This year has been a difficult season for our nation. Racial tensions have filled our headlines, as sadness has filled our hearts. We live in a fallen world. It grieves us all. Sin around us, in us, and through us. Yet, we can find forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus Christ. Since Genesis 3, we have seen the effects of sin in society and our lives. I grew up in a racially diverse neighborhood and I pastor in one of the most racially diverse cities in the US. God has designed the mosaic of humanity and intends to highlight the beauty of His creation in our diversity. This takes place when we respect one another as created in the image of God. (Genesis 3:6-8, Genesis 1:27, Ephesians 4:32 & Romans 7:14-25)
In a desire to be biblical (not political) and to be hopeful (not controversial), let’s discuss people, protests, police, and the Prince of Peace — Jesus Christ.
Biblical truth brings the commitment that all individuals can honor the Lord and contribute to bettering society regardless of race. As Christians, we must strongly believe in the importance of each individual God has created. More than just belief, we must live this out. James 1:22 says, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” My personal view is also clearly stated in our church’s statement of beliefs, the Baptist Faith and Message, Section XV, that racism is not to be tolerated or embraced. “In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism…”.
The Bible teaches and our church believes that every life God has created, born and unborn, matters in heaven and on earth. We continue striving to be a church that embraces every race and ethnicity to model heaven when every nation, tribe, and tongue will stand before the throne to worship Jesus.
For example, recently, one of our first baptisms after the COVID-19 shutdown was a black staff member baptizing a biracial engaged couple; the husband-to-be was white and the wife-to-be was black. As the baptism took place, our congregation cheered in celebration. This is not new for our church, but it was particularly poignant in illustrating our heart to look like heaven in these days and was a blessing to my heart as pastor. It gives me great joy to walk the halls of our church and see families whose roots extend from Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, Hispanic and Latino countries and more. (Revelation 5:9 & 7:9-10).
Our church believes in the dignity of all men and women regardless of their race, nationality or ethnicity. But, we do not support the group Black Lives Matter, Inc. Many of this organization’s beliefs are contrary to biblical truth. They recently removed the “What We Believe” page of their website. It stated, for example, the championing of homosexuality, transgenderism, and a desire to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure...” We believe biblical truths are the hope for our country and lives — not societal theories. (Colossians 2:8, Genesis 2:24, Romans 1:22-25)
We believe the right to peaceably assemble finds its roots in the First Amendment of the Constitution, but protests that include lawlessness, violence, looting, rioting, and the use of foul language in slogans, themes, and chants are counterproductive to righteousness and justice and are destructive to society and sinful before God. (Acts 19:21-41, Titus 2:14 & Hebrews 1:9)
Laws are necessary for society to function and should be created and enforced with fairness and justice. They should be equally applied to all men and women of society. We see clearly in the scripture that righteousness and justice are twin towers of our faith. Racial profiling, harassment, excessive force, and intimidation are wrong, unnecessary, sinful, and lower the credibility of government and law-enforcement agencies. (Psalm 89:14, Micah 6:8 & Romans 13:1-4).
Our church employs numerous law enforcement officers to provide safety and traffic control. We consider them to be a key part of our staff and team. The vast majority of police officers are good men and women who have accepted a difficult and dangerous vocation in order to protect the lives and property of citizens in our communities. We respect and honor law enforcement and believe they have a right to self-protection when in harm’s way. They are mothers and fathers; husbands and wives; friends and neighbors who have every right to expect that they will return home safely at the end of their day’s work. They should be adequately resourced, respected, and protected. (Romans 13:1-7 & I Peter 2:13-17)
Finally, we believe that through Jesus — the Prince of Peace — individuals and society have hope of living in harmony. We acknowledge we will never personally be sinless in practice this side of heaven. As a church that is over 175 years old, we also recognize that our church’s history is not flawless in regard to racism. We repent of the sin of racism. We are grateful for leaders in our church’s history like John Bisagno who pastored our church for 30 years. He and many others stood strong against racism and showed God’s love to people inside and outside the church, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or nationality.
Christians should strive each day to love God and love others who have been created in the image of God. As Paul reminds us in Philippians 1:6, “He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Jesus is the Prince of Peace and our hope in battling the sin of racism and all other sins. (Isaiah 9:6, Luke 2:14, John 14:27 & Ephesians 2:14-17)
Just as a good marriage takes intentional effort, so does seeing and treating one another as created in the image of God. So, how will our church put these beliefs into action?
Soon after George Floyd’s death, we established the “Imago Dei” (Image of God) Task Force of diverse church members and staff who have been meeting regularly since then. Below are a few of their recommendations.
In our efforts to be culturally-relevant and biblically-based and to build a godly community for all races, the desire of Houston’s First Baptist Church is to love, respect, and care for all people as image bearers of God.
In the name of Jesus — the Prince of Peace,
Pastor Gregg Matte
Pastor Gregg and our Campus Pastors led our churchwide online prayer gathering on Mon, June 1, 2020 — the Monday after the death of George Floyd. Visit this page to hear their prayers and conversation, as well as to find a list of recommended books, podcasts, videos, and more.
On Sun, June 7, 2020, Pastor Gregg talked about the stormy seas we might encounter in our lives — like many our nation has faced this year — and how we can cross those treacherous waters when we do.