Texas Baptists gathered Monday morning to worship and celebrate the first day of the Texas Baptists Annual Meeting in Waco.
The David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church choir gave a passionate performance of "How Great is our God" and "For the Rest of My Life." Their music was bookended by Bruce Kuhn's expressive recitation of Bible passages as he brought the text alive with his commanding stage presence and the voices he created for his characters.
Joseph Parker Jr., pastor of David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Austin, preached from Romans 7:14-25 about how the enslavement of sin affects our ability to "live the difference."
"The theme of our 2014 convention, 'Live the Difference,' suggests that followers of Jesus, and Texas Baptists in particular, are being reminded and challenged to live their lives as Christ lived," Parker said.
Parker drew an analogy between the story of Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave and Paul's struggle in Romans 7. As a free man who had been illegally enslaved, Northup had experienced both sides of life and had to fight to regain his freedom. Similarly, Paul had been freed by his faith in Christ, but he was still tempted and governed at times by his sinful nature.
"Do we not hear Paul's words to the Ephesian church? 'For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.'" Parker said. "For the Christian to not do good or not do what is right by commission – or omission – is living a life of captivity to sin. The goodness of God's people is evidenced in their behavior."
Parker urged listeners to take stock of how their actions and their participation in systems and institutions contribute to oppression. Amidst murmurs of approval, claps and cheers, Parker listed social ills to be fought in the present day – hunger, poverty, the spread of Ebola, payday lending, human trafficking and others.
"When Solomon Northup was enslaved, he also knew he was free, but he said, 'My back is thick with the scars of protesting my freedom.' Solomon Northup struggled with not being able to live his freedom because he was captive, yet Solomon fought against his captivity," Parker said. "Knowing that we are free to do good, I wonder if we, Texas Baptists, if we fight when we are tempted to not do good. Do we have scars on our lives from protesting not living our freedom in Christ? Do we have scars on our lives from protesting the social captivity of others?"
He told the audience that they must see the realities of sin and oppression as God sees them and that like Paul, they have been blind, but "there's a new sight that comes with new birth."
"Do we see injustice when it happens? Or are we wearing a patch over our eyes?," he asked. "Do we see ourselves being kind in our dealings with other people? Do we see ourselves living in such a way that kindness influences our lives together so that we are governed by mutual respect and healthiness and loving concern? Are we seeing our community, state and the world through God's eyes and acting as Jesus would, since he did engage social issues? What would Jesus want us to do, given what he sees happening in our communities and in our world?"
Lauren Hollon Sturdy serves as Web Content Editor for Buckner International.