Ambassadors of Reconciliation | Scott Brooks | 2 Cor. 5:17-21
PASTOR SCOTT: Hey, Freshwater. I’ve got to tell you, I was part of just the time of worship there. You ever have those moments where everything is taken away, things that you love, and you don’t have them for a while? All of a sudden, you get them back, and you realize, oh, my goodness. Like, I’ve missed it so bad. I was sitting out there.
The sound was off in the room, really. It wasn’t that great of sound, but all of a sudden, none of that mattered. It was just being led in worship. I have to tell you, I can’t wait until we gather again and worship together again. There is something about us getting together. There’s nothing that substitutes for that. His presence that comes. You should see this room. It’s empty, but his presence was here. You could ask the team and those of us out there. It was just a great time. I’m sorry. Hopefully you worshipped with them, too. I’m not trying to make you feel like you are missing something. You missed something.
But anyway, I’m moving on.
How you guys doing? Like, really, how are you doing? How would you answer that question if somebody asked you that right now, in light of all that’s going on in our nation? In light of the protests, the riots, and everything that has been happening.
Personally, man, coming out of Covid, I was thinking, all right, here we go, here we go. I don’t know. For me, it’s just been — the last couple weeks have been difficult, especially this past week on Wednesday.
I was able to just be on a Zoom call with our district pastors, about 75 pastors in the Central District who are part of the Christian Missionary Alliance. Just hearing from our African-American brothers who are pastors, it was very sobering, to hear them and how they’re processing it.
You know, it’s interesting. We’re in this season, and hopefully you’re still praying, and I’m still praying, 30 minutes a week, until we regather, which is the 21st. We’re going to close this season of prayer. I don’t think it is an accident, we’ve been praying for healing for our country. We thought it was for the virus. Now, I look at what’s going on and think, oh, it’s so much bigger, right? So much bigger, the healing that needs to happen in our country.
Today, I want to pose a question: What do we do as Christ followers in light of all that’s happening? I’m talking specifically to those of us who follow the way of Jesus, who have said Jesus is our Lord and our Savior. My footsteps, my life is going to follow the way. He walked and He lived, and His call on our lives.
As a staff, we had a plan to start a new series here in June, and we just, as a staff, just said there’s no way we can move into that series without addressing what’s going on in our country. So these next few moments are really coming out of that conversation with our staff and a couple elders, as we talk about what does it look like to respond to what we’re seeing happen.
I want to talk about, today, the obvious thing that’s happening and what has stirred up our country right now, is racism. And when I use that word “racism,” what comes to mind? What stirs in your soul when you hear that word? As we think about racism, we have to realize that racism can be as blatant and as obvious as what we saw happen with George Floyd, but it also can be as subtle as being blind to it in ways we didn’t even know. Like, we don’t know what we don’t know.
What can happen is, on that spectrum — and one is easy to see, the other is very difficult to see without help from somebody from the outside. Often, we could say, “Well, I haven’t owned slaves. I’m not racist. I’m not committing acts of racism. You know, that’s just not who I am,” but the problem is, the subtlety on this other end of the spectrum is, we don’t know what we don’t know.
Maybe we haven’t learned and don’t know things, and it contributes to the culture of racism. Maybe we haven’t learned the contributions of blacks and what they have done in our country. We don’t understand the contributions African-Americans have made and Africans themselves have made to culture, to architecture, to science, to math. We don’t understand the contribution they’ve made to our theology and the leadership of the church.
Maybe we haven’t made the effort to understand the past from the point of view of an African-American in our country, how it influences the present and their point of view. We often want to argue about definitions and rationalize, shift, blame, and that can often happen, but the bottom line at the end of the day is, racism, any form of it, subtle or not subtle, is sin. It’s just simply sin. All people are created in the image of God. All people. And any effort to diminish the value and worth of a person is pure, unadulterated evil. The African-Americans and other people of color are still experiencing the evils of racism and the injustice it brings. This isn’t a political issue. It isn’t a Republican issue. It isn’t a Democrat issue. It isn’t an Antifa issue. It isn’t a skinhead issue. It is a biblical issue.
This is the very heart of God, to care for the oppressed, to take up the cause of those who are under oppression and injustice. You read through the life of Christ, and he elevated the Samaritans who were hated by the Jews. He told a story where he made a Samaritan the hero of the story, and it was offensive to Jews. He elevated women who were oppressed and marginalized. He hit racism head on, and injustice. It’s a Christian issue because it’s an issue to our God. It’s pervasive throughout our country. There’s no way we can deny it.
And it’s happening in our own town, with our own people, our church family, our children out of our church, our Christian brothers and sisters. It’s splashing up on them. We have moms, dads, and kids in our church who live with this. It’s been happening to them all along.
