I have long been a fan of Marvin Gaye. Everyone I knew growing up was. My favorite Marvin Gaye song asks the question, “What’s Going On?”
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today,
Marvin Gaye wrote these words in light of the political and social turmoil of the late 60s and early 70s. And yet, as we look out on the landscape of our time we could easily and rightly raise the question again, “What’s Going On?”
Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh, what’s going on
What’s going on
Yeah, what’s going on
Ah, what’s going on
What’s going on when Alton Sterling is openly slain by those sworn to “protect and serve”?
What’s going on when those who are seeking to “protect and serve” are brutality cut down on the streets of Dallas in the line of duty?
What’s going on when over 60 people were shot in Chicago over the 4th of July weekend in predominantly black neighborhoods, with 32 of them shot within a 15 hour time frame–including children?
What’s going on when famed author Toni Morrison implies that before she could agree to having a conversation on race she needs to see an officer shoot a white teenager in the back, when actually there are more white men killed by police than black men? (But black deaths generate more outrage and thus are sensationalized in the press).
What’s going on when we see racism, brutality, injustice, violence, abuse, and hatred in our world and call it everything but what it is–sin?
What’s going on?
When Marvin Gaye raised that question, what he was really asking is what is wrong with the world. The answer is sin. And when we fail to speak openly and honestly, holistically and biblically about sin then we really have no answer to the ever pressing question, “What’s going on?”
Sure, police officers can and must be trained out of many cultural prejudices that often lead to pain and tragedy. Yes, our children can and must be trained to avoid unnecessary conflict; and where unavoidable, to resolve it peacefully; and where unresolvable, to learn to disagree and let live. Death is never the answer, even to death. Yet there is more than just training. There is life.
Brothers and sisters, we are pro-life, not simply because black lives matter, or blue lives matter, or unborn lives matter, but because Christ matters, the kingdom of God matters. We are pro-life because God is. Let us not make it a black thing (though the world does), and let us not make it simply a justice thing (though it is that). But let’s always make it a God thing, because it is. Let’s make it a Christ thing. And remember Christ is no respecter of person, race, or class.
The church doesn’t need picket lines and picket signs as much as it needs faithful preachers proclaiming the mercy and justice of God found only in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Besides, if we take to the streets but fail to preach Christ, what have we done? I believe protest is good where it is called for. But the church must protest sin. And in response posit Christ.
We are called to preach Christ. To preach Christ is to preach life (Jn. 6:35; 14:6; Gal. 2:20; Phil. 1:21). The answer to hate is not hate. The answer to violence is not violence. The answer to death is not death. The answer to sin is not sin. The answer to hate is love (Mt. 5:44). The answer to sin is forgiveness (Mt. 6:12ff). The answer to sin is the grace of God found only in Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:23-24; 1Jn. 2:2).
When sin is the problem (and it always is) the answer is Christ. This is the answer, the good deposit, given to the church. This is what makes the church relevant. This we must never forsake. Sin is senseless. It always has been and always will be. The only answer to the senselessness of sin that makes any real sense is Jesus Christ.
When the world looks at the world and says “What’s going on?” The answer is clear. Sin is going on. Pain, injustice, violence, hatred, and death are going on all around us. And yet, when the church responds to what’s going on we also remind the world that in Jesus Christ —Grace is going on. Mercy is going on.
Christ is what’s going on. And if your talk to me, you will see, what’s going on.