hate me, who would show him the same hostility they would show me, who would mistreat my son just because he is my son. But God gave his only-begotten Son by sending him into this world.


He gave him into this sinful world, and he gave him up unto death for this sinful world in order to pay for our sins.  He did not spare his own Son but delivered him up for us all (Rom. 8:32). “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6-8). It was when we were without any strength to do anything to save ourselves, when we were still ungodly, that God sent his Son into the world to die for us, that that we might have our sins forgiven, be accounted righteous in God’s sight, and be reconciled to God. This is love beyond our comprehension. A love we can do nothing to merit. A love at whose mystery we can only marvel. A love for sinners so great that God sent the Son he loves beyond our understanding among us sinners to die for our salvation.
How big is God’s love? How can we measure it? Look at its action. God loved and gave his only begotten Son.


3. We measure the love of God by its purpose.


What is the purpose of God’s love? So that all who believe in the Son should not perish but have everlasting life.


Real love is purposeful. The purpose of God’s love for sinners is that they may avoid the greatest evil and obtain the highest good.  


The evil that God wants sinners to avoid is perishing. for he is not willing that any should perish. Sometimes “to perish” means “to die.” When the disciples and Jesus were crossing the Sea of Galilee, and a storm came up while Jesus was sleeping and kept on sleeping, they finally woke him up and said, “Carest thou not that we perish?”  They were afraid they were about to die by drowning. But here John is talking about a pershing beyond dying -  about dying under God’s condemnation because of sin and then perishing eternally. The Bible teaches this is an active and eternal perishing under judgment. I could wish that perishing meant just dying or dying and annihilation, but the Bible seems to be telling us that this is conscious state of eternal pershing outside the mercy and goodness of God. This surely is the greatest imaginable evil. It is horrific to think that creatures made in God’s image to have fellowship with him forever should exist through eternity under his judgment. The purpose of God’s love, the reasons for his giving his Son, is that we might  avoid this - that we might not perish forever.


God’s love purposes not only that we should avoid the greatest evil but that we should possess the greatest good - everlasting life. Everlasting life is much more than unending life - life that goes on forever. If life as we know it now should should go on forever, there are times when it would be no blessing. Life with pain - whether physical or emotional - if it went on forever, we would find to be misery. Even life without pain, but with boredom and purposelessness, is a life that would be no blessing to us if it went on forever.


That’s not what everlasting life is. Everlasting life is the life of eternity - it is the life God enjoys and shares with those who are in his presence. It is both a quality and a a quantity of life. It is a life of perfect happiness and blessedness. It is the abundant life Jesus said he came to give. It is a life that begins now and which we will enter fully and completely in the world to come. A life of enjoying God. It is not an ethereal and boring life but a life of eternal  joy in his presence. It is not a life subtracted from but a life with every good added. We need not worry that we will long for this present life, for everlasting life is life that will make this life at its best pale by every comparison. C. S. Lewis wrote, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” That longing is for everlasting life and all the meaning, purpose, joy, and love that are part of life everlasting.  Jesus promised, “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish” (John 10:28).


God’s purpose is that all who believe should have this life everlasting. It is not for a favored few, but for many. You don’t need to worry that the circle of God’s love is so restricted that you might be left out.  But it is not for all. God’s love is for for all those who believe in the Son -  but only they.  Everlasting life is yours and mine if we believe in the Son whom God sent to be the Savior of the world. All those who trust in him as Savior and Lord have now and will always have life everlasting.


It is not my desire to disturb anyone who believes in Jesus Christ, the Son of God  and Savior of the world. But do you believe? You attend church. You have been baptized and confirmed. You hear sermons and receive the bread and wine of Holy Communion. All these things are good. But do you believe in the Son? Do you hear the Word and receive the Sacrament with faith? I ask simply because I want you, as God wants you, to have everlasting life.


The word people most enter on search engines devoted to the Bible is “love.” There is a human longing for love coupled with a deep sense that we are unworthy of love. You are unworthy of love. I am unworthy of love. I am worse than you think. You may be worse than I think. But “so God loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all who believe in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Come to the Table believing in the Son and be assured that God loves you and gives you eternal life.







Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Thabiti Anyabwile Is Wrong

We've Heard This Before


Thabiti Anyabwile


On Monday of this week, Thabiti Anyabwile published at The Gospel Coalition website Three Reasons I Stand with the Protestors referring to those who have engaged in protests of what has been described as "the senseless killings" of young African American males. 