If you want to ask some of the parents whose children in our church whose skin is a different color than white, black or brown, ask them what it’s like for their children at school. Ask them what it’s like for their children to go in the town of Wadsworth and discover that there are racists at school, and racism is alive and well in our town.
Now, those students at school didn’t just start being that. They were taught that. They caught that. Whether it was at home, whether it was through the media, whether it was culture at large in some way. So when a black person starts to talk about racism and how it is systematic, it means this, that there are racist people who get jobs in corporations, racist people who get jobs in government positions, racist people who get jobs in educational positions, and they bring their racism into work. They create an environment of racism and injustice.
It didn’t just start since the civil rights movement, right? It didn’t just start after the proclamation, right, that set people free after the civil war, the Emancipation Proclamation. It started at the beginning of our country, when we brought over Africans as slaves. It’s been going on throughout the history of our country. I realize this is such a complex issue, and there is no way I could address this in any exhaustive manner or comprehensive manner. It is frustrating. But here’s the question I’m wrestling with right now, and I want you to wrestle with: What is the youth going to say about those of us who are now influencing the church in our 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s? What are they going to say about us in a generation? Are they going to say, of Freshwater Community Church and its people, that, “Well, they knew it was wrong, but they didn’t do anything about it really.”
Would they say we sat on the sideline, or would they say of us that, “We saw them standing up and move towards being anti-racist”? I want to talk about what our response should be. You and I are ambassadors of Christ. Ambassadors, specifically, of reconciliation. I want to read 2 Corinthians 5:17 all the way through the end.
2 Corinthians 5:17 through 21,
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new
creation. The old has passed away, behold, the
new has come. All this is from God, who
through Christ reconciled us to himself and
gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that
is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to
himself, not counting their trespasses against
them, and entrusting to us the message of
reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors
for Christ, God making his appeal through us,
and we implore you on behalf of Christ, be
reconciled to God.”
As you sit right there, and you listen to this, your identity, if you follow the way of Christ, and he is your Savior and your Lord, your identity is an ambassador of reconciliation. That’s your identity. That’s what you signed up for when you followed Christ. An ambassador of reconciliation.
Well, what does that mean? An ambassador is one who moves with the authority, the power, and the agenda of his king, her king, and the kingdom.
An ambassador is someone who moves with the authority, the power, and the agenda of the kingdom and the king they serve. It’s the way Jesus designed this. So what you and I do right now, even during these times, and in the days ahead and the years ahead, reflects on our king. When we speak, we’re speaking and the king is speaking through us. When we act, we’re acting, and it’s the king and his kingdom that is acting through us.
I want you to think about something. Have you ever met an ambassador — I don’t know if you have. I don’t know. I think I met one. What if you met an ambassador, hung out with them, and you saw them, and they never left their office? In fact, they never actually went outside to meet the leaders, meet the people of the country they were in. They never actually sat down with anyone to bring the agenda of the kingdom. In fact, all they did was sit on the side as an ambassador. I mean, you would say that ambassador was entirely ineffective, fire him, bring him back home, send somebody else out there.
See, an ambassador of Christ is action. It’s direction. We have a very clear mandate from our king, the agenda of the kingdom is reconciliation. Reconciliation to Christ. We bring the good news that there is peace between God and humanity. It is the first and the foremost focus and mission of an ambassador of Christ.
Yet, when we think about this, when you watch Christ, who modelled what it meant to be the king of reconciliation, he moved into relationships. He moved towards people who were oppressed. He moved towards injustice.
He loved the people that were being overlooked, the people that were under the thumb of people in power who hated them. As ambassadors of Christ, we bring reconciliation. We move toward relationships.
We move toward culture. We move toward races. It’s not about politics, and it’s not about nationalism. It is way beyond that because we’re part of the king and the kingdom, right? That’s what we’re about. We’re about the agenda of the kingdom of God.
It’s not a passive thing that we’re involved in. It is moving into places and into culture where there is racism and injustice and antagonism and hate and violence and war, and beginning to speak. Micah 3, this is Jesus when he is talking. He says, look, Jesus being God, he gives us this, and Micah is giving this prophecy. In the middle of this, he says, “Look, let me boil this down.” God says, “Let me boil this down for you. This is what I want of you: Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with your God.”
Do justice. Doing justice. It is not just love justice; hey, justice is a good idea. It’s an action, do justice. What does that look like? Well, I think it looks like relationship first. Mourn, grieve. Our African-American brothers and sisters that are part of the church, let alone in our nation, are grieving and have been grieving for centuries, crying out for justice.
Let me ask you a question. When you have grieved, and when you have been in mourning, what have you loved the most when somebody comes to you? Do you love it when they come in and say, “Oh, you shouldn’t feel that way. Perk up. Come on, snap out of it. It’s going to be sunny tomorrow”?
