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Mercy and Justice

Perspective, Action, and Understanding

Valley has a Gospel-centered approach to mercy and justice, tough issues that have pained so many in our church and communities. And we have been trying to take action that leads to greater understanding and reconciliation. Below, we offer four pastoral perspectives on justice and specifically racial injustice in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Then we offer an action step that we hope you will consider taking. Finally, we provide a few other resources that we hope can lead to greater understanding as we all listen, learn, and seek God's grace and mercy in our actions and words.

Action: "The Bridge to Racial Unity"

Over the past two years, "The Bridge to Racial Unity" class has created conversations among Valley attendees to help tear down barriers that divide people. Following a summer session with 43 participants, we're excited to once again offer this nine-week study this fall as we continue to strive to make Valley a place of real unity in Christ!

The conversations begin Sunday, September 27, from 12:30-2 p.m. in Fellowship Hall at Valley Avon. Book cost is $10.

sign up here 

Watch: A Conversation About Theology, Race, and the Church

As part of our ongoing Mercy and Justice initiative at Valley, we invite you to watch and listen to the above video, a roundtable conversation about theology, race, and the church. The participants:
  • Bishop Victor Rush, Senior Pastor of Ebenezer Temple in Hartford and Executive Director of Hartford City Mission, a Valley Outreach partner
  • Lloyd Huie, longtime Valley attendee and presenter of our "Bridge to Racial Unity" sessions
  • Rob O'Neal, Senior Pastor of Valley Community Baptist Church
The hour-long conversation was recorded in the Valley Sanctuary on August 13, 2020.

Perspective: Four Pastors Reflect

Pastor Rob O'Neal

The killing of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, reminds us that many people in our society are harmed by racism and bigotry on a daily basis.

Many of us are grieving, frustrated, and angry. Some of us know we are unsafe, and when one of us is threatened, we are all unsafe. Change must come; it’s long overdue. 

 The Gospel offers us clarity and hope for such change. Consider:

The Gospel tears down barriers. In Ephesians 2:14-18 the apostle Paul reminds us that Jesus has erased the distinctions between us. His death reconciled us to the Father; when we are reconciled to the Father, we are reconciled to one another. In Galatians, Paul adds that all followers of Jesus are now children of God and that all of other distinctions we would draw are meaningless. We’re a family! Racism and bigotry have no place in the Church, and we repent of it wherever we find it. 

 The Gospel leads us to action. In Mark 12:21 Jesus said that loving our neighbors summarized half of the Old Testament Law. Loving all of our neighbors is active. Jesus set the example when he took a towel and bowl of water and began to wash the dirty feet of his followers. Then he commanded them to do the same, adding that love turned to action would be the hallmark of his followers in society. (See John 13:34-35.) Jesus meant for loving turning to action to have fundamental, society-shaping consequences. As he began his public ministry in Luke 4:14-22, he cited the words of Isaiah the prophet and said that he would fulfill them. Isaiah talked about freeing prisoners, bringing sight to the blind, setting oppressed people free, and proclaiming the Lord’s favor. That’s who we are as Jesus’ followers! 

 The Gospel points us to hope. In Revelation 5 we have a picture of every creature in heaven, on earth, and under the earth gathering to praise God the Father and God the Son together. We are all one people. Revelation 21 adds that God has planned there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. This beautiful vision gives us hope. It calls us to act justly today. May we repent of the ways that our fears and frustrations lead us to cause death, mourning, crying, and pain. And may we be determined to wipe away tears and build a just and righteous society that reflects the will of our Lord. 

 We cling to the Gospel as we grieve and plan the future. We offer the Gospel to society because it is the only source of lasting peace, justice, righteousness, and hope. We will live out the Gospel privately and publicly. We will advocate for the worldview the Gospel offers.

Rob O'Neal is Senior Pastor of Valley Community Baptist Church

Pastor Kevin Haskins

As believers, our response to the killing of George Floyd should be both grounded in and flow out of the truths of God’s Word. But which truths should we focus on right now? I suggest three. 

Truth: We each bear God’s image. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him…” (Genesis 1:27). George Floyd was a believer, and a man created in the image of God. As followers of Jesus, we are called to treat each person, no matter their background, as deserving the respect and honor of an image-bearer. Our creator endowed all people with certain inalienable rights, and those rights are grounded in the fact that we bear the image of a loving creator. 

Truth: Love treats each person with honor. So, whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them…” (Matthew 7:12). We all hope that other people will treat us with grace, mercy, and honor. That’s why Jesus called us to gauge our love for others by how we want them to treat us. “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10 NIV). Treating the other person with honor means preferring their needs and desires over our own needs and desires. 

