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Pent-up Racism, Pentecost and Penitence

The tragic end of the life of George Floyd has triggered vigorous protests and riots. Hopefully when the dust settles the necessary dialogue and changes will occur. It is evident there exists a deep national concern about racial injustice.  We are beyond a debate over what exactly is racism.  What we all must agree with, however, is that in the minds and experiences of thousands of people the feeling and perception of this evil treatment or attitude over race is dominant and personal. Yes, racism does exist. And every true Christian knows this a violation of Jesus’ command, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).  Months can go by when racial tensions seem dormant, but then another video goes viral and pent-up fears and feelings surface.

How contrary racism is to the saving message of the Gospel of peace that Jesus intends for all people.  In the entirety of our world’s history, God’s plan always has been to reach all nations with his word of salvation.  The first promise of a Savior in Genesis 3:15 is woven like a golden thread tying together the pages of scripture with the exclusive and yet inclusive news of a Savior for sinners of every race and nation. The great news of forgiveness of sins, including the sin of racism, is to be reiterated and reverberated until the end of time. God’s work of redemption through the coming of his Son was, and is, intended for Jew and Gentle alike (cf. Genesis 12:3; Psalm 72:17; Isaiah 42:4; Isaiah 49:6; Zechariah 9:10; Matthew 28:19-20; and Romans 10:11-12).

The multi-language experience at Pentecost and the grand description of the gathering of all the saints at the last day underscore the universal range of our Lord’s Great Commission. We read in Revelation 8:9: ”After this, I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.  They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.”

While the message is intended for all, and even though Christ made full atonement for the sins of all (1 John 2:2), it is sad that not all believe and are saved.  Some hear the message but refuse to believe.  Others perish because they do not even hear the gospel message.  This is why every Christian and certainly every organized body of believers – including our beloved ELS – fervently desires to reach people of every race, nation and language with the good news of Christ.  The Holy Spirit has promised to work faith in no other way than through the use of Word and Sacrament (Romans 10:17).

In his commentary on Galatians, Luther stated: “I know I have been accepted and that I have the Holy Spirit, not on account of my worthiness or virtue but on account of Christ. . .  There is nothing I want more than to make His Gospel known to the world and to convert many people.”

Each decade of our synod’s history has included efforts made to share the life-giving message of Jesus with people from varied social and ethnic surroundings.  Every soul of every clime and of every tribe and of every nation is precious in the sight of our Redeemer.  He keeps the world going so that more and more may be brought to faith by the Holy Spirit through the efforts of Christians working individually and together in spreading the seed of God’s Word (2 Peter 3:9).  May we all examine ourselves, confessing our lack of genuine love toward people who are not like us but who are redeemed by the blood of Jesus.  In penitence, may we, together with all, find in Jesus the true peace that surpasses all understanding.  And may we also pray the Savior’s love moves us to be authentically compassionate.

Rev. John A. Moldstad,
ELS President

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