I begin this brief article with the reality that I am touching on an incomprehensibly complex issue that no matter what I say will be viewed by some as inappropriate. That issue is racism. Thanks to the proactive nature of Heartland Church Network’s Moderator, Rev. Dr. Ralph Lassiter, HCN has hosted a couple of opportunities for dialogue around the issue of racism. Although we have barely chipped an ice cube off the top of a huge iceberg, we have begun a conversation that I pray will incite future dialogues. Stay tuned for the announcement of future dates and times.
But for a moment, let me ask you to reflect on a familiar parable: the Parable of the Soils/Sower (Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, and Luke 8:4-15). First, I would note that the parable has two titles based on two very different perspectives—that of the soil and that of the sower. Your perspective - who you are and your life experiences- WILL inform your position on race.
Second, I would note that the parable provides a broad and very general description of four types of soil/ways that people respond to Christ:
A third area I see in the parable stems from my agricultural background. For any plant to be healthy, it needs water and nutrients from the soil. And based upon the plant species, the type of soil and specific nutrients needed for healthy growth will vary. The soil will need the right pH; the right texture, depth, and drainage; the right balance of major nutrients (N/P/K); and the right balance of micro-nutrients. In other words, what works for one person to be able to understand and respond appropriately to the race issue can and at times will be different from that of another.
The fourth area of understanding also comes from my agricultural background. Plant nutrients come from both the air (respiration and photosynthesis) and the soil (absorption). From a human perspective, let me suggest that our root structure absorbs from the very soil from which we were created a sin nature. The name Adam is derived from the Hebrew word for earth/soil. In other words, at the tip of each of our roots (and they can number in the hundreds), we will find a single element being absorbed daily: sin. However, let me push the analogy just a bit, and point out that a plant also gets nutrients from the air (respiration). Note that the words for wind and spirit are the same in both Hebrew (ruach) and Greek (pneuma). Also, note that the sun (our source for light) is the ingredient required for plant photosynthesis. Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World.” In other words, we daily deal with the reality of our sin nature being absorbed from the very root of our existence; however, its impact can be countered by our willingness to receive the Light of the World into our life and a willingness to surrender our wills to the Holy Spirit which indwells the life of a believer.
As we respond biblically to the issue of racism, we must acknowledge both its complexity and its singular source (sin) as well as its singular solution (radical life-transforming salvation). Keep praying and keep talking to God and to one another.
Mark is in his twenty-seventh year of serving as an Associational Missions Strategist. He served in western Iowa for almost eight years, and is in his nineteenth year with HCN. He has a passion to see pastors and church leaders grow in their abilities to lead their churches. He continues to have a heart and desire to see new churches planted and God continues to use his strategic thinking skills in this area. Mark also has a wealth of experience in helping churches clarify who God has created them to be, and what they can do best to reach their community. He has had ample opportunities to help churches in times of conflict, and has seen God do exciting things to restore a spirit of harmony, returning churches to a time of fruitfulness. He also helps churches in transition by working with search committees. Mark and Phyllis who were married in November of 2018 have four children and three grandchildren. They will enjoy their combined 87th anniversary in just a few days.