The stance taken by Mr. Anyabwile brought to mind an experience when I, a newly ordained Presbyterian minister, attended the meeting of the Synod of Florida of the Presbyterian Church U.S. I got an immersion experience in the life of my church. Dr. Albert Winn introduced a proposed new confession of faith. A female minister presided at the Lord's Table. And two big social/political issues got debated. One question put before us was whether we should endorse the efforts of Caesar Chavez to organize farm workers. The other was whether we should petition the President to grant amnesty to those young men who had gone to Canada to avoid the draft during the Viet Nam War. For the majority who voted in favor of both proposals these were pressing issues of justice that the church could not avoid. The time to take a stand and to speak clearly had come. I believed then and believe now that, while these were serious matters worthy of discussion by society, for the church to address them as issues of righteousness was evidence of the PCUS's commitment to what was then called "the social gospel," a commitment which has grown much stronger and more radical in the 40 plus years since I attended Synod.

Mr. Anyabwile and others think that in the providence of God the deaths of black men at the hands of police, particularly the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and the stranglehold used on Eric Garner in New York City, have pressed upon American society and the Christian church the issue of racial justice. Yesterday The Gospel Coalition and other organizations conducted "A Time to Speak" an online discussion of race held at the Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis where Martin Luther King was killed. The Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission moved up its leadership conference on "The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation" from 2016 to March 26-27, 2015.

Mr. Anyabwile prefaces his statement of support for the protesters with a brief exposition of Psalm 11:
In the Lord I take refuge;
how can you say to my soul,
    “Flee like a bird to your mountain,
 for behold, the wicked bend the bow;
    they have fitted their arrow to the string
    to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;
 if the foundations are destroyed,
    what can the righteous do?”
 The Lord is in his holy temple;
    the Lord's throne is in heaven;
    his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
 The Lord tests the righteous,
    but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
 Let him rain coals on the wicked;
    fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
 For the Lord is righteous;
he loves righteous deeds;
    the upright shall behold his face.
Mr. Anyabwile begins his exposition:


“If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Ps. 11:3)
That’s the haunting question the psalmist asks in light of Israel’s social deterioration. The psalmist lives in a time when the wicked under the cover of dark fire their arrows at the hearts of the righteous (11:2). It’s open season on the just.
The psalmist appears befuddled, overwhelmed with the extensive decay of society. So he asks poignantly, “what can the righteous do?” But as a person of faith, the psalmist places his hopes of righteousness beyond the reach of the wicked.
In my view, Mr. Anyabwile makes an assumption that is common yet mistaken. The Reformation Study Bible notes that the "foundation" is "the kingdom conceived as a political entity, including its economy, military, and the like." What kingdom is this? It is Israel, the nation distinguished because of its covenantal relationship with God - the Kingdom of God, ruled over by a son of God, King David. David is king of God's kingdom, and David's enemies are God's enemies. 

Can what is said about that kingdom be transferred to the United States or any of the nations of this world after Israel in God's plan of redemption ceased to exist as a theocratic nation? I think not. The point of comparison today is the kingdom ruled by David's greater Son - the church. The Psalm's contemporary application is to the the church when King Jesus and his faithful are attacked by his enemies, the doctrinal and moral apostates who undermine the church's foundation in the Word of God.

We ask: Who in Mr. Anyabwile's view are the enemies and the righteous/just? Are the wicked the police? The members of society who criticize the protesters? Society itself guilty of what he believes is systemic racism? Are the righteous/just Michael Brown and Eric Garner? African Americans as a group? The protesters?

He rightly points to the confidence the righteous have in the just God of he universe:

The Lord reigns from heaven. Righteousness provides the foundation of His throne. From His throne, the Lord sees and He proves the righteous. The Judge of all the earth “hates the wicked and the one who loves violence” (v. 5) and will “rain coals on the wicked” (v. 6). 
To that dual vision of upholding the righteous and casting down the wicked, the faithful shout a loud “Amen!” We rejoice that righteousness will finally triumph—even if it appears may not happen in our lifetimes.   
But again, we must ask: Who are the wicked and those who love violence? Are those who have what some call white privilege the wicked? Do the police love violence? Who are the righteous who shout "Amen" to God's vindication of them and judgment upon the unrighteous? Michael Brown? Descendants of slaves? Blacks and whites who join the protests? The minority populations of the United States?

