“Between the Lines” March 6, 2017

(also on iTunes)

What to expect:

I interview Jesús Cantú about the sermon he delivered on Sun, March 5, 2017, at Grace Fellowship Church in Fort Thomas, KY (check out the sermon HERE; sermon outline is HERE).

Scroll down or click HERE for suggested resources.

Full transcript:

Peter:                      Hey, folks. Pastor Peter here, Monday, March 6, 2017. Welcome to Between the Lines. As you know, one of the reasons that I launched this podcast and post, whenever I do get the time, is to talk about things that perhaps didn’t get to be discussed on Sunday due to brevity, or maybe there is further application that we could have elaborated on if we had more time, or we’re spending more weeks talking about a certain topic. If you were in our church yesterday, you know that we spoke about racism and the title of the sermon was … What was the title of the sermon?

Jesús:                      “The Place Where Race Has No Reason to Reign.”

Peter:                      “The Place Where Race Has No Reason to Reign.” We were blessed by having Jesús preach to us and he did a phenomenal, phenomenal job. I was in both services. I heard both sermons start to finish. I’m here with him and excited to talk with him about his sermon. First of all, I know I thanked you already. I was just really, really blessed by you agreeing to do it. That blessed me personally with the week that I had the week before, but it’s always a blessing to hear you open the Word before us. I’m just grateful that you’re on the team.

Jesús:                      Cool. Thanks.

Peter:                      I remember even last year after you preached, there were some people who would come to me, hopefully they also come to you, but they come to me and they’re like, “That was a phenomenal, phenomenal message.” This week was no different. Let me start off by asking this. Just as you prepared for the sermon, I know God works in me as I prepare sermons, and not just to preach, but just my mind is changed, my heart is challenged. I’m just curious. How did God use the prep in your life?

Jesús:                      Yeah. It was actually really good for both Makenzie and I together. I think it sparked a lot of conversations that we hadn’t planned on having, but they ended up being really good conversations. I’m really thankful for those times that something like this does come up because they’re topics that we wouldn’t normally talk about.

Personally, I think it was in God’s providence. I don’t know if I even shared this with you, but back in October when we went to Chicago, I was talking with the people in the car we were driving up there with. We had a conversation about this issue, race in the church and leadership and what might that look like. A little bit of a different tenor to the conversation, but I’ve been thinking about these things since October. Then when you asked me to preach on it, I just kind of laughed. It’s a daunting task and I knew that, but in God’s providence, it’s been on my mind since then.

Peter:                      I don’t know if you remember, at first I just came up to you and was like I wanted to involve you in the sermon and I didn’t know if it would be just, can you help me prepare it, help me think through it, or to have you preach it. I said that to you on a Sunday. Then a week passed. When I followed up with you, you told me that you’d been losing sleep and basically had an outline.

Jesús:                      Yeah. That night I was losing sleep already.

Peter:                      It was like, okay, this is-

Jesús:                      It didn’t help that you said, “Hey, I want you to preach. Oh, by-the-way, it’s on racism.” That was the legit introduction.

Peter:                      You said, “Sure, put the brown guy up on the day that we’re talking about racism.” I said, “You can’t prove anything.” Anyway, cool. You said it was helpful because of the conversation that you and Makenzie had.

Jesús:                      Yeah, and I think that third just emphasis at the end that I shared with the congregation, I think it really opened my eyes, too. I guess it showed me where I’m at. On the spectrum, I’m definitely closer to the privileged, I guess what we would call the white, privileged side of the issue than I am on the suffering, persecuted side. That was really, really good just to recognize and to be humbled by that, too. I think it’s just easy to forget. Like I said, my problems are not that big. They’re not that grand in the scheme of things. I have to take a pause and remind myself, too. If I’m going to be able to reach these people, I have to be thinking about what they’re going through, too.

Peter:                      Can you remind me of the third point? The point you’re referring to. What was it?

Jesús:                      Yeah, it was just that education should lead us to compassion.

Peter:                      That’s it.

Jesús:                      If we want to know the people and have a heart to serve people that are not like us, we have to go learn about them. Yeah, just like I said, it showed me that I’m closer to the privileged side of the issue than I am on the suffering side.

Peter:                      When you say go learn about them, what comes to mind? I mean, read a book? What do you mean by go learn about them? How might I go learn about them, whoever they are?

