Living so close to the Belt Way area of Washington D.C. and Baltimore, I have had the privilege of meeting and befriending some of the greatest influencers on the planet. One of those influencers is Gavin Brown. He grew up in Baltimore and also Pastored there for years.
I asked Gavin if he would mind being a Guest Blogger for a day and sharing his thoughts on the issue Charm City finds itself in.
Here are his words:
As one who was born in Baltimore, who’s worked and lived on the outskirts of beautiful charm city, and has family members that live in the city, it’s hard to see the images of criminal rioting, looting, violence, and assault on the police officers. This comes in the aftermath of the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody, despite his family’s plea for peace and calm.
The unfathomable scenes seem to bring out all kinds of responses from different corners. Some have wrongly excused the rioting, pointing out the issues, pointing out past pains and hurts that seem to justify lawless behavior. On the other end of the spectrum, some say wrongly, that such rioting is what peaceful protesters are about.
The actions have become a distraction to the real and obvious systemic issues that exist and which must be addressed, if anything good to come from the tragic and unfortunate death and subsequent mayhem that’s taking place in Baltimore.
This raises a question for the church that must be asked: What is needed for this city in a time like this? It’s obvious that Baltimore is in need of courageous leadership. There’s no question that order needs to be restored. It’s not a newsflash that this city has suffered too long under the dark cloud of poverty, broken families, racial injustice, illegal drugs, gangs, and hopelessness. Leadership, governing authorities, communities, and law enforcement are obligated and must confront all of this.
But I would argue that the primary need Baltimore has is in the transforming power of the gospel to be displayed through God’s outpost for this world, the church.
I do not flippantly suggest that deep-rooted and systemic problems can be taken away simply by more and more people becoming Christians and living under the authority of God. After all, a Civil War and some constitutional amendments were needed “to end the scourge of human slavery in this country”. We need governing authorities to do their God-assigned jobs, and as citizens we should see to it that systems are changed in ways that repudiate injustice and benefits the common good.
But, ultimately, as a Christian and pastor, I believe the primary means for shaping consciences to prioritize life, justice, peace and order is the community of the church under the authority of Christ. I’m convinced that the ultimate cause of the ills we’ve witnessed is the result of sin (Titus 3:3). Sin causes us not only to be alienated from God, but also to be alienated from each another. We respond to injury and insult with more injury, more insult. We respond with an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.
The church, though, is called to be different, a change agent, salt in a morally decaying world. It’s the counter cultural nature of the gospel that the wisdom of the world is folly to God and God’s wisdom is folly to the world. We are not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21). The church is the place for people to turn to find solid solutions to the perplexing challenges and issues that confront us today-troubling and crippling problems such as crime, racism, injustice, family disintegration, poverty, and a plethora of other dilemmas.
I love what pastor, author, and Baltimore native, Tony Evans says:
“Too many individuals, families, churches, and communities want to keep God on the fringes of our lives. There He can be accessible if we have need, but we can keep Him far enough away from the center of our lives that He doesn’t start messing with our agendas. But as long as we keep God at a distance, He will not take over the control center of our world and unrighteousness will rule. He will be close enough for invocations and benedictions, but not part of the debate in between.” #whoopthereitis
Could it be that the reason the church is having a limiting impact on society is because we’ve failed to see that the goal of the church is not the church itself, but the kingdom? We live in a broken world, filled with fear, confusion, hatred, and prejudice. Politics is no match for it. Marches won’t do much. Vigils can’t do it. Our pithy, sarcastic and worldly clichés of wisdom are powerless. Only the life changing power of the gospel displayed through God’s outpost the church (Col. 1:27), will help to bring true change to a city in desperate need of a makeover.
In the midst of this sin-riddled world, Jesus rules in the church by reconciling sinners to himself through the gospel, (Eph. 2:1-10), and then reconciling them to one another, through the gospel (Eph. 2:11-22). The unity of the church isn’t the result of some program (or buildings or our org. charts). It’s the result of the invading kingdom of God, breaking down carnal divisions and creating peace where there once was chaos.
I’m praying specifically for courage and wisdom for the leadership and police of Baltimore. I’m praying for justice to roll on like a river (Amos 5:24) in Charm city, and I’m praying for the people of Baltimore to visualize a beautiful vision of the future- of peace, righteousness, harmony and unity in the only place we can see it in the now- the church.
Simply amazing! Thanks so much to Gavin Brown for taking time out of his schedule to address this issue.
Gavin Brown is now a Pastor in the Detroit area where he lives with his wife and beautiful daughter. To read more about Gavin feel free to follow him on Facebook!