Truth: God requires His people to “do” justice.He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). God requires that his people be those who DO justice, not simply be those who AFFIRM justice. God’s call to do justice is consistent with lovingkindness or walking humbly with him. Justice is all about loving God and loving others well. “… learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.” (Isaiah 1:17).

In these days of global and national turmoil, may we look for God’s image in the other person, may we honor the other person above ourselves, and may we do what is right and just.

Kevin Haskins is Interim Executive Pastor of Valley Community Baptist Church

Pastor Scott Ridout

(Excerpts from Pastor Scott's response to the death of George Floyd)

... In my humble opinion and limited observation, the church of today in our country has, for the most part, stood on the sidelines on these issues. The result: increased racial tensions and decreased impact in many communities.

For many different reasons I can’t begin to understand, many leaders have decided that their wisest tactic for the church is to isolate and insulate from society, when it seems that God calls us to infiltrate and influence it.  As a result, we are being branded among the minority cultures of our country as uncaring at best and irrelevant at worst.  It will be impossible to accomplish our mission without changing the narrative. We will never reach the majority of a community if we can’t relate to the minorities in that community. ...

We must learn to take steps to help our community move forward with a view of the advancement of the gospel in every heart, home and hometown. If the majority culture will not engage an issue in a democratic society, change will not happen.

This is not the first time I have brought this issue to the attention of our movement. Some wonder why I bring this up over and over again. It is because our goal is to help people meet, know and follow Jesus by starting and strengthening churches together worldwide. Converge began as a minority movement — Swedish immigrants who were convinced of the truth of the gospel and its ability to impact our lives and communities.  Almost 170 years later, God has now blessed us to be a truly multi-cultural movement with a dream to see every community where we have a presence saturated with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The advance of the Christian faith has always been strongly relational. We will not reach a community that we cannot relate to. To reach people we have not been reaching, we must do some things we have not been doing. Let’s embrace the pain, engage the conversation and enter the battle. I am convinced that God will give us the wisdom to know the right things to do and the courage to do it.

Scott Ridout is President of Converge. Valley is affiliated with Converge, a worldwide movement of churches focused on strengthening the local church, planting churches, and global missions.

Pastor Harold Lewis

(Excerpts from Pastor Harold's response to the death of George Floyd)

... Now, more than ever, we are aware of our critical need for a fresh anointing that will enlighten us and empower us to stand up and speak out as witnesses about the evil of overt racism that is plaguing our midst. ...

And now, here we go again; the modern-day lynching of Mr. George Floyd. The ink from a previous article written by Converge president Scott Ridout and me regarding the vigilante killing of Mr. Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia, had not even dried before we addressed and responded to another murder.

My brothers and sisters, I am tired, I am frustrated, I am hurting and I am angry. I know there will be those who will readily suggest, “Don’t be angry; just pray about it.” To those voices, I say you are asking me to be better than Jesus.

Even Jesus got angry when he witnessed any discrimination or biases. He got upset when the mothers were bringing their children before him to be blessed, and the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me” (Matthew  19:14). Jesus got angry when he went into the temple and saw the money changers making a mockery out of God’s house, and he drove them out with a whip (Matthew 21:12). ...

Let me be clear: Racism is a sinful stench and an evil epidemic that stands ad nauseam in the nostrils of God and is contaminating the Christian movement. Systemic racism is an infectious disease that is eroding the very fabric of this country. We cannot wish it away. We must confront it and call it out. ... 

Brothers and sisters, I pray that the Church in general, and our white Christian brothers and sisters in particular, are not sitting or standing idly by with their eyes closed while their black and brown Christian brothers and sisters are suffering from the sins and shame of racial injustices. ...

It is my prayer that our white Christian brothers and sisters will not allow closed eyes and silence regarding the ongoing killings of black and brown people to become an affront to God, but that your bold vocal and visible witness will be a sign of solidarity and that you stand for justice, healing, peace and the love of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Dr. Harold Lewis is Vice President of Biblical Diversity for Converge. Valley is affiliated with Converge, a worldwide movement of churches focused on strengthening the local church, planting churches, and global missions.

Understanding: Resources

Grace, Justice, & Mercy: An Evening with Bryan Stevenson & Rev. Tim Keller

click here to watch the video

"Justice and the Gospel": Watch any of Pastor Jay's eight messages from his 2017 sermon series.

click here to go to the sermons