Jesús:                      Yeah, I think the most easily accessible thing in our day and age, at this point, is podcasting and YouTubing stuff. I think there’s a lot of really good content that you can just listen to as you’re doing something else. Even while I was at work and preparing for this sermon, I was listening to different preachers and different panel discussions and stuff like that. There’s a lot of good content out there.

At times, I find myself, there’s so much content on the internet now that I just don’t listen to anything. There’s times like that it’s kind of overload. I think when you’re trying to find information purposefully, it’s a great resource. That’s why I made that list that’s in the outline of the resources. It’s just so broad. None of those resources in and of themselves, any one of them was life-changing, but I think if you take time and invest in any one of them or a group of them, you’ll get a lot of information that’s really helpful.

Peter:                      If you’re interested in seeing that list, I don’t think it’s up yet. It’s usually up by about Tuesday, but both the sermon and the outline can be found at graceky.org/sermons. Today, March 6, you should be able to find it. It will be right at the top, but going forward, you can just look under speakers, and look for Jesús Cantu, and you’ll find the sermons that he’s preached, this being one of them. Graceky.org/sermons for both the sermon and the outline. I remember you listed a bunch of authors, Christian, non-Christian, and then you list some podcasts. Any just stand out to you? If I was going to go to that list of podcasts or the web resources, where would I start?

Jesús:                      Specifically for the video stuff, the web stuff?

Peter:                      Yeah. I don’t know what was on there. I just remember there was a lot of URLs.

Jesús:                      I’ll just describe what was on there then. I put on there a list of some different books by Christian authors. Some of them were books that I used. Some of them were books that [Isaac Kain 00:06:22] recommended. Like I said in the sermon, Isaac was a missionary at NKU. He’s doing a lot of work with minority students. He was one of the people that I talked to doing research for this sermon. Some of them were books that he referenced and he recommended.

The non-Christian authors that I listed were really more about the experience. I think the Christian authors are very much, “How do we reconcile this as Christians? How should we think about these issues as Christians?” The non-Christian authors I referenced there I think is really helpful because they don’t have that perspective necessarily from how they’re writing. They’re conveying an experience. Oftentimes, their conclusions are different than I think I would find myself coming to that conclusion just because of the spiritual life that we live, or the spiritual perspectives that I come at issues like this with. It’s hard to deny the experience that they’re conveying. I think that’s really helpful, especially in these areas that we’re really blind to.

I think there’s value in understanding how other people understand these things. That’s why I made it a point to list those non-Christian authors. Especially the one that I read by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me. It’s a tough read because he writes very eloquently, but it’s also short. I think it’s only 100 pages and he writes it as a letter to his 15-year old son. The idea is he’s telling his son what it’s like to grow up black. He’s in his 40’s. He’s an author. He’s a prominent journalist now through his writings.

Man, just the color and the language that he uses is so vivid. I had to read it a few times over. It’s one of those books. You can’t just read it and move on. You have to go back and think about it because every line is really rich. It’s challenging. I found it challenging to really soak in what he’s trying to say and understand, like I try to do in my sermon, don’t judge yet. Just hear what he’s saying, and listen, and experience that as he wanted you to experience it.

Peter:                      I found it really helpful that you asked us specifically, and the way you word it was, “To suspend our judgment before we” … Was that before?

Jesús:                      Before I read those experiences.

Peter:                      Oh, before you read those experiences.

Jesús:                      Yeah.

Peter:                      That’s increasingly difficult it seems. I don’t really know what that’s indicative of, but it seems to me if you’ve had any experiences like I’ve had, when we bring these issues up, and I’m trying to talk about Christian living, sometimes the response I get is political. It’s like, “Okay, I’m not trying to talk about policy. I’m trying to talk about our hearts. I’m not trying to talk about Trump, not Trump, D.C. Really, has nothing to do with it. I’m trying to talk about our hearts.” Do you sense that as well?

Jesús:                      I do, yeah. As I was thinking through this sermon, I think there were a couple of things. I think as a church, we’re just really prone to start analyzing things, start thinking black and white, right and wrong, good and bad.

Peter:                      As a church. As our church or the Church?

