Tag Archive for: jesus follower

How are you doing this week? Over the past several months we have talked about navigating a pandemic, addressing the evils of racism, and becoming the leader God has created you to be.  We have not focused as much upon our mission. So, my question today is related to our mission, “How are you doing with leading and nourishing Jesus followers to make a difference in their communities and the world?” 

Our Responsibilities

Maybe a better way to ask the question is, “How are you leading the people entrusted to your care in responding to the pandemic and to racism?”  One of the misunderstandings of Christians today is to think that the Gospel offers us salvation while relieving us of responsibility for the life and well-being of the people in our communities, neighborhoods, and cities.

The pain and sorrow we have experienced over the past several months is interwoven into the fabric of our culture and deeply influence the thoughts and actions of all of us. Our mission, as Jesus followers, is to invite and equip people to not only address the pain and sorrow but to address the evil, the root causes, of the pain and sorrow. 

How are you doing in leading your congregation in reaching out and receiving people, introducing them to God’s love in Jesus, practicing the teachings of Jesus, and engaging them in God’s love as they navigate the pandemic and respond to racism? 

It’s NOT About a Political Position

To make disciples of Jesus is to call and equip people to be signs and agents of God’s justice in all human affairs. An invitation to accept the name of Jesus but fail to call people to be engaged in God’s love in everyday life is not Christian and must be rejected as false. 

How are you leading the people entrusted to your care in responding to the pandemic and to racism? Another misunderstanding of many Christians in our culture today is to think that the Christian faith is a particular political position.  People tend to politicize everything from “wearing a mask” to “Black Lives Matter.”

Our mission is not a political mission, it is a Gospel mission. A mission of love. Another way of saying it is, “Jesus didn’t call it ‘social justice.’ He simply called it love.  If we would only love our neighbors beyond comfort, borders, race, religion, and other differences that we have allowed to be barriers, ‘social justice’ would be a given.  Love makes justice happen.” (Bernice King in response to the death of John R. Lewis). 

Jesus Moves Us Beyond Self-Interest

Now let’s be clear, the uncomfortable and unsettling conversations we are having about racism, white privilege, and white supremacy are not on the same scale as what many in our marginalized communities have experienced.  Yet, the conversations are necessary.

The mandates to wear masks for the health and well-being of the people around us are not on the same scale of Constitutional rights. Yet, the wearing of masks is necessary. Our mission moves us beyond self-interest to moral conversations and actions. As uncomfortable as any conversation or action might be, loving our neighbors is enough to motivate us to change our behavior for the sake of God’s love and care for all people.  

To make disciples of Jesus is more than inviting people to the church.  It is to equip them to be signs and agents of God’s justice in all aspects of human life. To invite people to accept the name of Jesus is not an invitation to a particular political platform but is to immerse people in God’s love and to engage them in developing life changing relationships in their communities and the world.   


So, as you are leading the people entrusted to your care, remember:

  1. We are all created by God.  No one is created to be superior or inferior. Each of us, as human beings, regardless of color, race, nationality, or gender is created by God.
  2. As Jesus followers, we know that to love God is to love our neighbor and to love our neighbor is to love God.  Regardless of political persuasion, to love God is to love neighbor.  Regardless of color, race, or gender, to love God is to love neighbor, to love others, and to love one another.
  3. Each human being, regardless of race or color, is created in God’s image and is called to faith.
  4. To love one another is one-way people will know that we are Jesus followers and that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
  5. The way we treat one another we treat Jesus.

Your Next Step

How are you leading the people entrusted to your care in responding to the pandemic and to racism? Take a moment to think of the people entrusted to your care. With the people God has given to you to love in mind, I want you to do the following: 

  • Give God thanks for the opportunity to live and work in this time of chaos and confusion.
  • Confess your need for a relationship with God and with the people entrusted to your care.
  • Place the people, situations, and circumstances into God’s hands.
  • Ask God to use you as an instrument of peace and love.  

