Black Privilege

As a San Francisco 49ers fan, I will never forget the three year run we had under Coach Jim Harbaugh. Coach Harbaugh implemented not only a winning system but a winning culture. His famous motto “Who’s Got It Better Than Us” brought Niners nation together like never before. You didn’t have to be fan of the team to appreciate the catchy query, however you may have had to if you were to understand the true meaning behind it. Jim Harbaugh grew up in a small town without much. When times were the most tough his father would ask Jim and his brother John, “Who’s got it better than us?” and they would respond with “nooo-body”. During a radio interview Coach explained it this way.

“As you look back on it, I think the message there was that not having things handed to you, things that don’t come easy are really the blessing because you have to overcome some things. And, if it’s harder, than it makes you better in the long run.”

The first time I heard Coach explain that, it immediately resonated with me. I thought to myself, “Well if that’s the case, as it pertains to America, as a Christian black man, who can possibly have it better than us?”

I always get frustrated anytime someone refers to the African American community as the oppressed, the less fortunate, the poor, afflicted etc. Don't get it twisted, I am in no way naive to the realities of systemic racism, or racial profiling. Believe me, I have way too much personal experience to be so blind, but something about that always bothered me and I couldn't put my finger on why for a long time. After much prayer, searching the scriptures, dialogue with friends, and a few good talks with a beautiful Dominican Queen from Florida (aka - my wife), it finally hit me.  

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV

Jesus Christ grants me access to a new perspective and that is how I choose to see the world. I refuse to be identified as the victim or any other negative term. I am who my God says I am — not what society says. Society may say I fit the description of the criminal but God says I fit the description of the redeemed. My place in this world, whether good or bad, is not the result of "white privilege" but the result of a sovereign God who works all things together for my good. As far as I'm concerned, I have "black privilege". It is a black privilege to have such a rich history of men and women of faith who exemplified perseverance, endurance, and true freedom. Charles Gilmer puts it this way;

"This is the freedom our forefathers found in the midst of slavery. The freedom to transcend their circumstances. The freedom that comes from living on the basis of a higher reality. This is the freedom that ignited the activity of so many who have fought for the freedom and dignity of our people. This is the freedom that you can experience if you will place your trust in Him (Jesus Christ)"

I believe that instead of planting seeds of bitterness, pity, and hopelessness, this is the message our young brothers and sisters in the hood need to hear. It is a black privilege for us to be able to look back on people like Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver, Richard Allen, Dr. Martin Luther King and all those who are remembered not for their circumstances but for their faith and powerful impact.

It is a black privilege for us to know you can't honestly speak of American history without the influence and contributions of the black church. As the song goes "We've come this far by faith, leaning on The Lord. Trusting in His Holy Word. He never failed me yet." This is why we need not to feel sorry for ourselves, we ought to instead marvel at how far God has brought us. In Romans chapter 9, the apostle Paul expressed his longing for the people of his own race, and spoke about the privileges of being a Jew in light of what Christ has done for them. That is the same longing I have for the African American. We have a living hope, a real hope, a right now hope. Today is the day of salvation. Let us who know the Lord speak life into our communities. Let us speak words of encouragement and empowerment. Let us proclaim the excellencies of Him who restores dignity and value to those who know not the truth.

There is no amount of racism in the world that can stop us. The justice system can't stop us, the school system can't stop us, nothing. The lack of resources can’t stop us, God is our Provider. The stats concerning fatherlessness in the hood, the stats concerning drugs and guns, and murders, and abortions are all indeed a reality of our environment but that says nothing about a particular individual made in the image of God. That is not your identity. If you would only turn and trust in the one who died for you and rose again, you would then see how precious you really are in His sight. As I continue to grow in my knowledge of God, I appreciate more and more who He has made me to be and how He has always been with me. According to Acts 17:26-27, God purposely made me at a specific time and place. Therefore, I love being black. I love my culture, where I'm from, my black privilege. I can look back on the police who racially profiled me and arrested me for something I didn't do and say "you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good." Praise The Lord for my Black Privilege!

by Ike Todd

Ephesians Recap: Joined As One

As we concluded our Ephesians series, I had many mixed emotions. I have never wished to stay and linger in a teaching series before. We cannot let it be lost on us that we have made STRIDES in our understanding of the Gospel and what following it implies. I knew that God would be transforming us in the expected ways (purging idols, identity, security) but I did not expect the weekly teaching of His word on Sunday morning to renew us in the way that it has. I thank the Lord for the elders of our church who have lead us in that!  

