Monday, August 28, 2017

What Charlottesville Teaches Me


There are many articles about Charlottesville and its symbolism of current race relations in our country, from what the president said to our nation to what pastors are saying in their pulpits, from what families are discussing at their dinner tables to what our Facebook friends are saying on their feeds. While many events have arisen since that fateful day, I still think there is something I need to say. I am not sure I can add anything to the discussion that hasn’t already been said. But I am compelled by the Holy Spirit to add my voice to the mix about what this event in our history has taught me and is teaching me still.

One thing Charlottesville has taught me is that I need to reprove the works of darkness (Eph. 5:8-11). This was so eloquently done by a preacher who recorded his reaction to the events on YouTube that one of my Facebook friends shared on her feed.[i] Pastor Mike Kleitz of Calvary Road Baptist Church in New Albany, Indiana, doesn’t have thousands of Facebook followers. I don’t know him personally. He’s not a known TV personality with millions of followers on Twitter nor does he have his own late night TV show. He is a pastor who is charged with the care of a flock of people God has brought into his church, and he spoke against the works of darkness in the white supremacy movement, emboldened (but not new) in our day. He took a stand, and that spoke volumes to me that I, too, must do the same. My Christian testimony is on the line and my witness is being scrutinized through the lens of Charlottesville. So, let me say, very simply, like Timothy Keller did in his own reaction to the events, “Christians should look at the energized and emboldened white nationalism movement, and at its fascist slogans, and condemn it—full stop.”[ii] The Bible tells me so.

Another thing that Charlottesville has taught me is that I am afraid to speak what I believe because I care about what people think of me, not necessarily what they think of my Savior. I live in a climate that is so divided and split—even among my friends and those I love—that if I even hint at an unpopular opinion that goes against one side or the other, someone is going to be offended, get mad at me, think I’m not a Christian worth my salt, think I’m holier than thou, etc. This ought not be the reason I remain silent. So, let me say the white supremacists were in the wrong at Charlottesville because their philosophy is wrong. They do have the right to speak what they believe. The counter protesters also have that same right and some of them were in the wrong, too, in how they demonstrated their opposition. The supremacists were itching for a conflict to happen, and this leads me to believe guns or weapons should not be a part of free speech gatherings because of it. Largely in part because of our current racial climate, I’m okay with Confederate flags and statues of past Confederate leaders being taken down in public places, as well as in private places if the organization that has these wants to do so. Individuals have a right to their own personal decision to fly a Confederate flag or honor the Confederacy how they wish, and people have a right to protest that. Propagandists are having a heyday with changing the narrative of the events[iii] that even good people I know are being deceived. Our president is also changing the narrative and making this event like many, if not all, things in his work as president, about himself not our country and is using it to continue to demonize those that disagree with him or are critical of him. Most importantly, this event has shined a light on my own apathy of race issues in America and convicted me of my silence. God has much more to show me as I reflect on these events, and He’s going to turn it into good for me and for those who love Him (Ro. 8:28).

The main issue God spoke to my heart about through these events, however, is the nature of sin, its consequences and our reactions to sin and the sinner, including in ourselves.  God used John 3:16-21 and v. 36 to teach me this point in my own heart:

 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God. … He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

What spoke to me in particular in this section of Scripture is that all of us are loved by God. While we ought to and should condemn the philosophies of hate and the reactions of hate they inspire, we ought not condemn the individuals who hold those philosophies. Jesus didn’t come into this world to condemn us but to save us, so I ought to live in accordance toward others to reflect Christ’s mission. I read those verses this way in context to Charlottesville. God loves the white supremacist protester and he loves the antifa protester. He loves Heather Heyer and he loves her killer, James Alex Fields Jr. His overwhelming love for humankind is more astounding to me because He loves us while we are under His wrath. And we are under His wrath because of our sin (and none of us are outside of that wrath (Rom. 3:23)). He knew we could not in ourselves remove His wrath, so He sent us His Son to remove that wrath for us. That wrath remains on us unless we trust that Christ died in our place to atone for our sins, that He paid the penalty for our sins. Because we live in the church age, like Jesus, God is not calling us to condemn one another, but to condemn sin. All this so we see we all have need of a Savior. You see, in our time, God is calling people to salvation not condemnation. And if I don’t act like I understand His mission in our current time, I will only react in a way that does not bring Him glory and honor. In other words, on the one hand, if I don’t reprove the works of darkness (namely, the hate filled rhetoric I saw on part of many protesters that day[iv]), and on the other hand, if I don’t come to a place where I can be a testimony of God’s love for even the individuals I disagree with, I am not being the testimony I need to be for my Savior.

Beyond that, I see one more vital lesson. God showed His love for us that day in providing His protective Hand over the Charlottesville protests. While the events of that day were tragic and horrifying, they could have been much worse. I read an article on the Intercessors for America website that really inspired me and drew me into the call of God for all His children to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).[v] The article reports on a group of Christians who were also counter protesting, only they were doing so by prayer and by song. In response, the hate-filled rhetoric on both sides came to a stop for a time. People didn't know how to respond to them and so were silent for an hour. Who knows how else God used that form of protest that day.

I’m sure the days ahead will bring more lessons from this and other events that take place in our nation and our world. I only hope I am willing to continue learning from them and then to boldly take a stand when God asks that of me. For His glory and His alone.

1 comment:

Aleta Dye said...

Thank you for sharing your heart. There are many of us (even though they have not responded) who agree with you. Hatred and bigotry are Satan's tools. We must not get on his trail and keep the hatred going. Before joining in any of these opposing groups, think about their message and their agenda. Who and why is someone keeping all of this going? What is their agenda? Don't get sucked into the rhetoric of those whose soul purpose is to bring about division and turn our country from a democracy to a communist country.

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