This was from a message I preached at Grace City Church. It was an outdoor service and the audio is a bit messy, but you can hear it here.
“Well you know what the problem is?” She said.
Silence hung in the air as this matronly, southern hostess spoke. It was the day after Thanksgiving, and we were her guests. She was the kind of woman who, when you saw her, you immediately loved — the grandmother you didn’t know you had. She was full of “aw Sugar,” and “bless you heart,” and “have more pie,” and all of it in that wonderful southern accent. And there we all were, seated at the table, overlooking the water, in her lovely home.
We waited for her to finish her sentence.
“The problem is all the blacks.”
“Mmhmm,” one said. “Right,” said another.
I said nothing.
To my shame, I said nothing. And that is the problem.
#Charlottesville. And, #Trayvon. And #MichaelBrown. And #PhilandoCastile. And, and, and…
Fast forward fifteen years. I’m the pastor of a fast-growing, young, diverse church. Like, really diverse. Like, how-in-the-world-am-I-the-pastor-of-such-a-diverse-people diverse. And, while I can’t change the fact that 15 years ago I sat silent like a coward, today I can do something else. The racist, alt-right, neo-nazi, bigot convention in Charlottesville was evil. Satanic, demonic, spewed onto the earth from the pit of Hell, evil. Someone died. Others got hurt. And I’m really, really angry. I’m angry for my people. I’m angry for their kids. I’m angry at my President. I’m angry that this keeps on happening.
So what do we do? The Apostle John gives us some insight:
We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
CALL EVIL BY ITS NAME
Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or a sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
The beloved disciple has some strong words for us. If you hate others who bear God’s image, you are the moral equivalent of an axe-murderer. And that’s really easy for us to believe in the case of these racist bigots.
But, do you hate them?
Seriously. Do you hate these people who hold such monstrous, ungodly beliefs that white people are ontologically superior to non-white people? Oh how tempting are the designs of the evil one. He, by inciting bigots to be hateful and murderous, may stir in us the very thing we hate in them.
We must call evil by its name without becoming complicit in the same.
Racism is evil. And as a white, male American, I’m ashamed to see it. Yet, if my hatred of these ideas gives way to hatred of the humans who say them, then Hell cheers.
Seriously, can you pray for David Duke? Can you pray for Donald Trump? I know we can pray for the victims, but can we pray for those who clear the path for the victimizers?
If I’m unwilling to pray for them, then I hate them. Then I’m like them. Then, I am them.
Pray for the victims and the victimizers. Both. At the same time. Like Jesus. Otherwise, what in the world does it mean to say we are his people?
EMBODY THE BETTER STORY
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
John is a moral genius, and he totally gets the gospel. Do we?
As I mentioned, I’m angry. I could totally march, protest, and shout. And, maybe I will. But what then? What will I do four weeks from now when it’s not cool to care anymore, and #Charlottesville isn’t trending? I’ll tell you what I can do — I can embody a better story. I can tell my kids a better way. I call call my black friends and be their friend, because how bad must this hurt them. I can live out the love of King Jesus because in his upside-down kingdom, that’s how evil is defeated. Not with boots and guns, but with blood and grace.
I can serve because God served me.
DON’T SIT QUIETLY
Fifteen years ago I acted like a coward. Jesus, forgive me for that.
Today, I can act like a man. I can call evil what it is. I can pray for its victims and their victimizers. And, I can embody the better way.
Maybe you need to have an awkward conversation with an otherwise nice person. Maybe, you need to interrupt her dinner party with truth said with love. Maybe it’s worth upsetting people. Jesus upset people with the truth.
I’m not sitting quietly at the table anymore. I’m going to speak, and pray, and try by God’s grace to embody the Kingdom way. Join me.