Then Mr. Anyabwile finds that the conclusion of the Psalm is not an assurance and a promise but a call to action:
Yet though He looks to the Lord, the psalmist refuses to retreat into escapist faith claims. The Lord’s heavenly reign does not absolve us of tangible action when injustice threatens the foundations. So the writer concludes, “For the Lord is righteous; He loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold His face” (v. 7). God remains righteous (“For the Lord is righteous”); God regards righteousness (“loves righteous deeds”); and God rewards righteousness (“the upright shall behold his face”).
Apparently he sees the Psalmist, not as assuring the believing faithful that God takes note now of their obedience to his will and promising that he will in the future reward them with the beatific vision, but challenging them to do things like take to the streets with the protesters whom Mr. Anyabwile supports. Perhaps I may be permitted to ask: Can anyone imagine Jesus or the Apostles Paul and Peter interpreting the Psalm in this way? Nothing in the Gospel record or the Apostolic writings indicates this is a legitimate approach to the interpretation and application of the Psalm.

These are the reasons Mr. Anyabwile gives for his support of the protesters:

1. I stand with the protesters because they better demonstrate what genuine faith looks like.
They say to us with each step that, “Faith without works is dead.” They disprove the easy-to-believe lie that we can regard ourselves faithful Christians while remaining unmoved when we see a man left for dead in the street, on a sidewalk, shopping at Wal-Mart or playing in a park. They make us to see whether or not we’re the Priest and Levite who passes by on the other side of the Jericho road or like the Good Samaritan who felt compassion and acted.I believe God requires we find ways of standing for justice—even if it’s a way different than marching. I believe God requires it of His people because it reflects God’s own goodness and love for justice. To protest injustice is a righteous thing to do—even a gospel thing to do (Titus 3:8, 14).

2. I stand with the marchers because they are the ones protecting the foundations.
Some Christians oppose the marches and the activists. They have argued and continue to think that Christians should not be involved in protest. They tell us that Christians should only focus on “the gospel” and “spiritual themes.” This, they say, is most true of pastors. They are quick to say, “Ferguson is not the right case to use for justice.” But even when a plain case appears on the screen—like John Crawford shot in Wal-Mart, or Eric Garner choked to death, or Tamir Rice shot while playing—they can’t find it in themselves to say “Here’s the case!” Their failure proves their insincerity. They act as if the gospel has nothing to say to the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized and the mistreated—and that’s why their “gospel” remains a cruel delusion to those who need it in such trying times. 
...At the very least, forgetting the indwelling sin that affects all without regard to uniform, they think God’s ordination of government ought to tip us toward believing the word of government officials...Such persons have lost the plot in more ways than one. 
...Those who protest lawful protests are, in fact, the ones destroying the foundations of a democracy God has ordained and we have cherished. Lawful protestors don’t threaten us; those who silence and censor do. Every law-abiding citizen–including every law-upholding officer–should protect this right... 
We’re kidding ourselves if we think we can remain willfully blind about injustice and hope that our law enforcement officers will see what we refuse. For they are us.

3. I stand with the marchers because they are the ones pursuing a just goal with a just means.
When I watch these young people across the country lie prostrate or march energetically in protest, I’m reminded that this gift of non-violent civil disobedience is, in fact, a gift from African-American Christians to the country...

The genius of the Civil Rights Movement was that it peacefully used a right once denied some citizens to prick the conscience of other citizens until justice was won. It was non-violent civil protest that changed the country without destroying the country. That method did more to change the hearts and minds of the country than any other method used in any other protest before it and has defined protests since. Civic protest succeeded so wonderfully because a preacher understood that suffering and love could be redemptive where violence could not.

Dr. King’s strategy and the courage of the many thousands who joined him gave to this country are redemptive language and method for addressing grievances. If Dr. King were alive, I feel confident we’d find him marching, proclaiming, “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” To the extent that any protestor embraces this approach, I stand with that protestor.
Allow for the differences in the times of Jesus and the Apostles and ours, the political systems under which they lived and we live, but is there in the Gospel record or the Apostolic writings anything that indicates Jesus and the Apostles would be marching with the protesters? Would engage in civil disobedience in cases other than when to do what man requires is to do what God forbids or not to do what God requires? Would our Lord would sit down on a mountain and gather his disciples around him to teach about Michael Brown and the misuse of police power? That the Apostle Paul would in the marketplace, or the synagogue, or the Hall of Tyrannus preach to Jews and Gentiles, to unbelievers and unbelievers to believers about micro-aggressions and systemic racism and white privilege? 