O God, thank you for the opportunity to live and work at this time in history. I confess that I do not know what to do, but I do know I need you and I need the people you have given me to love and to serve. As I place my relationships, the church, and the people around me into your hands, I pray that you will use me as an instrument of your peace and love. By your grace, I offer myself to you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.  

If you need and want help, contact us, Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are ready to assist you in leading the mission of making disciples for the transformation of the world.    

Like no other time in history, you have the opportunity to shape a future without racism.  To fight this disease that threatens the lives and dignity of so many of our sisters and brothers, you must become the courageous leader God has gifted you to be.  Antiracist work is hard and exhausting, but you have been created to lead for such a time as this.  As a leader, you have the opportunity to literally change the world. 

Our country, our communities, our churches need leaders who are willing to help us face the reality of systemic racism that is rooted in the soul and fabric of our culture. For the first time in my life, people are waking up and recognizing that we know better.  The question is, will we do better?

Will We Do Better?

Jane Elliot, a third-grade teacher from Iowa, who on the day after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, felt compelled to teach her students about discrimination.  She told the children that brown-eyed people were superior to blue-eyed people. She watched as the students turned on each other. Then, the next day, she reversed the script. The exercise highlighted the arbitrary and irrational basis of prejudice, an issue that we, in the United States, continue to grapple with more than 50 years later.

Since that day, Elliot has worked to fight racist ideas, challenged textbooks that teach false or incomplete history, and has emphasized the common ancestry of all human beings that makes us members of the same race, the human race.

This is what she says,

“Human beings created racism. Anything you create you can destroy. We can destroy racism.”

-Jane Elliot

Like no other time in our history, we have the opportunity to address and put an end to the evil of racism. The question is, “Will we?”

An Invitation to Be Honest With Yourself

If you are ready and willing to put an end to racism, then join me in getting a clearer understanding of racism and our participation in and benefit from it. The following is for you and your reflection. You need to be honest with your thoughts and own your feelings. Your reflection is a necessary step in gaining a clear understanding of how your life has been shaped by racist ideas and policies. This is for you and you only. All I ask is that you be honest with yourself.  

Unapologetically admit that you are ignorant and complicit in the racist ideas, power and policies of our culture and country.  

Racist ideas make people of color think less of themselves, which makes them more vulnerable to racist ideas. Racist ideas make White people think more of themselves, which makes racist ideas more attractive.

This kind of racism has us seeing people as the problem. To protect ourselves and our beliefs, we design and participate in policies that elevate White people and degrade Black people. Although it is true that “All Lives Matter,” it is in our uninformed dehumanizing of Black men and women that we deflect and redirect our awareness regarding “Black Lives Matter.”

We are complicit when we dismiss violent crimes as “black on black” crime without addressing the systems that give birth to such crimes.

It is easier to blame people than it is to design systems.

It is easier to reject people than it is to actively develop policies that help people out of poverty or homelessness.

It is easier to offer “thoughts and prayers” than it is to tackle the root causes of drug addiction, unemployment, and violent crime.

It is easier to feel blessed than it is to provide the blessing of health care and human development.

Of course, the systems in place to address such issues are designed to get the results they are getting. Are you aware that you participate in such systems?

Now, if you are feeling offended by what I have written, then multiply that feeling by 400+ years of hatred and dehumanizing treatment and you might begin to feel a little of the pain our Black sisters and brothers continually experience. Don’t you agree that it is time to put an end to racist ideas and policies? 

Learn what it means to benefit from “white privilege.”

Most people I know are offended by the term “white privilege.” It is the word “privilege” that gets in the way.  Privilege is usually associated with affluence. Although affluence might be part of it, the privilege refers to being protected by laws, benefiting from systems, having an advantage, which means you don’t have to look over your shoulder.

Missy Elliot writes, “Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it is not a problem to you personally.”

I think of it this way. I don’t worry about being stopped, questioned, or shot while jogging through the neighborhoods around my house. I have never worried for my life when I have been stopped for a traffic violation. The one time I unknowingly used a counterfeit $10 bill, I did not worry about being arrested, handcuffed, or even questioned by police. It never crossed my mind to have the “talk” with my son regarding being stopped and questioned by police for any reason.

