As the events of Charlottesville, VA unfolded this past weekend, our country was rocked by horrifying, extreme racism in plain sight. The white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, and KKK are fueled by self-pride and hatred toward anyone who looks different than them. Anyone opposing this group can seem heroic - and many are, but the most extreme opposing groups seem to engage in actions that fuel more hatred. So what should be done?
Church, lets open our eyes and see the role and hope we have in this ugly state of affairs.
Are we awake now?
"Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: 'Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.' Be very careful, then how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is." Ephesians 5:11-17
The events of Charlottesville, as well as several other incidents in recent months, takes away any possibility of having our heads in the sand regarding the racism and hate that still exists in our country. BUT... when we are "awake" and aware of these things, we have the opportunity to seek the Lord's will and stand together as "The Church" to accomplish much.
We know the true enemy!
"For our struggle is not again flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6:12
You may have strong opinions regarding the issue of statues being up or taken down, and even those within the church will have differing opinion on these things - but we are not each others enemy. Therefore, when it comes to discussing such things, lets first remember that we are united against the true enemy that wants to cause chaos, confusion and dissention amongst God's children. Ephesians 6:10-19 paints a detailed picture of the armor used to defeat the true enemy. Be compassionate and grace-filled with any words you use to express your opinions - and really consider whether your opinion is necessary at all. Do more listening than you do in sharing your opinion.
More than tolerance
In John 17, Jesus prays for His disciples to be one and to be sanctified by truth, and then He specifically calls out to His Father for us!
"My prayer is not for [the disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in Me and I am in You... May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as you have loved Me." John 17:20-21
Christ's desire was for us - The Church - to be ONE... not to just tolerate one another from a distance, but to be one as He and the Father are one. That's some intense unity. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1960 stated that one of the greatest tragedies in our nation is that Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours in America. Lack of unity in The Church is nothing new, and achieving unity certainly won't be easy - BUT it is the will of our Lord, and therefore IS possible.
Many of our churches are more unified with churches overseas than we are with portions of "The Body" in our own back yards - neither is more important than the other, but both are necessary. Can we, The Church, lead the way in America regarding how to love each other and our neighbors? Can we "put a ring on" and jump in for the long haul with one another, even if it's hard at times, even if it rocks our comfort zones... knowing that a united body can accomplish way more than an individual body part alone?
Time for greater things...
"I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." John 14:8
John 14:8 rocks my world - Who am I?!?! I can't heal, I don't have the wisdom, wit, courage, and strength of Christ... so how am I to do greater things? We, The Church, have been given the power of the Holy Spirit, which gives us the ability to be one with each other. Individually we can do amazing things, and collectively we can do "greater things".
Imagine with me for a minute a truly united church... people of all ethnicities, ages, economic stature routinely eating dinner together, playing at the park, praying together, doing ministry together to meet the needs of our community. What if our collective love for each other and for Jesus becomes contagious to one person... then to another?
If this picture is too lovey-dovey for you, let’s consider other realities of a united church... Christ took hard stands against arrogance and self-serving individuals and regimes, and constantly showed love, even to His demise, for those who were looked at as "less". So, know that, in being united, we will also be doing some hard things together that may be inconvenient and require extreme courage/sacrifice - but we will be led by the truth and power of the Holy Spirit.
My greatest challenge to us all is that we do not first align ourselves with either the extreme right, extreme left or even something in between, but that, instead, we first align ourselves as Christ followers and with The Church. The Lord's will for us is to be awake, united, and empowered by His Spirit; therefore, I strongly believe that together we have the possibility of truly leading the way in what seems like a hopeless situation in this nation.
What action can you take today, whether a tiny step or a huge leap, to promote Oneness with "The Church" in your life?
*Martin Luther King, Jr. Link - "Meet the Press - Most Segregated Hour In America"
*Learn more about God's desire for Oneness in the Church and how to take action (links are for sermons and diversity panel discussion. For a corresponding 8wk devotional/small group study co-authored by Pastor Brian Jennings and me, contact me in the comments):