Aug16WedAugust 16, 2017
On Friday, August 11th, an angry mob of white supremacists rallied around a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia with torches and a nationalistic agenda. Meanwhile, people from different religions gathered at a nearby church to hear from activist Cornel West and the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association. In the morning, the same interfaith group gathered with the Congregate of Charlottesville to counter racism and hate to march under the banner of “love and equality.” Later that day, violence erupted from the racist “Unite the Right” movement against these and others in Emancipation Park.
As disciples of Jesus, I believe that we need to consider two critical questions in light of this horrific scene. The first question is this, “Who do I tend to be prejudice towards?”
All of us have tendencies to treat people based upon their skin color, economic status, nationality, etc. simply because “humans look at the outward appearance” (1 Samuel 16:7a). Yet, as God’s people, we are called not to see as humans see but to approach others the way that the Lord does…for he looks at the heart (16:7b). Therefore, Jesus challenges us to “love any neighbor as we love ourselves” (Mark 12:31) and to “honor everyone” (1 Peter 2:17a). Quite simply - there is no room in Christian theology for entertaining racist, nationalistic or prejudicial hatred. When tempted with prejudicial thoughts, we must ask the Lord for “new eyes” to see others as He does. And we must teach this to our children.
The second question is also just as important. “Where would Jesus have stood in Charlottesville?”
Certainly the Lord is not for white supremacy, anti-Semitism or nationalism. Scripture tells us that Jesus created every nationality from one Adam and he gives breath and life to everyone (Acts 17:25-26). Underneath this neo-Nazi movement, lies a deceptive, idolatrous spirit which is very opposed to the God Most High.
Since we are called to be spiritually-minded, we must also consider that the counter movement of “love and equality” has some spiritual undertones as well. Underneath the interfaith banner, lies a spirit which seeks to convince spiritually-minded people that it’s possible to create social peace without personal commitments to the Prince of Peace. Christians need to remember that Jesus doesn’t invite people simply to pursue a path of peace, love and equality. Those are great things! However, real peace is not just the absence of hatred or violence. Jesus’ message is deeper than that. He calls us into the work of spiritual and relational reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18). That is why we are called to love AND PRAY FOR any perceived enemy (Mt 5:44).
What happened in Charlottesville was not exactly a battle between evil (which was clearly present) and good - but a moment when the Great Deceiver reveled in division and hostility.
So “where would Jesus have stood in Charlottesville?” He would have stood in the middle calling out to everyone, “I died to break down all walls of division and hostility. If only you knew the things that made for real peace! It is only through me.” (Ephesians 2:14, Luke 19:42) This is the message that The Church must continue to proclaim even as hatred, division and deception grows. Yes, please reject racism…and also carry the message of reconciliation. There is no other people equipped by God to battle the spirits of this age with a true message of lasting peace.