I hesitated to write this article. I hesitated for several reasons, but none of them are really important. What’s important is that the kind of behavior exhibited in Charlottesville will continue, and even spread, if people like us remain silent about it. If Christians, true disciples of Jesus Christ, remain silent in the wake of such racism, hatred, and evil, then we better prepare for it to be the norm. Not only that, but we will be held accountable for that silence.
I do not want to talk about Trump and his response to the events in Charlottesville. I don’t want to discuss the removal of Confederate statues or memorials. I am not directing my comments or thoughts at any particular group or cause.
Instead, I simply want to speak directly to Christians and tell you why we cannot remain on the sidelines, silently watching as hate spreads throughout our communities and country. I want to make sure we understand what the Bible says is true. And I want to clarify what I believe are our responsibilities in light of these truths.
Created In God’s Image
First, the Bible is clear. We are all created in God’s image. Stop, read Genesis 1:26-27 here:
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.
Now, think about that. If that is true (and I believe it is!), then regardless of the color of our skin, we ALL reflect a part of our Creator. No one is excluded from this truth.
Second, we are all to be one, unified in Jesus. We are not to see skin color, tradition, or heritage as differences that separate us. Instead, we are to love each other in a way that reflects our unity. Jesus actually prayed specifically for us, that we would “be one” in Him. Stop, read John 17:20-23 here:
I pray not only for these,
but also for those who believe in Me
through their message.
May they all be one,
as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You.
May they also be one in Us,
so the world may believe You sent Me.
I have given them the glory You have given Me.
May they be one as We are one.
I am in them and You are in Me.
May they be made completely one,
so the world may know You have sent Me
and have loved them as You have loved Me.
Now think about that. Do it again. This is a big deal!
Jesus knew this would be a problem for us. He knew our weakness. He understood that we would be prone to creating a new denomination every time we disagreed on our worship style or what color the carpet should be in the sanctuary. He was aware that our skin color would tend to separate us. He knew all of this SO HE PRAYED for us. Can we not see this and pull together?!?
Finally, the Bible is clear about our purpose. We are to point others toward God. This whole story we are living is about Him, not us! Take another look at Jesus’ prayer above. WHY did He want us to be one? He said, “so the world may know (and believe) you sent Me.” We are to be unified so others will be drawn to God. Throughout Scripture, the Bible repeats this theme – it is all about His story, His glory, not ours.
So what? If we believe the Bible is true and we accept the arguments above, then what is it that we should be doing about it? How should these truths impact our lives from day to day?
I believe there are many actions we should take, but I want to highlight four in particular that I believe you can start with today. Each of these four actions is critical to bringing unity to the body of Christ. In my opinion, none of these can be ignored.
Action #1 – Look Up!
Strengthen your personal relationship with Jesus. This sounds like the Sunday School answer to every question…frankly, because it is! We cannot separate from others due to the color of their skin if we are drawing closer to Christ. It is physically impossible!
Therefore it is our responsibility to dig in and work hard at this. Do not take this for granted. Do not assume you have this one licked at any point in time. Keep strengthening this relationship daily.
Action #2 – Pray!
Pray for unity and the strength to stand. As disciples of Jesus, we must follow His example. We must pray for unity among ourselves. We must pray He will start with our own heart, but we must also pray for the same for others. We are to pray for those we do not like. Pray we see them as God does. Pray He will tear down the walls we have between us and them.
We must also pray for the strength to stand when it is time to stand. Pray He will give us wisdom to know when to stand and boldness to do it. Pray God will use us to draw others together in unity and closer to Him.
Action #3 – Speak Up!
We have been silent too long. We prefer to linger in the shadows, watching all that is going on and shaking our collective heads. That needs to stop. For me, this article is my first effort to speak up. And as you can see, it took me a while to gather the courage to write it. That stops now.
I don’t know when the timing will be right for you, but you will know…if you are praying to know. Just determine that you will not go along with the water-cooler talk in silent approval anymore. Decide that you will be loving and gentle, but that you will speak up for unity and the love of God when others are pushing for separation and hate. Speak up.
Action #4 – Reach Out!
I picture a school dance in the 6th grade. Girls are on one side of the room and boys are on the other side. Someone has to initiate contact. Someone has to make the first move. As disciples of Jesus, that someone is us!
We can no longer be content with even words. We must take action. We must seek out those of different color, tradition, and heritage, and we must reach out our hands in an effort to connect. It will certainly be awkward, even somewhat embarrassing at times. Just like the dance, neither side will know how to react. At the same time, unity will never happen just because we are in the same room. There must be connection.
I am sure there are many other actions we can take. I am sure some of you will say that I have gone too far with this. Others will say I am not going far enough. Whatever the case, if everyone who reads this will decide to step up and own part of the problem and determine to take action in these four areas, I believe positive change will begin.
It may be small change. It may not be obvious to many, but it will certainly be known by One. And those who ask “Why the change?” can be pointed to Him.
Photo by Mihajlo Maricic / iStock