Even the fearless preacher of righteousness, John the Baptist, when asked by tax collectors what form their repentance should take did not tell them to join the resistance to the Roman tax system or to seek its reform, but rather, "Collect no more than you are authorized to to do." And when asked the the same questions by soldiers he did not tell them to leave the unjust Roman army or to refuse to keep order in occupied Palestine but rather, "Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, an be content with your wages."

Both the left and right are wont to baptize their social and political views with the Gospel and the Word of God. Tax the rich more. Reduce tax rates for all. Grant illegal immigrants amnesty. Do not grant them amnesty. Spend more on the military. Spend less on the military. Stop provoking religious/political extremists. Destroy religious/political extremists. Get out of Afghanistan. Stay in Afghanistan. Provide health care to every citizen and resident in this country. Health care and insurance are individual responsibilities and decisions. Put restrictions on gun ownership. Put no restrictions on gun ownership. Stop climate change. There is no climate change to stop. Reform the prison system. Lock them up and throw away the key. 

You can find someone who will tell you that each of these positions is commanded by the Bible and/or taught by the Gospel - that these are matters of justice and righteousness, of good and evil.

I don't care whether it is the PCUSA or the PCA, the Episcopal Church or the ACNA, R.J. Rushdoony or Jim Wallis, Steve Wilkins or Thabiti Anyabwile we have heard these things before. All of it is the proclamation of some one's social gospel. And that, my friends, is no gospel at all.    


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Ferguson Is Not Selma


Michael Brown 

Is Not 
Martin Luther King

Selma March


There are places in our in our country that are landmarks of the Civil Rights Movement. Montgomery, AL, where Rosa Parks refused to sit at the back of the bus; Selma, AL, the starting point for three attempted marches to Montgomery (the last successful); Oxford, MS, where James Meredith integrated the University of Mississippi. There are
Medgar Evers
Civil Rights martyrs. Medgar Evers shot dead in his Jackson, MS, driveway by Byron de la Beckwith; Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney, three civil rights workers killed by Neshoba County, MS, Klansmen. Martin Luther King assassinated in Memphis, by James Earl Ray. Many names could be added to these lists of places and people.

Now it seems that some would add to the list of places, Ferguson, MO, and to the list of martyrs, Michael Brown. The facts are disputed but not much in doubt. Michael Brown, whom just this past week was described by Thabiti Anaybwile as an "unarmed teen," was also six feet-two inches in height, two-hundred and ninety pounds in weight, and eighteen years of age. He was a man and a big one. He was not demonstrating for Civil Rights but had just strong armed a store owner. He was not gunned down in cold or hot blood by white police Officer Darren Williams but was the aggressor. The report of the officer, the weight of the testimony of witnesses, and the physical evidence, weighed by the prosecutor and the grand jury, combine to make it clear this was no case of murder or manslaughter. It is those who wanted Officer Wilson indicted and tried, despite the lack of evidence to support criminal charges, who in this case are on the side of injustice.

It's not surprising that Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson or that MSNBC commentators want to turn Ferguson into a symbol of the civil rights movement and to turn Michael Brown into a civil rights martyr. What is quite surprising is that evangelicals who to a greater or lesser degree identify with Calvinistic theology (at the level of soteriology mainly) seem to want to do so and in addition to make it a Gospel issue. I have in mind Thabiti Anyabwile's The Final Civil Rights Battle: Ending Police Brutality, Jemar's Tisby's The Image of God and the African American Experience: Part 2 and Quick to Listen: Reflections on Ferguson, four PCA ministers' Am I My Brother's Keeper and Carl Ellis' Racism Alone?

Dr Ellis, after seeming to separate the less morally clear case of Michael Brown from what he believes is the morally clear case of Eric Garner, ends up putting the two in the same category of "senseless killings" of African American men:

When I heard the decision not to indict the killers of Eric Garner, my outraged response was, “here we go again!” If the Michael Brown case lacked moral clarity, the senseless tragedy of the Eric Garner case was much more clear. No matter what the circumstances were, here were two more African American men added to the list of senseless killings, arousing strong reactions nationally and internationally.
Mr. Anyabwile describes the death of Michael Brown:
...  Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed teen Michael Brown... 
Mr. Tisby also puts Michael Brown and Ferguson in the category of civil rights:
In spite of everyone’s divinely endowed worth, U.S. history and culture call the image of God into question, particularly for African Americans. Grand jury decisions not to indict the white police officers who caused the fatalities of unarmed African Americans Mike Brown and Eric Garner have set the country aflame in racial tensions once again...
In decades past, people of African descent asserted their existential value through the phrase, “Black is beautiful.” In these days of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, and Eric Garner the cry is “Black Lives Matter.” These phrases are more than political chants. They snatch back the image-bearing dignity that has been stolen from Blacks in America.
The PCA pastors write:
When people seek to rule over other people, either personally or through a broken system, it further wounds the already broken image of God in them. The words, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ has become a slogan for what is happening in Ferguson, MO. But these words are much bigger than Ferguson.
But the similarities to the liberal political outlook do not end at turning Michael Brown and Ferguson into civil rights symbols.