I have never had anything other than a credit check when buying a car or a house. Since I was 20 years old, I have had health care, a pension to look forward to, and a salary to meet my needs. I grew up with both parents present in my life while living in the same house. As a teenager, I worked to have my own spending money and never thought I needed to give money to my mother, grandmother, or my aunt to pay monthly bills. I never questioned whether I should or could get a quality college education.

I did relatively little to bring about what I listed above.  I was born into a system, participated in a system, and benefitted from a system that was designed for my advantage. I don’t feel guilty about it, but I now understand that I have been complicit in my participation in a system that has elevated White people and degraded Black people. Are you aware that you have benefitted from such systems? 

 Confront your racism and become an antiracist.

When we are confronted with our racist ideas or with racist policies, we usually deny that we are racist. Denial is the heartbeat of racism. Now, this might not be how it works with you, but for most of us it works this way.  Even when we point out racist ideas or identify racist systems, we usually deny that we perpetuate such ideas or participate in such systems. We become defensive and deflect or redirect.

Part of our racism is revealed in our understanding of the word “racist” as a derogatory term. The truth is the word “racist” is a descriptive term. When we see it as a derogatory term we seek to protect ourselves by being neural. So we self-identity as “not racist.” When it comes to racism, there is no neutral ground. Racist is a descriptive term. If you are not antiracist, then you are racist.

Racism is so interwoven into the fabric of our lives we have been taught not to see color. The problem of not seeing color is that we don’t see the discrimination or the injustace of our systems. Because we aren’t having a problem with things the way things are, we don’t understand why others are having problems. So we justify ourselves by saying “they bring it on themselves.”

Recognize Racism in Daily Life

Racism is so interwoven into the fabric of our lives, we become timid and afraid to even use the word racism.  I recently read a post on social media where the person referred to racism as the “r” word. The comment was something like this: “The “r” word is a problem…How about teaching the words of Jesus?”

One response to the post was: “This comment is exactly why we need to hear the r word from our pulpits, study it together, and prepare to take action. Jesus commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves. We cannot do that if we continue to be part of the problem by not even being open to studying how racism applies to us.”

The response continued, “I believe pastors of predominantly white churches are at the fork in the road. Will they lead our congregations toward a path of action, or will they enable us to continue to believe the r word has nothing to do with us or Jesus’ commandment to love? What an opportunity for all of us.”

Can You Name Racism?

Friends, if you can’t name it, then you don’t see it. And if you don’t see it, then you are part of the problem. Are you able to see that you can help put and end to racism? 

My point is not to shame you, make you feel guilty, make you angry, or put you on the defensive. My point is, until we face the reality of our participation in racist ideas and policies we will not take action to change them.

We are way past the time to educate ourselves and to address the complex, emotional, and significant evil of racism. It is time to step up and lead like you have never had to lead before. The time is right, the opportunity is now, for open conversation, education, and transformation. As a leader, you have the responsibility to do the hard work of questioning our history of racism and to name the reality and ramifications of our sin. You have the opportunity to engage people in open conversation. The very conversations that once were held behind closed doors are now public conversations.  

I know that ultimately the transformation needed in our lives, in our country, and in our churches will come when we truly live as God created us to live.  I believe that comes through God’s love in Jesus Christ. I am committed to that transformation. 

But let me be clear. I’m not talking about a shallow, “What the world needs now is love sweet love.” That is a good song, but it is not about putting an end to racism. I am talking about love and justice. What the world needs now is people who treat one another justly, as human beings, as God’s beloved children. Until we love our neighbors as ourselves, we will not have justice. And, until we work for restorative justice, bathed in God’s mercy and grace, we will not love our neighbors as ourselves. To have a loving society we need a just society. 

