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?”

Mother, mother
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.

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Tony Carter

Tony Carter

Anthony Carter (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary) is lead pastor of East Point Church in East Point, Georgia, an organizing member of the Council of Reforming Churches, and a Council member of The Gospel Coalition. He is the author of several books, including Black and Reformed: Seeing God’s Sovereignty in the African-American Christian Experience. Anthony and his wife, Adriane, have five children.


  • Avatar Louis Love says:

    Hey Carter:
    What a timely question from yesteryear. What an even more timely and necessary answer from all eternity.

  • Avatar Greg says:

    Why don’t we wait until all of the facts are known before passing judgment? It appears that he was “openly slain” but we aren’t in a position to convict the officer.

  • Avatar Jana Wallace says:

    No matter if openly slain or whatever facts surface to provide further context, this man was shot and died by the hands of a police officer. This article beautifully displays the need for the Gospel to be proclaimed as both an explanation for and the true answer to such senseless, sinful acts. Appreciate your willingness to share your perspective of the matter and to contribute to the conversation overall. <3

  • Avatar Jana Wallace says:

    *raises her hand* Amen! <3

  • Avatar Tony Carter says:

    Brother Greg, I feel your sympathies. “Openly slain” is not an indictment as much as it is an undeniable truth. The man was slain in the open, not in secret. He was killed by one who is called to do all he can to prevent death. I sympathize with police officers and I am all for due process of the law. But that should not stop us from stating the clear facts. Thanks for stopping by the porch. Hope you come by again.

  • Avatar Kikaida says:

    Thanks, Tony, for helping us think through the past few days biblically and with Christ at the center. These events can anger and confuse, but His word always helps us understand and navigate through the times (R Palompo).

  • Avatar Tony Carter says:

    I know. I feel ya. Except for the mercy and glory of Christ where would we be? The only way I know to make sense of this world and not lose all my senses is to look to Christ. He knows the struggle of injustice personally. And yet he redeemed us in spite of it.. I must be willing to see and seek redemption in spite of sin in this world as well. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Blessings.

  • Avatar contented says:

    I have a handful of elders I look to when stuff like this happens, or I should say when a few events rise to public prominence and the public discussion starts getting confused. As a relatively rural-bred white guy, I find I often misread the lay of the land. As a kid who went to high school at a fairly violent inner-city high school, I feel racial violence and tension more than it seems anybody would believe or understand. As a Christian I simply cannot trust the short-sighted, politically charged comments thrown about from the left and right. Taken all together, when the winds of strife swirl between my various “home” cultures, I need a solid, Gospel saturated chorus of voices to lead me through. I have only met you once and relatively briefly, Tony, but I trust you. Oh, how I wish I could sit under your leadership and teaching week in and week out. But for now I live 12,000 miles away and praise God that He has raised up such gifted and solid teachers in our generation!

    Who knows maybe I will have the opportunity to be there next spring for “Just Gospel.” Ultimately, though, I hope all of these events will result in such a groundswell that I just won’t fit. Wouldn’t that be sweet.

  • Avatar David Zavadil says:

    Thank you for your wonderful article. It was an encouraging help as I prepare to lead God’s people this morning.

  • Avatar Eve says:

    Cops are not sworn to prevent death but rather to uphold and enforce law of course the law should protect life but that is not the case currently in the US.

  • Avatar Eve says:

    Oh yes! Sin is the problem, the people need to repent they suffer from every evil thing, envy, lack of forgiveness, strife, selfishness, sexual immorality, lust, materialism, gluttony etc… Too many Americans have a wicked heart and lifestyle the Gospel is much needed in these times

  • Avatar NoVivaAnc says:

    I had just finished reading the story of http://time.com/4399793/emmett-till-civil-rights-photography/?xid=newsletter-brief. Heart breaking and shocking to say the least. As a mom, I don’t know how and where this woman found her strength from. I honestly can say that for a moment there I was so despondent about the human race. Then I read your article and it reminded me that it is and always has been and will be, until our Lord returns, – sin. Sin which only through the Blood of the Lamb, a vile death, we have been set free from. May the Lord help me and us to share the good news of His propitiation for our sinful natures.

  • Avatar Tony Carter says:

    True Eve. The preservation of life is the first priority. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Avatar Tony Carter says:

    Yes brother, that would be sweet. I pray the Lord has encouraged your heart this weekend through the fellowship of the saints and the ministry of the Word. I do hope we are able to meet again soon. If not, I just God will use you wherever he has you as an agent of his grace and truth through our Lord. God bless.

