Is the gospel sufficient to deal with systemic racism?

Is the gospel sufficient to deal with systemic racism? Yes, but only if we understand and proclaim it in all its implications.

The gospel is the story of God’s work in the world through Jesus: His life, death, resurrection, and future return. The gospel has many implications, but we tend to just focus on one: Personal salvation.

Personal salvation: Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection are what make it possible for us to be forgiven and saved. This is a core implication of the gospel, but it is not the only one. When we reduce the gospel to personal salvation – as important as that is – we diminish its power. [1]

The person with this limited view of the gospel has very few resources to deal with racism, or practically any other sin. The best he could do is say that at least we can hope for a better existence when we die.

Personal sanctification: Having been cleansed of our guilt, the believer is given a new heart. She is transformed in her inner being and experiences continuing sanctification through the Holy Spirit over time that causes her to be more like Jesus.

The Christian who understands this takes an essential next step, both in her Christian walk, and in her ability to confront sin in its various forms. She can now begin the process of self-examination, of confession, and of personal responsibility. She can identify issues within her own heart and disciple others to see the same.

The creation of the people of God: The gospel has an important communal application. It reconciles Jew and Greek, male and female, slave and free, into the unified body of Christ. This teaches us to see our brotherhood in Christ as the essential characteristic which bonds us together. All other identities of nation, language, race, and partisanship become secondary at best.

This understanding of the gospel allows for the formation of reconciled communities which bear witness to the peace-making Kingdom of God. In such communities we begin to learn from and love one another. As one part hurts, so the whole body hurts. We can then begin to see the world from a different perspective. This new perspective is an essential next step in dealing with systemic racism.

The cosmic renewal of all things: The gospel has personal, communal, and cosmic implications. Jesus is coming again, and when he does, he will bring about perfect justice and righteousness on the earth. This is the hope for all believers and, indeed, for all of Creation.

It is possible for this view to lead us to inaction. If Jesus is going to sweep away the old, why should we do anything? Why not just hunker down and wait for his return? We find the answer in the second implication of the gospel – personal sanctification. As we become more like Christ, our values are brought in alignment with his values, or loves with his loves.

We see that he loves justice, so we love justice. And when we love justice, we pursue it, in hope that while we will never accomplish it on this earth, our love for our neighbors drives us to approximate it within our sphere of influence. The fact that a true justice will come spurs us on, knowing that our work is not in vain.

Here we see the gospel in all its glorious implications. This gospel is what drove people like William Wilberforce. He understood the personal and societal implications of the gospel and worked for justice. He no doubt knew that the transforming nature of the gospel was our only hope, but he saw that transforming work as extending beyond (and springing forth from) personal salvation or sanctification, into the community of the church and beyond.

Two errors: This full vision of the gospel saves us from two errors. The first is to view the gospel only in its personal implications. This leaves us few resources to sufficiently love our neighbors.

The second is to conclude that the gospel is really not enough and that if we want to deal with systemic racism we must, then, seek some other solution. Many people are seeking to solve racial issues in this country, but some are not doing it from a perspective antithetical to Christianity. Beware of these false narratives. At best they deal with the symptom of the evil in the world, without properly reckoning with its cause.

For people who long for racial justice, we owe it to the world to present them with a distinctly Christian solution. That means we must actually have one.

The gospel is sufficient to deal with the problems of the world, but only when we see it in all its glorious implications.

[1] Beth Moore described this “reduction” of the gospel message in a more colorful way on Twitter: “

The current state of American Evangelicalism is what we get when the gospel is reduced to an entrance exam instead of a whole way of living, serving, loving & self-giving. The point of discipleship & Bible study is to grow in relationship with Christ and in resemblance to Christ. American Evangelicalism needs to file a missing person’s report. We have lost Jesus.