No, no. That doesn’t help, right? What helps is somebody who sits down beside us, especially when we’re talking about injustice. They sit down beside us, and they’re quiet, right? They listen. James says this, he says, “Look, be slow — or be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”
Let me ask you something. In this moment, in these last weeks even, have you been slow to listen, quick to speak, quick to anger? Or are you quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger? I think God would call us to sit next to those who are experiencing injustice and say, “Talk to me,” and just listen if they want to share.
It’s painful. It’s painful. I saw my African-American brothers, these pastors, some of them I’ve known for 18 years. I have some of the deepest respect for these men. They are godly men. I’m on a Zoom call with them, and I saw something in their eyes and in their spirit I haven’t seen in 18 years.
These guys were raw. These guys were hurting, hurting, grieving, angry. The first thing to do is to stop and mourn with them and listen. Second thing, as an ambassador of reconciliation, God may be calling you to stand in the gap and in that moment and just say, “I am sorry.”
Now, you may stiffen at that idea and say, “Oh, here comes the white guilt.”
That’s not what this is about. Let me tell you a story or two. When I first came to this church 18 years ago, it was very apparent within a couple months that this church had wounded a pastor before I got here. Within that first two years, as a leadership, we apologized. We stood in front of them, and some of us weren’t even there for part of it, but we said, “Look, there was a wrong done, and on behalf of those who did the wrong, we want to stand here and say this was wrong and we’re sorry.”
It allowed healing. It spoke to the injustice that had happened and said this was wrong, and we are sorry this has happened.
I remember reading a book by Donald Miller called “Blue Like Jazz.” I’ll never forget it. He’s up in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon, I think, or Washington. He’s at a university, and he and some Christian friends had this idea because they’re trying to figure out, how do you reach this culture that just doesn’t like Christ at all, hates Christ, doesn’t want anything to do with Jesus and the church and Christians.
They had this crazy idea. They put together — they put up — and I may have shared this with you. Forgive me if I have because it’s still, to me, just a powerful story. They got one of those medieval kind of confessional booths. They set it up in the middle of the campus during one of these huge festivals this campus threw, like one or two a year. It was a big drunk fest. It was a debauchery party. They put the confessional booth in the middle of it.
Crazy thing happened, people lined up. Donald Miller and his friends turned the tables. When people came in, Christians started confessing. The people were shocked. They said, “No, no, no, this isn’t about you coming in to confess your sins to us. This is about us confessing the sins of the church to you.”
Donald Miller and these Christian friends would each take a turn sitting in this booth, confessing the sins of the church. You want to know what happened? People wept. People broke. Because somebody finally stood up and said, “We are so sorry.”
You know what happened? There were people in there that all of a sudden started to think, maybe Jesus is someone I should follow. Maybe Jesus isn’t all that bad. That’s an ambassador of reconciliation.
If you’re sitting there saying, “Well, it isn’t fair because I didn’t do this,” let me speak into this even further. We don’t want to go down the line of thought that says it isn’t fair. Because if you do that, you have to start first with our Savior and Lord. Let me ask you a question, do you think it was fair that Jesus had to come to this earth, step down from the throne, for us?
Do you think it was fair he had to be tempted? Do you think it was fair he was persecuted? Do you think it was fair that he was rejected? Do you think it was fair he was beat? Do you think it was fair that he was, the Son of God, God Almighty, betrayed by one of his own, sold for 30 pieces of silver? Do you think it was fair he was tortured? Do you think it was fair he was crucified? Do you think it was fair he took on the punishment for my sin?
We just took communion. He took on the punishment for my sin. We don’t want fair. Fair is Scott Brooks goes to hell for eternity. That’s fair. We don’t want fair. We just sang “Mercy is falling and falling.” That’s what we want. We’re ambassadors of reconciliation. The very essence is grace, mercy, and Jesus says, “Follow me.” He says, “Take up your cross and follow me. Give up your rights. Give up your right to say what’s fair and follow me. Watch the power of mercy fall on people. And grace fall on people. Give up your right. Give up fairness and become an ambassador of reconciliation.”
Our Lord is calling us to our African-American brothers and sisters to minister and to build bridges to Christ. I want to also just speak into what is our response. Part of it is just to sit and to listen. Part of it is to stand in the place of those before us. It may not stop our whole lives. So what? Each time, moving into that and standing in the gap.
Christ also — as we think about being an ambassador of Christ, we cannot sit by. We just cannot sit by. Doing justice means we are not part of a neutral kingdom. We are part of a kingdom that is active. So to say, as I have said — and I’m saying this about myself right now, realizing this, and this is part of what I need to repent from — to say, “I’m not a racist” is not enough. It’s just not enough. That only gets us to the zero sum. It gets us to zero. We need to move towards being anti-racist. We need to start moving the needle of justice. Neutrality isn’t an option. Complacency isn’t an option.