Jesús:                      No, I guess for me most accurately, I’d have to say in Midwest, white, Anglo church culture, because that’s not where I came from. I grew up in a Hispanic, bilingual, English and Spanish church in L.A. It’s a very different cultural context. Obviously, there’s a very different perspective on the political issues there. Just the tenor of conversations.

I heard through one of the panels I was listening to the way the guy said it was, “The white church responds very quickly with truth or with facts,” or white culture, not the white church. “White culture wants to respond with facts and black culture wants to respond with emotions.” The way he explained that was, “As soon as it comes out in the news that a black man was shot by a police officer, the white culture wants to say, well, what were the facts? Was he holding a gun? Was he pointing the gun? Did he rob the place? Did he not rob the place?” Then black culture responds with, “It doesn’t matter whether he was committing a crime or not. He’s dead.”

Both sides can be wrong at times, I think, and so I think the accurate response is somewhere in the middle. As Christians, even more so. Shouldn’t we be the ones advocating for that middle, whatever that is? I think oftentimes we find ourselves jumping to the side of making a decision or making a judgment.

Part of the reason I also said I wanted the congregation to suspend the judgment is I purposefully chose quotes that were a little bit out there. Rap lyrics and talking about, “Let the kids get killed so that there’s one less mouth on welfare.” I think our visceral response to something like that is to write it off. We hear that said and we go, “He’s just being ridiculous.”

You hear that Baldwin quote that I quoted. It’s how ridiculous is he that he’s thinking he’s going to get killed in his own home or something like this. The real thought that I had was we can’t even fathom the possibility that this could be real when we listen to it. It’s so far from our idea of what culture and society are or should be that when we hear something like that, we write it off right off the bat.

I just thought that was really profound as I was thinking about that and kind of scary because when are we ever listening to anybody that’s not like us if that’s what we’re doing? I just wanted to make that point really clear. Wait, you can’t. Just listen to the emotion. Listen to the experience that’s being conveyed here, because whether or not you judge it well, this is somebody else’s experience. This is somebody else’s reality and how they’re understanding their reality. If their understanding is wrong, then there’s room to lovingly come across and help them see that. If it’s just different, then I think there’s a lot of responsibility that we would have to withhold judgment and understand why they’re saying what they’re saying.

Peter:                      Yeah. You, in both of the sermons, and I mentioned this to you earlier as well, you really went out of your way speaking as someone who would be considered a minority, as a Hispanic. You explained some racial stuff that you’ve wrestled with and people following you around in a store. Then you set that all aside and you were emphatic in saying, “This doesn’t even light a candle to what,” I think you said, “our black brothers and sisters go through.”

That was in both services. That was consistent. You seemed really, really moved in your heart and in your mind as you’ve come to realize this is a totally different ballgame with what they go through. Was that something that you learned through this? Something you thought for awhile? When did you come to that realization? Help me understand a little bit more about that.

Jesús:                      Yeah. I think initially it may have been born of just I shared a little bit of that experience of moving out to the Midwest, and experiencing some of those things, and thinking that I was somehow closer to the persecuted side of the issue. Really, I think as I was reading and researching and working on this sermon, I think what really impacted me in my heart was just the unrest of the ’60’s and this transition period where segregation, Jim Crow, and all this was real. Then it had been outlawed.

Part of that came through reading. Part of that came through some different movies and videos that my wife and I were able to watch together. I guess I’m not trying to elevate or say that I’m holy because I feel this by using this word, but the compassion that I wanted to feel for these people was so real as I was learning about it and watching this movie and reading the books.

Peter:                      You experienced that. What did Isaac say? Education.

Jesús:                      Yeah, education leads to compassion. Like I said, I’m not saying it’s because I’m holy or anything like this. It’s just the visceral reaction by God’s grace that I felt as I watched these things and read these things was this real desire toward compassion. When I said it that way, it wasn’t for dramatic effect. I’ve really, really seen that just through the learning that I did for this sermon.

Our black brothers and sisters have experienced a lot. It’s unfortunate. You hear the rhetoric of, “Well, aren’t we beyond that now? That was the ’60’s. We’re so much further along.” I think the reality is in certain ways, yeah, that’s true, but I think broadly, I think we’re not there yet. The more I learn, there’s a lot of ground we have to make up before we can fairly say that.