Take the Next Step

I am grateful that you have come this far with me on this journey. Because you are still with me means you are ready to put an end to racism. There is more to come in future blogs, but here is what you can do now:

  1.  Pray – Stay connected to God and grounded in who God has created you to be and who has created the people around you to be. We are all God’s beloved children.
  2. Read – Racists are not stupid. Racists are ignorant. I posted a list of resources in the blog titled, “Overcoming Racism.” You might start there. There are more than enough resources.  In fact, here are a few more.
  1. Commit – Engage in a conversation with a Black man or woman. Develop a relationship of trust. Be honest with yourself and with them.  Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Ask him or her to help you become an antiracist.
  2. Join a group conversation about racism and antiracism. Click here to participate.

It is past time to get started.  Let’s take another step toward changing the world by putting an end to racism. 

Last week when I sat down to write “The Bias Opinion,” I did not know what to write.  This week it is different. The writing still comes with pain, but this is pain that grows in my heart.

How can I be quiet when the images of children in detention centers keep flashing before my eyes, taking up residence in my thoughts, and knocking at my heart?

Children, who have been separated from parents, surrounded by strangers, confused, afraid, not knowing what will happen next.  There are children who have become abstract statistics and detached policy arguments.  Children, who have become the fodder of political debates.

How Can I Keep Quiet?

How can I be quiet when people, wanting to help children who are in need of drinking water, clean clothing, and soap, are told that their supplies cannot be accepted? The basis for the rejection is a federal mandate known as the Antideficiency Act.  Under the act, the government cannot spend any money or accept any donations other than what Congress has allocated to it. Really? Is that true?

(Spoiler Alert: Yes.)

The US Border Patrol reported to Congress that they were holding 2,081 children in detention centers. Children sleeping on concrete floors. No access to soap or showers. No access to toothbrushes or toothpaste. Inadequate food. Lord, have mercy on us! How can this happen?

Pain Intensified

As the pain intensifies in my heart, I try to make sense of such incomprehensible conditions and treatment. Oh, I hope I’m wrong but children have been used for political expediency throughout the ages. Didn’t the king of Egypt tell the Hebrew midwives when a child is born, “…if it is a boy, kill him…?” When the midwives did not obey the Pharaoh, he commanded, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile…?”1 How can little boys create such fear and anxiety?

And the one Christmas story we do not read each year is the story after the wise men from the East visit Jesus.  Wasn’t it after their visit that Herod, out of anger, ordered the death of all the children under the age of two in and around Bethlehem? There are times, even today when I can hear “Rachel weeping for her children.”

Whose Children Are They? Transforming MissionUsing Children for Political Expediency

I must confess, that doesn’t help. But isn’t it true? Children continue to be used for political expediency. Remember when World Vision, a humanitarian organization, announced a change to its hiring policy allowing people in same-sex marriages to work in its United State offices? In response, there was a group of people who rallied in protest, and within seventy-two hours, more than ten thousand children had lost their financial support from canceled World Vision sponsorships. Ten thousand children.

Then the CEO of World Vision announced the charity would reverse its decision and return to its old policy.  Children had been successfully used as bargaining chips in our culture war.

In February, as a result of the decision of the special General Conference of our United Methodist Church, several churches not only threatened to stop paying apportionments but did stop funding for projects in African countries through Global Ministries. I’m not sure who we thought we would leverage.

Digging in a Dry River Bed for Water

The first image that came to my mind was the little girl digging in a dry river bed in Nigeria. She and other children in her village would spend hours each day, digging in the sand to reach water so their families would have enough for that evening and the next morning. When I heard of the decisions to withhold apportionments, I thought of the well that Global Ministries had provided in her village.

Children, more often than not, pay the price in our attempts to leverage the system to get what we want. Even when we are acting for the right reasons, we might be doing more harm than good.

When Mark wrote, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children…,”3 he was not implying that children are perfect or that we should become more like children.  We all know that children, if given matches, can burn the house down, or given a saw, and cut the family dog in half.  No, what Mark implies is that children are vulnerable and powerless.  And Jesus says, “Let the vulnerable and powerless come to me…Let those who have nothing to offer but themselves come to me…” 

As Jesus followers, as kingdom people, we receive the vulnerable and care for the powerless.