Mr. Tisby tells us that racism today takes the more subtle form of micro-aggression:
Racism continues today, but it is more subtle. Microagressions are death by a thousand cuts. While few people commit overtly racist acts—in public, if they can help it—the lesser status of African Americans in this country is constantly reinforced. Examples of racial microagressions include: being followed in stores for no apparent reason, being told “You speak so well!” or “I don’t even really think of you as Black.” A microaggression occurs when Black hair becomes the subject of intrusive fascination (“Can I touch it?”). It’s a microagression when you are expected to be good at basketball, dancing, or some other activity based on assumptions due to skin color.
In support of this he quotes Dr. Derald Wing Sue, Professor of Psychology and Education at the Teachers College of Columbia University whose academic interests include "Multicultural counseling and psychotherapy, Psychology of racism and antiracism, Cultural diversity, Cultural competence, Multicultural organizational development, Mental Health Law":
Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.—Dr. Derald Wing Sue
Moreover, Mr. Tisby tells us that, not only whites but some blacks, who have spoken out about Brown and Ferguson, are not qualified to speak on the matter:
As a multi-ethnic, African-American, Evangelical Christian, I’m deeply concerned about an appropriate pastoral response to the violence in Ferguson and greatly puzzled by the responses and discussions of some white and black Evangelicals. What continues to be striking is the way many from the dominant racial group and those who benefit from them think they are in a position to offer definitive solutions to the plight of many African-Americans in Ferguson and beyond, even though they may not identify or understand the plight of African-Americans.

In order to avoid being misrepresented, let me clarify. Many races are qualified to speak about race, racism, and the challenges facing African-Americans. However, I strongly doubt whether those with limited or no experience with the racial tensions between blacks and whites know what it’s like to be black or white in a chaotic racial context like Ferguson. Therefore, I doubt whether the analyses from these people within the Evangelical movement can rightly assess the racial issues facing blacks and whites in this country. Whites are not African-American, and many blacks within the Evangelical movement are unable to identify directly with certain kinds of racism some blacks face in the US.
Note that whites are not part of the majority racial group but of the "dominant" racial group. More important, there are black Evangelicals who "benefit from them" and who, therefore, "may not identify or understand the plight of African-Americans." He knows that "many blacks within the Evangelical movement are unable to identify directly with certain kinds of racism some blacks face in the US." This sounds to me like a variation on the theme of some blacks being "not black enough" or being "too white" meant as a way of discrediting blacks who do not say what they are supposed to say about race in America.

Despite attempts by these brothers to relate these matters to the Gospel, it seems that the differences of view are not between those who believe the Gospel and those who don't, or those who live by the Gospel and those who don't. Gospel issues have to do with whether men and women should have equal status as redeemed persons in the church and whether all men possessing the qualifications may hold office in the church.  

It's not primarily racial as a matter of ethnicity or skin color. Evidence of this is that Mr. Tisby finds not only whites who don't understand but blacks who don't.  

What separates perceptions, analyses, and proposed solutions are matters of culture, natural law and justice, sociology, prudence, and politics. These are matters where differences are primarily between conservatism and progressivism. Conservatism and progressivism are not, no matter how much proponents of both argue otherwise, issues of the Bible and the Gospel. They are the kinds of differences that separate Americans regarding matters such as the health care law, budget priorities, court nominees, law enforcement, deficits, and the military. 

Perhaps this is yet another case where world-and-life view thinking (making a Biblical, or Lordship, or eschatological, or Gospel issue out of everything) makes things worse rather than better. If my brothers take a liberal/progressive view, for whatever reasons, of Ferguson and Michael Brown, that's their right. At the same time, if I, for whatever reasons, say that Ferguson is not Selma and Mike is not Martin, that, too, is my right. I think making symbols of Selma and Brown is inaccruate and inept, but use them if you must. Our disagreement about these things is not because we disagree about the Bible or the Gospel. Our discussion about this is mostly from the perspectives of liberalism and conservatism.