Yeah, it’s just really education is the short answer. The more I learned, the more I looked into it. Like I said, for me, it was learning about the ’60’s and the unrest there. Some of the books I listed in those resources go back to slavery and what the slave ship was like. I don’t understand how somebody could go through reading something like that and not be moved by that.

I guess let me kind of go to this aside. As I was prepping for this sermon, I was thinking about, “What do I need to say? What do I need to convey?” The first thought is people need to understand that they’re racist.

Peter:                      Right. Unintentional as it may be.

Jesús:                      No, that wasn’t the first thought.

Peter:                      Oh, really?

Jesús:                      Yeah. Oh yeah. The first thought is people need to know that they’re racist. As I started thinking about the faces and the names of the people in our congregation, not this ethereal group of white people that I’m preaching the sermon on racism at, as I started thinking about our people, I was really convicted and encouraged because I had just started seeing faces and names in people that I know, and people that I have been privileged in their homes and share meals with. Our people are not overtly racist. They’re not. As I was thinking through it, I think a lot of it is born of ignorance. That’s not said maliciously or derogatorily.

Peter:                      That was another point you made, though, when you said if we don’t get out of our comfort zones, we’ll not know what we don’t know. We don’t even know the gap that exists because we just stay. I love how you said, “We have the,” I think you said, “the privilege or the luxury of being able to literally go to a place and not have to deal with it.”

Jesús:                      Where racism is not a reality.

Peter:                      It’s not.

Jesús:                      Yeah. That’s where the heart of my sermon was coming from was I know my people aren’t maliciously acting in these ways or thinking in these ways, but I also know that they’re missing it. We, as a church, are missing it. That was what I wanted to convey was there is this experience out there that if we were to learn about, I have no doubt our people would be moved forward and toward reconciliation.

Peter:                      That’s funny the way you just brought up reconciliation. You used the term a couple of times throughout the sermon, “racial reconciliation.” If we want to move toward racial reconciliation in this area, one of the things that I was thinking as you were preaching, I don’t think you defined it.

Jesús:                      I didn’t.

Peter:                      What do you mean by racial reconciliation? I have a picture of it in my mind and I’m familiar with it, but maybe people haven’t read in this area or thought. What do you mean racial reconciliation?

Jesús:                      Honestly, in the context of this sermon, I don’t know. I don’t know what the sincere answer to that is when I think about our church and our people. Because I know that I didn’t want my message to convey some kind of social agenda. I didn’t want people to leave thinking the proper response and a successful result of this sermon is for our crowd to be more colored. That wasn’t the goal. I don’t want to say racial reconciliation will be completed when our population is 50% black or brown or whatever. That wasn’t what I was thinking as far as racial reconciliation. At the same time, on the personal side, do we have a heart to be reaching out to these other people?

Peter:                      Do we even give a care?

Jesús:                      Yeah, do we even care. I think, if anything, it would be more of that. In my own heart and mind, is there a barrier that I’m either ignorant to or protecting that’s keeping me from thinking about people of other races differently than God would have me think about them? I don’t know. How would I say that? I guess that my thoughts would be reconciled in such a way that God’s thoughts are thinking about these other people, too.

Peter:                      Sure.

Jesús:                      Maybe that’s the goal there of reconciliation.

Peter:                      I know for me personally the, “Whose kingdom are you building?” emphasis was really helpful. Even today, I posted from Matthew 6, “Seek first the kingdom of God.” I think knowledge that today, I’m going to be making kingdom-building choices. I will make choices that will build a kingdom, whether I want to or not. It’s all moving towards a certain end. I was really impacted that.

I remember you said if you’re known more for your political opinions, you’re probably building the wrong kingdom. I think that was really important because we live in a day where people have, what I like to say, an itchy Twitter finger. It’s just an easy thing to do to just spout what you believe and have many people into the hundreds of thousands see it.

Jesús:                      It’s had very little consequences at this point.

Peter:                      What do you mean?

Jesús:                      Who yells at you or how do you get in trouble if you say something ridiculous on Twitter? I think as I was looking through news articles and stuff, job applications and stuff, they’re going through people’s Facebook and stuff like this now. It’s starting to pick up consequence, but yeah, I feel like to this point, people have just been able to say whatever they want on there consequence-free and no repercussions.

