Reflecting God's Image
Racism, Poverty, Gender Identity, Abortion & More
Injustice is the cause of much of the suffering we experience in our world, and a primary reason many people struggle with faith in God. Our culture has exploded with demands for justice, and groups from various backgrounds and belief systems all seem to have an opinion on what needs to change. Christians believe the church can — and should — advocate for true and restorative justice by joining the conversation. But where to start?
Christians are often viewed as judgmental, calloused, isolationist, and uncaring. The early Christian church was arguably much better than we are today at standing for justice — embracing the communities around them while extending God’s love. The church today needs to adopt this same humble approach when addressing red-hot topics like racism, prejudice, poverty, sexual identity, and the value of life.
As we look back through the pages of the Bible, there were four things that made the early church stand out:
1. They were sold out for racial justice
2. They were deeply concerned about the poor and the marginalized
3. They were committed to the idea that sex was designed by God
4. They spoke up for the powerless and vulnerable.
At the root of all of these is the Christian belief that every human being is an image bearer of God, and therefore worthy of dignity and being treated equally to others. In our Do Justice message series, the Pastors of Crossroads address how the church can bring justice in four key areas in our modern culture.
Racism and Prejudice - Made in God's Image
WATCH: Pastor Chris shares about being sold out for racial justice
The sin in our world, like greed and pride, can lead people to distrust those who are different and believe that some people have more value than others. This was never God’s intent, and the Bible is clear that ALL PEOPLE are created in God’s holy image. The diversity in humanity is a beautiful reflection of the greatness of our God!
Bias becomes especially unhealthy when we act on our prejudices and treat people with disrespect or keep them at arm’s distance— all because of our false perception that we are somehow better (or have more value) than them. If we find ourselves acting this way, there are three things we can do:
- Acknowledge our prejudice against others and know this is not what God intended. Ask God to help you see your prejudices and reveal them.
- Know that we are all image bearers of God, which levels the playing field. This type of humility will drive racism out of our hearts;
- Demonstrate true Christianity: show by your actions that you will not withhold kindness, compassion, or respect from anyone you may hold a bias against.
Poverty - Putting Faith into Action
Pastor Matt talks about how to put faith in action (watch full message)
Poverty is spoken of a lot in the old and new testament, and the Bible makes it clear that Christians should care about the poor, marginalized, and oppressed.
In the book of James, this influential early church leader makes it clear that faith that is not demonstrated through good works is dead. He defines true religion as caring for orphans and widows, and addresses issues of showing partiality to the rich while marginalizing the poor, imploring Christians to instead honor and treat them with equality. Going even further, James says that caring for the material needs of people as well as their spiritual needs is the only true way to show mercy to them.
So, how can Christians live out their faith by addressing the issues and injustice of poverty in our modern society? Crossroads Church embraces a three-part approach.
- Provide Relief - Christians can help with meeting the practical needs of people who are experiencing hard times. For Crossroads, this includes helping people with practical, day-to-day needs through our benevolence fund.
- Invest in Development - A step beyond meeting immediate needs is helping a person become self-sufficient in healthy ways. Through the Crossroads Community Center in Northglenn, CO, we hope to empower people to a more stable future through the transformational experience of knowing Jesus and walking with him to thrive in all areas of life, including work, school, personal relationships and more.
- Reform our World - Extending our help beyond the relief of immediate needs and helping individuals, reform is where we use the resources entrusted to us to transform entire communities and even our world. Our church looks for ways to partner with organizations doing long-term work in our community and around the world to bring lasting change that alleviates poverty and brings dignity, hope, and opportunity to people in need.
Sexual Identity - Leading with Compassion
What defines our sexual identity—the body or the mind? If someone experiences tension between the biological sex with which they were born and an internal sense of self that doesn’t match their physical body, which one determines who they are? These are topics that are being discussed and debated across our society, and causing real crises in the lives of individuals - and in the church.
In this sermon, Pastor Matt Manning shares the story of Leslie, who experienced gender dysphoria from a very early age, married a woman, and experienced heartbreaking rejection from the church. Yet, at the time of her greatest need, after the sudden death of her wife, Leslie reached out to the church and a compassionate Pastor showed her the grace and love of Christ. The church surrounded her with love and that Jesus-like compassion reignited her passion for Christ. Those who know Leslie today say while the dysphoria is real, she is one of the most faithful, beautiful children of Jesus. She lives every day fleshing out what it means to follow him.
Crossroads understands that gender dysphoria is real – that, for some, there is tension of between their biological sex and their gender identity that causes distress, an internal tension they did not choose. Same-sex attraction is real. We have to realize that the Bible never condemns simply having same-gender attraction or gender dysphoria. The Bible only says “no” to acting on these feelings in ways that are not in line with God’s intent for His creation.
There are real issues around human sexuality in our culture, but those issues cannot eclipse our concern for people, the love we have for them, their families, and their eternity. Be committed to grace and truth and walking in the messiness of life while still maintaining our uncompromised beliefs that God creates people intentionally and selects their gender before birth, and that marriage was established by God to be between a man and a woman.
The Value of Life - Abortion, Euthanasia, Oppression
Pastor Tim Griesbach addresses a number of topics that revolve around the value of life. Abortion, euthanasia, human trafficking, slavery, oppression - The church’s position on all of these issues in our world today is shaped by our core belief that humans are created in the image of God.
Throughout history, the value of life has been attacked. The Bible says there are human and supernatural reasons for this. Satan and the powers of darkness work tirelessly against those who bear the image of God to steal, kill, and destroy. They oppose human life and flourishing, because it is a reflection of God and humankind is close to His heart.
God created human beings to be His image bearers. For that reason alone, life is full of significance, purpose, meaning, and value. To seek justice means being against abortion, euthanasia, and other existence-diminishing practices like human trafficking and slavery, but it also goes far beyond that. Instead, motivated and driven by radical love, Christians should seek human flourishing for all image bearers. We should have a passionate response to practices that bring death and destruction into this world, but it’s important to stand for what we believe in the right way or we could end up devaluing the very people we’re fighting for. So, how should we bring God's justice and stand for life in the current culture?
- Fight against the real enemy: The devil, not other humans, is the enemy of life. People with differing viewpoints are still image bearers of God. Prayer, understanding, and compassion need to be at the heart of our actions toward them.
- Fight for more than just birth: When it comes to the topic of life, why do we tend to stop at birth? Stand for human flourishing throughout all of life. We should care that children know their purpose and can experience a thriving life.
- Fight by wielding a radical love: There will be times when our love of life clashes dramatically with the viewpoints of the world around us. We may be tempted to act with fierce intensity, but we can never forget that Jesus calls us to love our neighbors out of love for God. As we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, God can work in wonderful ways to open doors to hearts in ways that fosters understanding, healing, and hope surrounding these tremendously complex issues.