Folks, I know Freshwater. I have been a part these last 18 years and seen Freshwater respond over the years in moments like these with this courage and hunger and passion to be these ambassadors of Christ. Like, I’ve seen it. This is Freshwater. This is what we’re like. This is what we do. Part of me, as I preach this, I know what Freshwater, what we’re going to do. We’re going to move toward this. This is what we do here. And I know so many of you have said — and I’ve talked to some who say, “I would like to do something. I don’t know what to do. Tell me what to do. In a predominantly white town, as a white person, help me understand what to do.”
That may be you right now. So there’s a couple steps. First, understand this, this is a ten on the scale. This isn’t a three. This isn’t a two. Right now, we’re in a ten. And I want you to just understand that. Reframe the importance and how critical this is. This is a ten. For the African-American community, they live at an eight or nine most of the time. That’s why it’s blowing up. It’s a ten. Say that to yourself, this is a ten.
Therefore, because it’s a ten, let’s talk about some things.
First, I don’t know what you have planned for reading over the next year. I don’t know what you have planned for viewing over the next year. What you have planned to listen to in the car, podcasts, but we need to grow. As ambassadors of Christ, we need to understand the king’s agenda and what reconciliation looks like, and where our African-American friends and brothers and sisters, and as a whole of people, are.
Don’t go to them and put this on them to educate you. There’s so many resources out there. As a church, we’re going to put together some resources. It’s not going to be hard. We’ll put together some resources, just a list of speakers, pastors you could listen to, books you might want to read. We’ll send that out. But go to school, learn, grow.
Another piece of this, I know we want to do something and move forward, and in the coming days and weeks, we may be calling a time of prayer. We may be jumping into something with other churches. We’re trying to get that all figured out. We’re still trying to clarify that.
In fact, we may have an announcement here, I don’t know. We may try to record something. If we get — we’re trying to make some plans. I can’t say it at this point, but because of video, we can cut and paste something in. You may get an announcement at the end of this thing. Pay attention. If it’s not there, we’re trying to get this thing organized and make sure we’ve got all our ducks in a row. There are some things immediately we’re going to do, pray and join in with other churches.
But then this is the other thing, I want to invite you to have resolve. Join me on this, because what we’re looking at is not something that is going to be born out of an emotional decision or a passionate decision. Doesn’t work. We are going to do something that is led by the Spirit of God, and it is going to last for generations. That’s what I’m about. That’s what our staff is about. We are not looking to just, oh, let’s feel good about ourselves, or, oh, this is bad. We are looking to methodically pray and seek the Spirit, and begin to create a culture that’s part of Freshwater, where we are anti-racist, and we have very concrete plans about how we do that in a measured, Spirit-led way.
I just — I talked about a book, the “Clapham Sect,” that I read. It’s kind of dry. I mean, if you want to read it, you can. It really — I really enjoyed it, but I want to warn you. It is a story of this group of 20 families, 15 to 20 families in England, late 1700s, early 1800s. William Wilberforce, he was the guy who led England’s abolition of slavery. Phenomenal man. There is a movie called “Wilberforce,” and it is all about that.
But these families, it wasn’t in a year, and it wasn’t in six months, they methodically began to establish societies and schools and education, and they went into churches, and they started taking over churches. Their goal was literally to change their nation. It’s unbelievable, what happened, in two generations. England’s course, you could point back to the 20 families from Clapham, and they call them the Clapham Sect, they changed the course of their nation.
We’re Wadsworth. What if, someday, somebody wrote a book about the Wadsworth Sect, a group of people resolved to fight for justice. To say, no, we’re ambassadors of Christ. We will not be passive. We will not stay at zero. We will begin to move with the King, His authority, His power, and His agenda of reconciliation. We will not stop. We will not stop until He calls us home or until He comes. We will not stop. God bless you.
* * * *
So here’s the beauty of technology. I’m back on, guys. Hey, Sunday afternoon, today, if you’re watching this, this morning, Sunday afternoon at 3:00, we want to invite you to a time of prayer in front of City Hall here in Wadsworth.
The pastor, the senior pastor of= the Chapel here in Wadsworth, Zac Derr, and I have been in conversations. We’re talking about, what does it look like to start to partner as a church, our two churches, and begin to tackle this issue of racism, and what does it mean to bring justice and reconciliation?
We just — it’s simple. If you can’t make it, we realize this is short notice, but we are getting together, the two of us. We’d love to invite you. It’s going to be at 3:00 right out in front of City Hall. Love to see you there. Hopefully you can make it.