One of the things April and I will miss most about our church in Louisville, Kentucky, is our small group. It is led by Scott Long, a former football player at the University of Louisville and a current staff member with the local Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He’s a passionate guy who loves the Lord and loves studying the Word in preparation to lead our group, which is roughly 1/3 Latino, 1/3 Black, and 1/3 White.

Last week, in response to recent events, Scott sent out an email to our class that I asked for permission to share online here. I thought Scott’s pastoral and thoughtful comments might be useful to others. Because of the diversity of our group, and because of the transparency and community we experienced there, I expected the conversation Sunday morning would be great. Scott confirmed via text that it was.

Here’s his email:

Subject Line: Important Family Talk

Family ,

I want to take a moment to try and start some dialogue that will lead to healing and hope for the dark times our country is facing. The tragic deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and horrific terrorism of Dallas police officers, have caused us to take a hard look at ourselves and seek answers.

Let me start by saying there’s no doubt in my mind that the issues we are seeing have spiritual roots. Sin in the heart, is the heart of the problem and only Jesus can heal sin. (John 8:34-36)

A few thoughts to chew on.

1. Speak and think like you believe the gospel

Murder is sin. Period. (Matt. 5:21-22) The things that have taken place over the last few days are displeasing to the eyes of our God. So, Because we are Christians human life should matter to you, all human life. Those black men killed by white police officers should bother us. Dallas police officers being ambushed and slain, should bother us. Regardless of color, it’s human life made in Gods image so violence and murder is not right.

We are dismayed by these expressions of sin, but we have a category for them, the bible tells us where it comes from. (Romans 3:23) (Mark 7:20-23)

Jesus is the solution, and everyone has just as much of the problem and right to the solution as you do. (1 john 2:1-2) Jesus shed his blood for people to be changed from the futile ways of hatred and violence. He gives us new hearts to love others above all. (Romans 13:8)

Without Jesus nobody can be free to truly pursue love and peace, because it is from God. So do not hope in politics, or government policies , hope in God. (Ps. 20:7)

If you talk on social media, or at work please speak in light of these categories.

2. Don’t be blind about racism and race

Racial injustice has been happening in this country for decades. This is not the first incident with these kinds of circumstances. Blacks and whites simply live in different realities in America. This is just as true for Asians , Hispanics, Latinos, Indian American and Native Americans too. Choosing not to see is a major driving force of the problem.

God made ethnicity. Therefore it is good. Let’s see it in its beauty and reconcile it’s differences with gospel grace.

3. Listen , sympathize , and speak

Take time to listen to people from the opposite race. Have coffee with a police officer. Ask them how they feel about these issues and let them pour out the pain in their heart.

You don’t need to relate to their experience, no need to offer anything , just listen. Before you jump to conclusions or defend what you think. Listen. It is not helpful to talk about statistics, facts, or norms when dealing with feelings. Hold their feelings with gentle hands.

Don’t tell them how to feel. Don’t try to influence what they think. You don’t know what they should feel because you aren’t them. Just feel for them. Hurt because they hurt. (Romans 12:15) Don’t be dismissive of others emotions.

Once you have listened, share your experiences. Be honest and ask for grace when you don’t see things the same way.

Pursue the character of Christ when having these conversations, speak with the tension of full grace, and full truth (John 1:14). 100% of both. let the gospel fuel our motivations, and saturate our words.

4. Pray

Pray for God to unify His people (John 17:20-21). Pray for justice. Pray that murder, violence, and racism would cease. Pray for repentance from sin, and that people come humbly to Jesus as long and primary identity. (John 12:32; 2 Chron. 7:14) Pray for those who have lost loved ones in this madness. Pray that God gives us mercy.

Finally I want us to have a dinner table dynamic to talk about this issue. Families do not talk to each other via social media only. They sit face to face. So I want to humbly ask that everyone with questions, hurt feelings, raw emotion, scripture, ideas, etc, to email them to me. Reveal what’s in your heart so that we can address these things in group around community, prayer, and God’s Word. I will not share your name with the group if you don’t want.

I honestly don’t mind us spending an entire group time for transparent conversation and healing. So please send me your thoughts.

Lastly we are the only people with an answer. Let’s work together to see that answer revealed and not concealed through this. Consider how compelling it is to have a group of people made of various ethnicities, countless cultural differences , and each spectrum of economic strata; who say because Jesus is my first identity I choose love and understanding. I choose to work at relationships with others. I choose to be a peacemaker. I choose to pray that all people flourish as the people GOD made them to be. This is what we have a chance to do with our group. This is what it means that the gospel and multiethnic community is the answer.

Love y’all! – Scott long