In September, I was challenged in my perspective of the hope that I have been called to and the idea of heaven that I have imagined. The opening chapters of Ephesians gave me a broader sense for the divisions that exist between men and God and the divisions between men and other men. That reality produced so much joy in the work that Jesus has done in breaking down the dividing wall of hostility.

Our racial justice series opened my heart and my mind not only to the issues of race I've been avoiding my whole life but to injustice of all kinds. I can truthfully say that the Lord used the leadership of our church and their teaching to turn my heart of stone into a heart of flesh and that because of that I will never be the same. My ability to turn off and turn away from injustice has been crushed. The way that I am able to see and speak about and pose questions about race is still incredibly limited - but thank the Lord that I am not done and this beautiful church is not going away. I look forward to many days ahead learning and growing more and more in my understanding and application. We can look forward to more teaching, more encouragement and more rebuke.

I am thankful that we took time to work through the family mini-series and that our Equipping time allowed us to work out Biblical Womanhood and Manhood more with one another. The leadership I personally received has had implications on my direct relationship with Jesus, on my marriage, on parenting my daughter and my son, on the way I relate to my friends and other women in my life and on my leadership. It has been a season of incredible growth for me as the floodgates were lifted. I feel like many of our women have been feeling the same tension as I have in wanting to understand but not knowing how to; not having a firm grasp on our limits and our value. I am thankful that Cottage Grove made much of family and gender and gave us the space and time to work through these things. It has been such a joy to experience the freedom in ADORING God's intentional design for me as a woman and the role that He has given me. Again, I will never be the same.

The vision of this church drew us in. We anticipated that in this season God would allow us to flourish.  But only God knew the depth to which he would take us in helping us to flourish. He has used the vision of this church to work mightily in us. I am so grateful to have been here for this exact moment in Cottage Grove's timeline. Thank You, elders, for holding firm to the truth, for seeking reconciliation, and for letting us know redemption. I look forward to the days to come as these truths to press in to us more deeply and pour over into our homes and our community.

by Wendy Pierce

The Color of Our Vision

We grew up hearing as boys and girls
“There’s no story like the Gospel story.”
But behind those smiles and innocent curls
We were missing the depths of God’s unfolding glory.

We were always proud to wear our red, white and blue
Taught to celebrate the victories of old.
Many of those accounts may have been true
But the complete tales were never fully told.

Almost since the dawn of our country’s birth
Division has corrupted our very hearts.
For the color of the skin determined one’s worth
And kept generations of families torn apart.

Chains were the jewelry of those weren’t white.
They bore the marks of injustice on their skin.
No matter if they were silent or put up a fight.
And this, this was called a tradition-oh the ugliness of sin.

That was hundreds of years ago,
Everything is better now, or so we have been taught.
We assume before we even know.
We fail to see the battle for freedom is still being fought.

The same place where I learned
Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so
Is where I learned to be indifferent and quiet.
When the topic was race and politics, everyone turned,
No one wanted to start arguments or any sort of riot.

My people’s sin runs deep, underneath our kind lies.
Through our silence there has been much pain and division.
Have we ever stopped to think of life from their eyes?
How would that change the color of our vision?

I am not ashamed to be white,
For my Maker created me thus so.
But I fear I have let that mar my own sight.
And unless I change, this division will only grow.

God is the God of No-Longers
No longer hopeless, no longer orphans, no longer slaves
We are all made in His image, that’s why we show each other honor.
Jesus willingly died a murderous death and went to the grave,
And rose from the dead, showing no sin could ever be stronger,
That everyone of His own hand might know He alone saves.

This is why there is no longer a dividing wall
Unity can now happen with God, man, woman and child.
The Gospel brings us together, reversing the Fall,
This is the treasure of what it means to be reconciled.

The sad reality is that many do not see the depths of this truth,
Because when you’re the majority, it’s so easy to look the other way,
And lay the same corruptible foundation for the coming youth.
Let these gruesome facts drive us to our knees to pray.

One day in Heaven’s Gate we will live in perfect unity
No fear or shame but only Jesus’ perfect love and rest.
But even now, we should be a picture of this to our very communities.
To show the lost they too can be heaven’s guest.

Arise oh Church, the beloved of the Savior.
Live out our Gospel that shows compassion and justice for every race
For not a single one of us deserve this beautiful favor.
Don't you see? Reconciliation is the unfolding glory of God’s pure grace.

by Hannah DeCleene