How Can We Be Quiet?

So, as a Jesus follower, how can I be quiet?  At the border, when the children arrived with a parent or a relative, the border officials separated them. How can I be quiet? When many of the children have parents and relatives in the United States who are able and eager to care for them, yet the children remain in limbo, pawns in an ongoing battle over immigration enforcement, how can you and I be quiet?

Would it be different if they were our children?  Would we find ways to hold them, to defend them, to soothe them, and to set them free?

Peter Arnett, former CNN television reporter, tells the following story:

I was in Israel, in a small town on the West Bank, when there was an explosion. Bodies were blown through the air.  Everywhere I looked there were signs of death and destruction.  The screams of the wounded seemed to be coming from every direction.

Shortly after the explosion, a man came running up to me holding a bloodied little girl in his arms.  He pleaded with me, “Mister, I can’t get her to a hospital. The Israeli troops have sealed off the area.  No one can get in or out.  But you are the press.  You can get through.  Please, Mister! Help me get her to a hospital.  Please! If you don’t help me, she is going to die!”

I put the man and the girl in my car, got through the sealed area, and rushed to the hospital in Jerusalem.  The whole time we were traveling through the city streets, the man was pleading from the backseat, “Can you go faster, Mister? Can you go faster? I’m losing her.  I’m losing her.”

When we finally got to the hospital, the girl was rushed to the operating room.  Then the man and I sat in silence in the waiting area.  We were too exhausted to talk.

After a short while the doctor came out of the operating room and said, “I’m sorry.  She died.”

The man collapsed in tears.  I put my arms around his shoulders to comfort him.  Not knowing what to say, I said, “I can’t imagine what you must be going through. I’ve never lost a child.”

The man, with a puzzled look on his face, said, “Oh, Mister, that Palestinian girl was not my daughter. I’m an Israeli settler.  That Palestinian was not my child.  But, Mister, there comes a time when each of us must realize that every child, regardless of that child’s background, is a daughter or son.  There must come a time when we realize that we are all family.”

So, whose children are these children in the detention camps at the border of our country?  If they aren’t our children, whose children are they?

An Invitation from Bishop Palmer

The United Methodist Church has spoken very clearly on this matter. General Conference delegates from around the world call on us to advocate for the “elimination of indefinite detention [and the] incarceration of children.” (Book of Resolutions 3281). We also stated very clearly that we “oppose immigration policies that separate family members from each other or that include detention of families with children. (Social Principles paragraph 162.H).

I am asking you to join me in these actions:

  1. Organize a public prayer vigil. A resource to assist you in organizing one is found on our webpage.
  2. Contact your Congressional Representatives and our two Ohio Senators. Let them know that you are a United Methodist, a follower of Christ and that the separation and detention of children is cruel and immoral. Demand they work together to find a moral solution to the care of children fleeing violence and civil unrest. Click Here.
  3. Help your children and young people draw pictures and write letters to send to members of Congress. Click Here.
  4. Join the West Ohio Immigration Network. Email Dee Stickley-Miner at  dstickley@wocumc.org

Regardless of what you and I may think or feel.  The children are not a political issue. It doesn’t matter whether you are Democrat or Republican, Libertarian or Independent. As a follower of Jesus, as a Christian, it is time to speak on behalf of the children.  Whose children are they anyway?

  1. Exodus 1:15-22
  2. Matthew 2:16-18
  3. Mark 10:13-16

Additional Resource

Looking for a book to explore the stories of Scripture about migrants and the meaning of belonging in a Christian context? Here’s a book that is a part memoir and part Biblical exploration by Karen Gonzalez. The God Who Sees: Immigrants, the Bible and the Journey to Belonging.

Karen Gonzalez immigrated to the United States from Guatemala. She explores the Biblical stories about migrants and shares her personal stories and reflections in The God Who Sees. Meet people who fled their homelands: Hagar, Jospeh, Ruth and Jesus.