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The ARC of Racial Justice - a Reflection and Exhortation from Pastor Matt Lorish

Here we are again. The video footage of Ahmaud Arbery is all over social media. It is a time for lament and a time for righteous anger. I write this blog post as a continuation to the initial posts offered by Northside Church members. My aim in this post is to help my fellow white brothers and sisters think about where we go from here. At the close of Jemar Tisby’s book, The Color of Compromise, he introduces a framework that he calls the A.R.C. of racial justice. Using Jemar’s framework, I’d like to humbly offer some application points that I think are important for me and my fellow white sisters and brothers at Northside Church to move towards.

I also write this as a Christian pastor. Christians of all ethnicities are Bible people. The end-game for us isn’t just racial justice. The end-game for us is conformity to Jesus and honoring Him. Racial injustice is one of the areas in which we need God’s Spirit to change us, grow us and conform us (Rom 12:2, 2 Cor 3:18). My prayer is that we continually press in, repent, and bear fruit in keeping with repentance in this area and all the other areas that the Bible would call us to.

A- Awareness
We should pursue knowledge about racism and justice, even when these topics aren’t dominating the news headlines and social media feeds. A few recommendations, including, but not limited to:

The History of African Americans in the United States
Read: The Warmth of Other Sons; Roots; Free at At Last; Letters to a Birmingham Jail
Watch: The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.; Roots; 12 Years A Slave; Selma

The Reality of Systemic Injustice
Read: Jemar Tisby’s The Color of Compromise; Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson; The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein; Be the Bridge by Latasha Morrison
Watch: Racism and Corporate Evil - Tim Keller; Jemar Tisby: Understanding the Heart Cry of Black Lives Matter; Just Mercy the movie; 13th; Holy Post - Race in America

The Sin of Racism in the Church
PCA Repentance (2002)
The Gospel and Race: A Pastoral Letter (2004)
PCA Repentance (2016)
PCA Report on Racial and Ethnic Reconcilliation (2018)

Watch: Telling the Truth: How The Gospel Shapes Corporate Repentance and Reconciliation by Dr. Sean Lucas

The Way the Bible Speaks to Justice, Partiality, and Ethnicity
Read: The Bible (I’m not trying to be snarky here, just acknowledging that we all have blind spots/biases. Read through the Bible with an eye to see where issues of justice, partiality and ethnicity are present.),
Generous Justice by Tim Keller

R- Relationships
It is important that we are in a relationship with an African American peer or mentor who is willing to give you feedback and challenge you.

If done humbly, and not centering yourself, putting yourself in African American spaces can be helpful. (Note- some spaces you will need to be invited into. This will be hard to discern without African American peers and mentors who are willing to give you their honest thoughts.)

You will be impacted by those that you spend time around. Who is a part of your social life? Who do you visit, call, hang out with, have at your dinner table and have real conversations with?

C- Commitment
Commit to keep talking with white people about racism. Seek to be winsome and humble, but resist settling for a false peace. There is room for nuance and debate over the best ways to move forward, and times to be thankful for progress, but the reality of current racial injustice in the United States isn’t an issue that we can just “agree to disagree” about and move on. Two examples: “Senator Tim Scott gives moving speech about racism he faces as a black man” and “Macy’s to Pay $650,000 In Settlement Over Allenged Racial Profiling”

*People should know where you stand based on your social media presence, but group and personal conversations are often the most important, and hardest, to press into. Do this without looking for any ‘pats on the back’ from anyone. Prepare to potentially lose or strain relationships over this.

The “rubber should meet the road” in how you:
  • spend your money (look to support black-owned businesses as often as possible)
  • give your money (look for black-led ministries and organizations that might be doing great things but might not currently be on your radar)
  • invest your time (how are the things you are doing seeking to fight against racial injustice and change the lived reality of African Americans),
  • engage the political process (be informed, push your elected leaders on issues related to racial justice and let them know it is a significant factor in how you vote) and
  • repent (a helpful question: “when have I repented of racism in my heart and/or behaviors?”)

If you walk this road you will never have all of the answers and things won’t be as clear as you would like so you will both a) make mistakes and b) be misunderstood. Count the cost and resolve to learn, repent, grow and keep going.

The grace of the Lord Jesus is for his people as are the ethical commands of the Scriptures. Don’t separate these or pit them against one another.

Northside Church, please reach out to me to talk about any or all of these things. I’m humbled to get to walk this road with you.
-Pastor Matt

Matt Lorish serves as Senior Pastor for Northside Church of Richmond. Matt graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary-Orlando in 2008 (Master of Divinity & Master of Arts in Counseling) after previously working in campus ministry for four years. Before the start of Northside Church, the Lorishes served at Grace Community Presbyterian in the Richmond area, where Matt was an assistant pastor. The Lorishes were approved to plant a church by the Assessment Center of the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) in the summer of 2008.


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