Ministering in Baltimore: One Month after the Riots

George Lawson | May 26, 2015

In April, many of us in Baltimore watched in disbelief as riots broke out in our city. The tragic death of a young man, while in police custody, was the spark that set a community on fire – literally. And everyone was looking for answers.

Protesters demanded answers. Many wanted to know what happened on the 30-minute ride to the police station, which left Freddie Gray in a coma and then in a coffin.

Politicians, Social Activists and Media Pundits were also looking for answers. There were no words to explain local residents burning down the only drug store in their neighborhood.

When the spotlight finally turned to the faith community, the culture only found a reflection of themselves. Prominent pastors advocated social programs, better education, racial reconciliation, equal opportunities and small business. The church in particular appeared to have no distinct voice.

Are there any answers out there? Is there a way to understand a city on edge? Does anyone understand the root of the problem? More importantly, can anyone fix it?

It grieved me to witness the multiple slow pitches lobbed by the media towards men who claimed to know God’s Word, only to watch them swing in the wrong direction. Of all people, we should be the ones who have answers! God’s Word speaks clearly and authoritatively about both the problem and the solution.

The heart of the problem in Baltimore is the problem everywhere. Jesus perfectly diagnoses all of humanity with these words:

For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man (Mark 7:21–23).

The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. Only after we correctly identify the root of the problem (which is sin), can we confidently offer the solution to the problem (namely, the Savior). Where was the witness to the truth of the gospel? And if the spotlight were to turn to you, would you be prepared, not just with an answer but with the answer?

In the second epistle to Timothy, Paul encouraged his son in the faith with these words, “Do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).

This is both an appeal to personal evangelism and a call to equip others to evangelize. According to Ephesians 4:11–12, the work of an evangelist includes “the equipping of the saints for the work of service” (Ephesians 4:12).

Part of our job description as pastors is to be prepared to speak the word of truth and to prepare our congregations to speak the word of truth. We are not left to wander through a maze of confusion. Scripture provides us with answers.

In an effort to help our people here in Baltimore speak clearly about an issue that many of us are still discussing with family, friends and neighbors, we are designing a customized tract that we pray will be useful.

I have copied the text below, as an example of one way we are seeking to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry through evangelism.

“KNOW JUSTICE, KNOW PEACE”

Nobody should live above the law. It doesn’t matter what kind of uniform you wear or what kind of badge you carry. Justice demands that the guilty are held accountable for their actions. We want justice…

Or do we?

The Bible lets us know that God, who created the heavens and earth, loves justice. “He loves righteousness and justice” (Psalm 33:5). The Lord demands that all the guilty are held accountable. This is true whether you have murdered someone with your hands or merely in your heart. Jesus said, “I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty” (Matthew 5:22).

According to Scripture, all of us are guilty law-breakers, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10). If God were to judge you based on your actions, you would be condemned to an eternal death and judgment by God in hell. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

This is what the justice of God demands everywhere, from the city hall to the city streets. Are you concerned about the justice of God?

You have broken God’s law and will be held accountable by God, the perfect Judge.

But here is the good news: You can know God’s peace instead of God’s wrath. God will drop the charges against all who trust in His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus was the only perfect law-keeper to walk this earth. As both God and sinless man, Jesus was willing to take the place of all who would trust in Him. God the Father placed the penalty for lawlessness on Jesus, so that He might give believers the clean and perfect record of Jesus and fulfill God’s demand for perfect righteousness. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Do you accept God’s charges against you as a lawbreaker, who is worthy of eternal punishment? Will you turn from your life of sin and trust in Jesus to take your place before God? Will you surrender your life to Jesus as your Lord and Master? The Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9)

Jesus died to satisfy the justice of God and He rose again from the grave, so that all who believe in Him would have peace with God. “By faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). The peace that God offers is not the peace of this world; it is far greater! God’s peace goes beyond all the broken systems of this world.

Jesus is the perfect King who rules in righteousness and gives eternal life to all who trust in Him. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). True justice and eternal peace can only be found in a relationship with Jesus.

Know Justice! Know Peace! Know Jesus!

*****

George Lawson graduated from The Master’s Seminary in 2010 and is the Pastor-Teacher of Baltimore Bible Church, a church plant in Baltimore, MD. He and his wife Jennifer have been married since 1998 and have the joy of raising three children.


George Lawson avatar
George Lawson graduated from The Master’s Seminary in 2010 and is the Pastor-Teacher of Baltimore Bible Church, a church plant in Baltimore, MD.

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