‘The Church Has to Be the Example’: A Conversation with Benjamin Watson

Baltimore Ravens' tight end talks race, life and post-election cultural engagement.

Whether it is on the football field or on the mission field, Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson is a tenacious warrior. The author of Under Our Skin: Getting Real About Race—and Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us, Watson is an advocate for racial unity, the sanctity of human life and a Gospel-centric worldview.

He didn’t let his recent season-ending injury—a torn Achilles tendon—stop him from attending the Maryland Decision America Tour stop with Franklin Graham on Oct. 11. Decision caught up with him there to talk about these topics, and how Christians can engage them.

Q. The past few years have become increasingly tumultuous in our nation when it comes to race relations. What do you believe is the church’s role in facilitating justice and fostering reconciliation?

A: Race is obviously something that’s been an issue in this country since its inception. We are at a point now where a lot of lines are drawn, and there’s a lot of anger and animosity. There seems to be no understanding, and no desire to understand each other. We all come from different backgrounds, different upbringings.

I believe the church has to be the example when it comes to race relations. We have the power of God; the world does not. We have Scripture. We have the power of the Holy Spirit that can actually break down someone’s pride in this arena of race. You go to many churches and you’ll see we’re just as divided as the world. Some of the same animosity that exists outside the church has come into the church. The Bible says that should not be so. We’re united in Christ. We should be able to look beyond our differences and see that our commonality in Christ is what’s most important. When we do that, we can relate to each other in the proper way. My faith should make me care about the injustice in someone else’s life. My faith should make me care about someone else’s experiences.

It’s more than saying, “We’re one in Christ, let’s forget about the past.” That’s true—we are one in Him and He is our banner. But we all have human experiences that make us who we are. Because of that relationship with Christ and the fact that we are adopted into His family, that should give us the desire to address these issues.

Q. Now that the election is over, how should Christians continue to engage the culture?

A. God is still sovereign, no matter what. The Bible says that He uses good leaders—godly leaders and ungodly ones—to serve His purpose. Whether it’s a Pharaoh or a King David, God is in control.

Regardless of who the president of the United States is, our job is the same: to fight for truth, to fight for justice, fight for what’s right, vote, participate in the political process. We want the best for our country. Yet God has a plan larger than the one page we’re on. And ultimately Christ is king. We need to understand that our job never changes. The world is watching how the church will react.

Q. You have been a vocal champion for the sanctity of life. What is the next thing the church should do to protect the vulnerable?

A. I think it’s multifaceted. We need to understand reasons why people are having abortions. Many are in difficult economic or family situations. Then obviously, there is the aspect of what is life—how do we define it? Whether or not Roe v. Wade will ever be overturned, we have to continue teaching that life begins at conception.

I’m encouraged to see more conversations about life and more films coming out that expose the truth about abortion. Those who support abortion try to normalize it and magnify it—make it out to be the best option. But now we have

media outlets saying there are other ways besides abortion.

Either way, I don’t think an election will change how people feel about abortion. It’s something that comes from people’s hearts—if hearts are changed, then people can more fully understand the value of life.

Q. What would you like to say to discouraged or disillusioned Christians, given the state of our society?

A. Sometimes I find myself wringing my hands, just like other Americans, and like other Christians. The election season was disappointing for many, but we can still stand for what’s right. We can attend prayer rallies like Decision America. We can gather together in our churches and in our homes for Bible studies.

I would urge any disheartened Christian to remember that you aren’t alone, even though it seems our culture has turned against us. God has gifted us with the local and the global church.

One great thing about social media is that there are millions of believers around the world—not just in America—who will show up and support Christians. I’ve seen it through the outpouring I’ve received when I’ve written something on Facebook. God has His people. He always will. And He’s coming back. Until that point, we are to live lives worthy of the Gospel—wherever we are and regardless of our circumstances.

©2016 BGEA

Interview by Joy Allmond, Decision Assistant Editor