  • Avatar Tony Carter says:

    Amen! The Bible reminds us that in the shifting winds of a sinful world the Christian has an anchor – hope (Heb. 6:19). Let us continue to hope in the God who is good, in control, and cannot lie. Thanks for your encouraging words this morning. God bless.

  • Avatar George L says:

    Hey Brother,

    Thanks for your sharing. Friday night I pulled out my “What’s Going On” CD & played it thinking similarly to how you were thinking. Later in the album Marvin reminds that “God is Love” & that He is “Wholly Holy”. Bless you my brother!

  • Avatar Jason Alligood says:

    Thanks for this clear & Biblical response, brother Tony.

  • Avatar Tony Carter says:

    Thanks bro! 🙂

  • Avatar Tab Smith says:

    I was so heavy hearted last night after reading about the strife in Baton Rouge. We just moved to Louisiana last week – had been in state one day when Akton Sterling was killed. My husband is Law Enforecment but with the Army – Military Police. He sat in stunned tearful silence for 30 minutes after watching the video of Alton’s death. (He’s a non-lethal trainer and knows there are better ways). We have been so very heart broken after the Sterling and Castille killings and then came Dallas.

    All of that to say, so many of us are listening. Keep bringing this strong prophetic voice.

  • Avatar ahomestead says:

    First this is a beautiful piece of thought and writing so thank you for sharing. I’m not sure what shooting you’re address here and the fact I have to even say that is so sad. I do know that when LE pulled over The driver in MSP they notified dispatch- which will be able to be heard by the public soon enough, that the reason for stopping was matching description of an armed robber suspect. It’s also been revealed through the very video that went viral the cop sees a visible gun on the thigh of the driver. What if the cop thought this person was a danger to the very people inside the vehicle and should do all he can to protect them from death by this driver? No that doesn’t change that he took the life of a man at all it only changes what one person’s perspective spread mass media as truth was. We are all human though and because of that there are many more facets and layers than just “openly slain”. Not only should the officer have slowed down out of love and grace, the driver should have honored authority with love and grace.

  • Avatar Marquez Gray says:

    Great blog to keep good “christian” folks in the walls of the church instead of in the community, where hurting people are at and need the Gospel the most.

  • Avatar Corey Fleig says:

    I am new to this website, and I am grateful to God for what this ministry stands on – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thanks so much. My only concern with the post by “Eve” is that it’s incorrect to say protecting life “…is not the case currently in the U.S.” That’s just wrong. Its correct to say it appears that protecting life in this particular disaster failed. But there are plenty of other times and places where lives are in fact protected. All I’m asking Eve, is that in our sorrow, please try to avoid broad sweeping statements that are simply not true. It places our emotions in the wrong place. God is still on His throne. Nothing has occurred outside His control. we have to come to terms with Luke 13. (if we don’t repent, we too shall perish.) A hard truth, but a real truth… Thank you so much for reaching out with Christ.

  • Avatar Jason says:

    Amazing reminder for the church. I do feel like some of it speaks against Romans 13, giving the feel that it is wrong for a government to use lethal force in law enforcement. However, the general message is one every Bible believer should be grateful to see represented in these times.

  • Avatar CRich737 says:

    Amen Brother!

  • Avatar Amelia Thompson says:

    I absolutely agree with you Pastor Carter – sin is the problem and Christ is the answer. Thank you for this piece. What does choosing Christ in these current times look like? How do we respond with this choice in the face of what seems totally unjust (such as the acquittal of the offers in the Freddie Gray case)? What practically do you recommend we do to continue to be support the call and cause of Christ while responding practically to injustice?

  • Avatar NCOriolesFan says:

    So you are more concerned over the murders of 8 cops around the country but never mind the murders of HUNDREDS of USA citizens by cops that may or may not deserved to be killed. My theme of this situation is this; police take a temporary situation and turn it into permanent solution.

  • Avatar NCOriolesFan says:

    So you would rather delete my comment than answer it. That’s real Christian of you.

    I’ll post my comment again, so are you are more concerned over the murders of 8 cops than the HUNDREDS of citizens killed by cops, justified or not despite your all lives matter comment.

    In short, police violence begets citizen violence. Cops take a temporary situation and turn it into a permanent solution.

    PS; your website was linked to my church’s webpage.

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