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Efrem Smith Calls Students to Live Biblically and Promote Justice

Pastor Efrem Smith

CHICAGO, IL (April 12, 2007) – Pastor and author Efrem Smith already had planned to speak on the church’s call to promote racial, gender, and class justice when he addressed students during a chapel service at North Park University on Wednesday. The words that led to the firing of radio disc jockey Don Imus highlighted the need for the message.

Imus's words were a symptom of an entire society that has not lived biblically - in the hip-hop culture, amid corporate offices, in bedrooms, on the dance floor, and in sanctuaries, said Smith. "We must admit that we have a long way to go," he said.

Smith preached from Matthew 21-28, in which a Canaanite woman asked Jesus to heal her daughter and Jesus initially appears to reject her based on ethnicity. Jesus replied to her request by saying he only had been sent "to the lost sheep of Israel," and "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to the dogs."

Smith, co-author of The Hip-Hop Church: Connecting With the Movement Shaping Our Culture and author of Raising Up Young Heroes said the passage in Matthew had to be taken in the context of all the times Jesus reached out to women, other ethnic groups, and the poor. When he spoke to the Canaanite woman, Jesus was simply bringing to light the prejudices of the culture so the attitudes could be overcome.

The church, he said, should be at the forefront of transforming harmful views in society. The church has failed many times, but Smith declared, "We can be right when it comes to race, gender, and class." He added, however, "We must admit that we have a way to go."

Smith exhorted the students to act with hope. "I still believe Jesus changes and redeems people," he declared.

Each student, he said, "can bring dignity when people are put down." If that is to happen, every person must first examine their own hearts, Smith continued, adding his own heart needs continued change.

Speaking of women, Smith said he cannot merely look at them as objects, a practice that continues to be promoted in society. "I have to honor them as God's daughters."

Smith said many people of all races, genders, and classes are responsible for promoting harmful stereotypes, including the hip-hop culture. "(Rappers) Jay-Z and 50-cent are just as responsible for women being called hos," he explained after the chapel service. He also was critical of leaders who had called for Imus's resignation despite their own public examples of immorality - actions Smith likened to the words that led to Imus being fired.

In the end, Smith said the responsibility for change lies with all of us.