Peter:                      Yeah, so that was really, really helpful to me just thinking about kingdom-building, having a kingdom mindset, and realizing my choices, like you said, they do have consequences and they have personal consequences for me. It could come up in a job interview, but there’s consequences to other people as well. There’s consequences to my walk with the Lord and how I view the nations and different people. If I view somebody else primarily by their race, their background, I’m not viewing them in the two groups that God does encourage me to view them as, either a sheep or a goat. That was really, really helpful. You also brought up, when talking about kingdom-building, you said you challenge rhetorically with the question of, I’m going to go there, “If we deport illegal immigrants”-

Jesús:                      We’re back in the minefield.

Peter:                      We are. “Whose kingdom is being,” you either said built or defended. That was a really helpful question, so much so that I had to get past it because I wanted to keep listening. It was something that I really wanted to consider. Yesterday, you had the privilege of monologue and being rhetorical. Today, though, let me ask you, what do you think? All kidding aside, I’m just curious, poking the bear, whatever. Deporting illegal immigrants, whose kingdom is being built or defended? You said, “Is it your own? Is it President Trump’s? Is it America’s?” Have you thought through that? Do you have an opinion? Have you gotten-

Jesús:                      I wasn’t lying in the pulpit when I said I don’t have a fully-formed opinion.

Peter:                      That’s true. Yeah. Touché. You did say that.

Jesús:                      Yeah. A couple of things do come to mind, though. I think the first thing, I think it really came out, too, in this last election, but I think a lot of white Christianity, if I can say that, has really mixed up nationalism with Christianity. I think there are people that think good policy is good Christianity or good Christian living, too.

That’s unfortunate because the role of government is not to establish religion. I don’t mean that separating of church and state. I just mean the role of government is not to be God’s representatives here on earth. That’s our job as individuals to be God’s representatives. When we as God’s representatives forsake that calling for this nationalistic ideology, I think that’s a poor trade on our part. The nationalism just doesn’t pay out. There’s only one thing as Christians that we believe can save people and that’s the Gospel. I think that was my first reason for saying it that way was just are we thinking nationalistically or are we thinking lovingly? I just wanted people to step back and reflect on that.

The second way I would answer the question is I think we have a Scriptural call to the orphan, to the sojourner, to the refugee. There’s another word that I didn’t use in the sermon, but it’s a hot-button word these days.

Peter:                      I’ll interrupt. We have a Scriptural call.

Jesús:                      Yeah.

Peter:                      Now when you say “we,” you’re not speaking French. You’re not referring to we Americans.

Jesús:                      No, we Christians.

Peter:                      We Christians.

Jesús:                      Yeah.

Peter:                      I think that’s an important distinction to make because it really is two different discussions. Constitutionally, no we don’t. You’re 100% right. The Constitution doesn’t protect the immigrant. The Constitution protects the citizen. That’s fine. You’re saying, “Put that aside because my primary identity, I don’t want to wrap the Bible in the flag. My primary identity is not myself as an American, but it’s me as a Christian, as a child of God.” When you say we have a calling, you’re saying we, not as Americans, not as Canadians, not as Mexicans, not as Europeans, not as Asians, we as Christians, Christ’s followers, have a calling to the immigrant, to the refugee, to the sojourner.

Jesús:                      Yeah. I think I would even nuance that a little bit more if it can be. We as Christians who have a gospel that can save people. We have to keep that in mind. This isn’t about social, this isn’t just about resources, this isn’t just about showing love for the sake of showing love. This is because we have something that people need. This is because we have something that will save people for the next life, not just this life. Because even then, Christians can get caught up in the cause and the social justice of the cause itself. That’s not what we’re going for, either.

Peter:                      Right. That’s still missing the mark.

Jesús:                      It’s still missing the mark, yeah. Just last week, David Platt put out an article about how we as Christians have a call to love the illegal immigrants in the U.S. David Platt is the president of the International Mission Board for the Southern Baptist Convention. That’s pretty bold.

Unfortunately, he, Russell Moore, these guys that are at the head of the SBC right now, they’re taking a lot of flak from Middle America for these stances on immigration, and refugees, and things like this. Honestly, some of the responses that I’ve read are ridiculous: “Well, we’re going to defund The Cooperative Program.” It’s like, really? We’re trying to love people and your answer is, “Well, I’m going to take my money away from your cause?” The Father that we serve, the God that we’re serving, can give us money if this is what we need. I don’t know.

