By Randy C. Davis
TBMB President & Executive Director
I have a reason for making such a stark statement. This Saturday (Oct. 28), White Supremacy groups will be in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro propagating an agenda rooted in hatred and spread through fear mongering. Their appeal is subtle. Its intent is to drive a definitive wedge between the white race and anyone who isn’t white. I take that personally on behalf of all Tennessee Baptists because they are attempting to create a chasm between us and the very people Jesus called us to reach by the bridge of His cross and the grace of the gospel.
As a younger man, I remember the raw fear of a friend when I asked him to travel with me to certain places. You could see it in his eyes. He was my black brother in Christ, yet I couldn’t relate to his fear in any way. Thinking back on that even now I shake my head. No human anywhere should fear for their personal safety because of their skin color or ethnicity. As a blood-bought follower of the Jesus who gave His life for people “from every tribe, tongue and nation” (Revelation 5:9 and 7:9) I cannot stand silently by and allow the sin of racism to go uncontested.
And I don’t believe Tennessee Baptists will either.
We understand the events Saturday are to make a statement against immigrants and refugees living in the Middle Tennessee area. This bigotry has no place in our American society and it certainly has no place in the life of anyone who follows Jesus. Christians need to be on guard because this movement preys upon people’s fears and the temptation is to buy into the rhetoric, especially since this group is targeting those who feel under-represented and disenfranchised.
Unfortunately, there is a narrative out there that evangelical people are racists. We are not. Our churches are full of compassionate, loving people and are quite the opposite of the hate-filled rhetoric dominating the public forum. In fact, Tennessee Baptists are currently serving people of all races and ethnicities who were ravaged by hurricanes in Houston, Florida, and Puerto Rico. We also serve here in our own state through compassion ministries, children’s and adult homes and a variety of other local church ministries whose aim is to serve all people.
We are a nation of law and order and we should be prayerful that our legislators can reach a legal solution that offers Americans a level of national security yet is compassionate and fair to all people. In the meantime, however, our reality is that God has brought the nations to us that they might hear the gospel. It is our responsibility to share that Good News with every man, woman, and child living in our state regardless of race or immigration status. Too often we develop the mindset that the Great Commission is something we do “over there,” on a mission trip to another country, but the Great Commission begins next door. “Love thy neighbor” must be our lifestyle. Sharing the gospel must be our focus. Being the hands, feet, and witness of Christ must be our passion.
I think of the Apostle Paul who shared the Good News wherever he was at the time and with whomever he was with in front of him; a Roman guard, Gentiles who suffered racism at the hands of the Jews, the intellectual elite of Athens, the pagan worshipers of Corinth, and so many more. It made no difference to Paul. He looked through the lens of the gospel which filters out race and politics and with laser-like precision and focuses on people’s deep spiritual needs.
Oh that we would be as fervent as Paul in lifting up Christ that our state would experience the love, peace and grace of God and break the back of racism and bigotry in Tennessee, our country and around the world.
That is my dream, and I believe its reality is rooted in prayer. This is what I’m praying and I ask you to join me.
• For God to kill any racism found within our own hearts
• For our neighbors and their salvation
• For there to be repentance in the hearts of those who will perpetrate hate Saturday
• For there to be peace in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro
• For God to send a great wave of salvation across Tennessee such as never has been so that true peace among men would be on the common ground found at the foot of the cross.
It is a joy to be on this journey with you, especially when it’s time to stand together.