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Lord, Have Mercy

BELOVED BAYLESS FAMILY,

I cannot tell you how good it is to be back in the saddle again. As many of you know I have been taking the last few weeks away from preaching in order to spend some time with our wonderful new baby girl. And let me tell you, she is a precious grace in difficult times.

You know, people are funny when you have your fourth kid. Normal congratulations become a bit less enthusiastic. “Congratulations? I guess.” Or you get comments like, “Don’t you realize how that happens?” Trust us, we know, and a major reason for all these kiddos is because Grace and I like each other quite a bit.

Regardless, we are over the moon about her, even as we are in the midst of national unrest, and we are reminded of the timeliness of her name. Lucy means “light,” and Evangeline means “bringer of good news,” inspired by passages like John 8:12: “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” We need the light of the world of the world in dark days, and we pray that the light of her life and witness would shine before others.

That being said, it is impossible to express how greatly this pastor is missing you. I wish I could sing with you. I wish I could hug you. I wish I could celebrate the birth of our new baby girl with you. I wish I could look you in the eyes as I say, “Christ’s body was given for you. His blood was shed for you.” I’m reminded of Paul’s words in Philippians 1:8—“For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.”

PASTORAL LAMENTS

I think the events of this week have only made my longing more heartfelt. I don’t think any of us could have imagined 2020 getting more contentious, and then it did. The killing of George Floyd has set off of powerkeg of unrest in our nation, not just on Facebook but in the streets of our city, as the rioting escalates in volume and violence. In the blink of an eye, mourning has turned to side-taking, even among and within local churches, and like so many of you, I am lamenting.

Lamenting the violent murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man suffocated under the knee of a white police officer while other officers stood by in silence. 

Lamenting the violent murder of David Dorn, a retired police captain shot to death after responding to the fiery violence raging on our city streets.

Lamenting the unjust killing of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the countless other image-bearers who have been forgotten or have not grabbed national headlines.

Lamenting the senseless destruction tearing our city apart along with other cities around the country, as neighborhoods, lives, and livelihoods are lost and threatened.

Lamenting the responsive pain and fear and anger felt in the black community, which did not originate in a vacuum but has boiled over from the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, as well as the Jim Crow actions and attitudes which persist.

Lamenting the suffering and slander of honorable members in law enforcement who have worked hard to gain and maintain public trust only to have it destroyed by the actions of others, actions they too condemn. 

Lamenting our “social distance,” which has turned up the volume on temptation, made sleepy Christian even sleepier, polarized the already polarized, and brought out the very worst in many.

Lamenting the silence of so many who confess Christ, especially those who are quick to take a side, mistrust the suffering of others, excuse guilt and shift blame, ignore inconvenient Scriptures, and fail to condemn what their King considers evil. 

Still further… I’m lamenting those who distort and conceal the truth and use power for evil ends… lamenting those who will weaponize and manipulate these events to their own gain… lamenting those who are quick to speak, slow to listen, and eager to become angry… lamenting those who respond to injustice with vengeance, violence with violence… lamenting that the present outrage might expire as just another fad while injustice marches on… lamenting that the ugly hostilities tearing our culture apart are also dividing our churches.

And even more, I am lamenting my own conflicted heart. I love the approval of man more than the approval of God, afraid of those who will mishear, misapply, or misrepresent what I defend or critique. I find myself paralyzed by the complexity of it all. I’m sobered by my own cultural blinders. And, I am humbled by my own complicity in the very things I mourn.

Lord, have mercy. 

PASTORAL EXHORTATIONS

Brothers and sisters, there is a strong temptation in times like these to look away, hoping to duck until “business as usual” resumes. There is even the temptation to deny, to shift blame, to mistrust, to openly mock. But it must not be so among you. 

Remember that we are salt and light in dark and decaying days, peacemakers commissioned by the Prince of Peace of himself, ambassadors given the ministry of reconciliation, citizens of a Kingdom which bears no flag. And most importantly, we have a King who was the ultimate victim of injustice, suffocated to death himself, that he might, in fact, remake his accusers and abusers, inviting them into his just and righteous reign. 

There is mercy for us through the cross of Jesus Christ. It is in his grace that we stand, his power that we pray, his Spirit that we unite, and his kingdom that we hope.

In closing, I invite you as one beggar pointing others to the bread to join me in the following…

    1. Even as we condemn violence, hear the reasons behind it. 
    2. Even as we praise God and pray for our governing officials, align yourself with King Jesus.
    3. Even as we call for unity, call out injustice.
    4. Even as we condemn racism, search out and confess your own biases.
    5. Even as we defend our sides, listen to how God’s Word might disagree with you. 
    6. Even as we pray for our safety, defend the vulnerable and mistreated.
    7. Even as we pray for a calm in the storm, lament the storm itself.
    8. Even as we stand for others, build friendships with those who don’t look like, pray like, vote like, or spend like you. 
    9. Even as we recognize our ignorance, take the time to educate yourself, to ask difficult questions, to hear from those who say uncomfortable things and more intensely than you prefer. 
    10. Even as we mourn the sin of individuals, consider how these sins become patterns which become assumptions which become systems which form individuals for generations. The sins of Cain become the injustice of Babylon.
    11. Even as we disagree, do so with grace, patience. and humility.
    12. Even as we pray for reform, pray for repentance. 
    13. Even as we plead for reconciliation among one another, plead all the more for others to be reconciled to the Father.
    14. Even as we preach justice, let us connect it to the gospel.

WHAT NOW?

I realize that for some even my brief words will be difficult to hear. You wish I had said more or less or put it differently. All of us, including your pastor, need to be led and restrained by God’s Word, and so let me encourage you to reach out to me. It’s likely I once shared your questions and hesitations. Let’s search the Scriptures together.

Perhaps, like me, you want to learn more that you might respond in a way that honors our fellow image-bearers and glorifies our just and returning King. Let me encourage you to take advantage of some of the resources I have included below, including the prayers written by Kevin DeYoung and John Piper and the statement recently published by our Southern Baptist leaders.

And wherever you are coming from, I hope you will at least pray with me these words from pastor Kevin DeYoung:

You have our attention. O God, give us ears to hear. What do you want to say to us in your Word? What should we do? What needs to change? How can we help?…

We weep. We lament. We mourn. But not as those who have no hope.

May gospel beauty rise from these smoldering, literal ashes. May truth triumph over lies and grace conquer lawlessness. May your people be one as you, O Father, and your Son are one. May the church—the body of Christ, the bride of Christ—rise up as an example of love and with a message of salvation for a weary and war-torn world. Give us grace to serve you, O God, and, if necessary, grace to suffer for what is right. Give us the peace and health and safety we do not deserve. Give us the reformation and revival we need.

Lord have mercy.

 

In Christ,

Pastor Evan

 

RELEVANT SCRIPTURES

Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless. Why does the wicked man revile God? Why does he say to himself, “He won’t call me to account”? But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. (Psalm 10:12-14)

Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare (Jeremiah 29:7)

[7] He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. [8] By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? [9] And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7–9)

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, (Jesus in Luke 4:18)

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil… (Romans 12:9a)

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES

Prayers
Articles
Sermons/Teachings
Books
  • The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation by Russell Moore and Andrew T. Walker
  • Generous Justice by Timothy Keller
  • Bloodlines by John Piper
  • Woke Church by Eric Mason