The rhetoric right now in our culture is just so confused and the line between nationalism and Christianity is blurred in culture. You come to a place like Grace, I think we do a little bit better of a job distinguishing between the two, but yeah, for sure, if you’re just listening to culture or the news or whatever, man, it is not very clear right now.

Peter:                      Which is why we talk about it a lot, and Brad pokes fun when he’s preaching and he’s like, “Guess what’s coming? This is why. Are you ready? You have to read what? Your Bible. How much? All of it.” It’s not just, “Here we go again. I’ve got to read my Bible.” I’m inundated with all this crud from culture, from what I read, from what I watch. Whether or not I’m doing a good job of how I’m stewarding my time and protecting my house, you can’t get away from it just in conversations with other people.

In order to have an answer for the faith that lies within me, and to be able to do so with meekness and fear like we’re told to, I need to be spending time in God’s Word. I need to be praying that my mind would be renewed in Christ so that I can be able to separate the fish from the bones, and also be able to engage the culture in a way that’s not just fearful rhetoric and not just the typical line from the left or the typical line from the right, but really give people hope from the Scriptures.

Jesús:                      Yeah. I think practically, too, one of the things I experienced prepping for this sermon was just if I watch too much news, there’s a sincere part of me that just gets down. I get sad. I get discouraged.

Peter:                      How could you not?

Jesús:                      Well, I agree with you.

Peter:                      I don’t get riled up: “I’m going to change it.” I’m just like, “Oh my gosh.”

Jesús:                      It doesn’t make me want to go post on Facebook. It makes me want to cry.

Peter:                      Right.

Jesús:                      Like, man, things just seem so bleak. All the more we need to be reminding ourselves of biblical truth and biblical perspective on these issues because, unlike what the president said in his inauguration speech, America is not the savior. America is not going to save us and save the world. Christ is. We’re His hands and feet. If we’re not going to do it, who else is going to do it?

Peter:                      Yeah. For sure, man. Well, I appreciate you taking the time to discuss these things. One week from today, Monday, March 13, we’re going to have I think we’re calling it #GFCchats. I don’t know what we’re talking about. Well, no, I do know what we’re talking about. I just don’t know what we’re going to call it.

We’re going to have a round-table discussion, probably without the round table. It will be an opportunity for people to come together at our church at Grace Fellowship’s Fort Thomas campus. We’ll start at 7:00. I imagine we’ll go until … I don’t know. Our small group goes 7:00 to 9:00. It will probably go 7:00 to 8:30 or so, whatever. We’re going to talk about this issue.

Because I just find increasingly issues like this, we’re not going to dedicate nine sermons to it. We’re not. That’s just not how we roll. We’re not going to do a conference on it, but we can still talk about it. I think it’s dialog like this that’s really, really helpful. We can learn from one another. There are ways that people have thought through this. There are ways that people have prayed through this. There are different perspectives from different people based on how the Lord has directed their lives.

I’m looking forward to that. Again, if you’re interested in that, that’s coming up on Monday, March 13, 7:00 at Grace Fellowship’s Fort Thomas campus. You can get information on the location of that at graceky.org.

Also, this podcast can be found … I’m on iTunes now, by-the-way. Big deal. Kind of a big deal. Not really. You can find the podcast on iTunes, but also you can log onto peterlaruffa.com. You’ll be able to see a transcript of this podcast. I will also do my best to list some, maybe all, links to the resources that Jesús mentioned, referring to at least in his outline that he gave us yesterday, if you were at church.

Once again, let me encourage you to listen to this sermon. If you haven’t heard it already, graceky.org/sermons. It will be at the top of the list by sometime this week. If you’re listening to it after the fact, look under speakers, look for the name Jesús Cantu, and you’ll be able to find that without a problem.

Jesús:                      It’s a short list.

Peter:                      It’s a pretty short list, but it’s a great list. It’s an awesome list. He’s two for two and batting a thousand. Anyway, thanks so much for listening to Between the Lines. Thank you for taking the time to be with me.

Jesús:                      Thanks, man.

Peter:                      Again, thanks for preaching that great message. Hope to talk with you next time on Between the Lines. Take care.

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