I could hardly believe my bleary eyes.
On Wednesday, August 9th, 2017 at 11:44 AM I held my daughter Lydia for the first time. A flood of emotions washed over me as I locked eyes with this beautiful child, with the miracle of childbirth still electrifying the hospital room filled with nurses and midwives a terrified, light-headed husband and a beaming new mother. The day represented the triumphant conclusion of a tension and tear filled 24 months of loss, grief, nervous waiting and finally joy for my wife and me.
Fast forward to Saturday, August 12th, 2017. My house was ringing with the sound of joyful family members who had come to celebrate Lydia’s arrival with us. My heart was full. A New Life has a unique power to breathe new life into the lives of others. That’s what I saw happening.
And then news of the violence in Charlottesville came down.
I could hardly believe my bleary eyes.
Nazis, white supremacist, KKK and various other hate groups that populate the Alt-right marched on historic Charlottesville, spewing their hate-filled message. Violence erupted. I was holding my 3-day old baby girl when I watched the video of a car, driven by an Atl-right terrorist, crash intentionally into a crowd of non Alt-right protesters. My stomach turned. I looked at the screen in disbelief and looked back at my baby girl. “Is this really the country my daughter will grow up in?”
I looked back at the screen. I saw the hate-filled faces of young white males saluting Hitler, chanting “blood and soil” and “Jews won’t replace us” and I was angry, sickened and sad. Like Lydia, these men were not born racists. No one is. They were born with the capacity to become racists. And they did. Original sin and the natural bend of the human heart makes all matter of hatred possible. My daughter Lydia possesses that same capacity. Racism is the sibling to hatred and sin is the Father of both. The hatred on display from the Atl-right in Charlottesville is metastasized sin and it should be condemned for what it is: Hell’s soul destroying export. Racism, you see, is a theological issue before it is an ethical one, though of course, it is both. It can only thrive in a heart that has not been soaked in the Gospel. It can only thrive in a soul that rejects the biblical doctrine of man that affirms that all humans are made in the image of God and therefore possess innate dignity. Racism and bigotry spit on this foundational doctrinal truth. It attempts to replace God, the giver of human dignity, and then conveniently (and sinfully) only bestows that dignity on those that look like them or share their nationality. Christians should condemn the racist, nationalistic vitriol of the Alt-right, not because it is culturally popular, but because it is Biblically indefensible.
Looking at the events of these recent days one is hard pressed to find much room for hope or optimism.
And then we remember the Gospel.
Let me close with 3 Gospel Reminders to consider in light of Charlottesville.
1. Be Cross-centered
Christians should boldly denounce racism while joyfully declaring the News that sin’s racist reign over the Earth (has come) and is coming to an end. The Kingdom is here and it’s coming and therefore racism, which is also here, is also leaving. The Gospel assures us that a work has been done on the cross that has already begun systematically bringing down the barriers of racism in regenerate human hearts while at the same time preserving the beautiful, diversifying mission of God to the ends of the Earth through the local church. That’s what Paul is saying in Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Is Paul saying that the Gospel means there is no such thing as a Jew or a Greek or a man or a woman? Has God eliminated the very concept of “race” or even sex in the Gospel? Well no. Paul is saying that God has done something beautiful in creating one, diverse people out of a collection of segregated races and social statuses. The Gospel isn’t color blind. It sees the beauty in diversity. Let’s be bold in our denouncing of racism and bigotry because it is anti-Gospel and in our local churches, let us celebrate the diverse people that God is assembling in this age that will sing His praises in every tongue in the age to come. And let us stop and listen to those who are being attacked, marginalized and maligned because of the color or their skin, religious background or socioeconomic status. Let us mourn and weep with the hurt and oppressed as we long for lasting peace and justice that will inhabit every square inch of the New Heaven and Earth that is coming.
2. Be Vigilant
An unglorified heart still battling the strong pull of the flesh is capable of bigotry, racism, and hatred. That means none of us are immune to this disease. Woe to the one who feels they are above such things. There is an inevitable snowball effect at play when hatred is involved. Hatred breeds hatred because fallen human beings tend to respond sinfully to sin. We hate those that hate us and hate others. May we be vigilant and guard our hearts against pride, unrighteous anger and hatred towards others. Brothers and sisters, sin is crouching at our door. May we check our words, heart-posture and motivations for the soul-cancer of hatred that is never far from us.
3. Be Hopeful
Right now little Lydia is asleep in my wife’s arms. She has no idea what concerns me on this night. She has never had a racist thought. But she will grow up in a world brimming with difficult days, Planned Parenthood’s and perhaps more Charlottesville’s. Strangely, despite all of this, I am hopeful. I am hopeful, not because I believe that mankind will suddenly eradicate their impulse to hate people that are not like them. I am hopeful because the Gospel is true and it is at work. If little Lydia is able to love her neighbor as herself, if she is able to love the Lord her God with all of her heart, soul, mind, and strength, then it will be because God gave her a new heart, covered her in the blood of His Jewish Son Jesus and sealed her with the Holy Spirit. That’s my only hope. God’s redemptive Gospel work. So I mourn and weep with my African American and Jewish friends who are deeply hurt and afraid in the wake of Charlottesville. I angrily denounce the racist and violent rhetoric of the Alt-right for the Gospel-denying movement that it is. I call to repentance those who refuse to condemn such anti-Gospel hatred and bigotry. But I do not despair. Because, no matter how dark the night is, morning is coming.
A great multitude from every tribe, tongue, and nation is preparing to sing.
**Note: these views are my own and in no way attempt to stay all there is to say on these very important issues.