I have felt compelled to add this post because of recent events that have stunned and shocked (but not surprised) all people who know the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, that which is true and that which is false. The same events that have surprised those who do not believe in “the spiritual forces of evil…the cosmic powers of this present darkness” (Ephesians 6:12). The same events that were planned and executed by men and women who actually delight in such acts of senseless violence, because they are convinced they are promoting beliefs and supporting causes that are good, and right, and true. Who are these people? Where have they come from? They belong to groups that have been around for a long time, but they have now been so emboldened by worldwide campaigns of terror, by a culture of violence, and also by the “crooked thinking” of so many power crazed and “corrupt” people in positions of leadership (Deut. 32:5-6; Acts 2:40). that they are coming out of their hiding places into public places, where they are now being exposed for who and what they are: radical racists, fanatical fundamentalists, brainwashed bigots.
They are people who call evil good, and good evil, leaders of movements fueled by hate, leaders whose wicked actions reveal their corrupt minds and hardened hearts. We have witnessed their wicked works. We have seen the rotten fruit of their labor. Vehicles designed for transportation being used as killing machines. driven by madmen who have no regard for human life. Merciless assassins armed to the teeth with weapons meant for warfare shooting aimlessly at anyone in city streets that have become killing fields. Why? The scriptures of both the Old and New Testaments tell us why in words that even a child can understand. Because these are people who “love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil,” who even “hate the light,” for it is in the light that their deeds are exposed (John 3:19-20). That is exactly what happened most recently in Charlottesville, Virginia. Their age-old dark deeds are being exposed in the light of day, as they come out of the darkness of their hiding places and are exposed for the hatemongers they are. They call themselves true patriots who want to make America great again, but their bigotry exposes them as racists, as fascists, as Neo-Nazis who consider themselves superior to others, as fanatical fundamentalists who will use almost any method to defend their beliefs.
We should have learned the lesson of history by now. We have seen it before, right here at home, so many times in the past. We have seen it in so many places around the world, wherever racism has raised its ugly head. We saw it in our own land during the civil rights movement, in our city streets and on college campuses. We have seen it in the Middle East, in the Bible lands, where religious wars have been waged for years, where the continuing hostility between Jews and Palestinians continues to be a major cause of division, discord, and despair for thousands of people who have never been able to find a way to live in peace with each other. Former President Jimmy Carter has emphasized why the Middle East continues to have its own serious problems of racial division: “In the Holy Land, Jews comprise a dominating force, both militarily and politically. The Palestinians, of both Muslim and Christian descent, have little influence or power. Bethlehem is almost completely surrounded by a high Israeli wall, and in that birthplace of Jesus (which has been predominantly a Christian village for generations) many Christians (now most Christians) have left their homes under pressure, abandoning the place where their families have lived for two thousand years. In cases like this, one group usually imagines itself having a special favored relationship with God and therefore condemns and views as inferior anyone else. The result is discrimination, hatred, and often violence.”
Does that sound familiar? It is the same old story, as old as the story of Cain and Abel, as old as the story of the Exodus, as old as the conflict between the Jews and Samaritans in the time of Jesus, as old as the scandal of slavery in our borders (in which my own ancestors shared as slave owners), as old as the days of my youth when it would have been inconceivable for a white person to drink from the same water fountain as a black person, to use the same bathroom, or to attend the same school. I always knew in my heart that there was something terribly wrong about that kind of discrimination, something contrary to God’s will about signs that were posted, “For Whites Only.” I had black friends, but I was told to stay out of “n——- town.” We are not born that way, with that kind of prejudice in our hearts. No, we have to be taught, as the lyrics of a familiar broadway tune reminds us, “carefully taught.”
We may excuse ourselves today when we see the alarming resurgence of the same old kind of racism, demonstrations and declarations of racial superiority. We may insist that we are not prejudiced, but we are. All of us are. We may not be prejudiced against black people. If you are a black person, you may insist that you are not prejudiced against white people. Perhaps you are not. However, you may be prejudiced against immigrants. You may be prejudiced against Muslims, or you may be prejudiced against Mormons. Perhaps you are prejudiced against homosexuals or transgender people. The truth is we all have some prejudice in our hearts, for we are all sinners by nature, whether we are willing to admit it or not; and only God has the power to change human nature, to take out of our hearts all that sin has put there, and to put back into our hearts all that sin has taken out. Thank God most of us do not want to be prejudiced. We don’t want to be a part of the problem, but it seems to be ingrained in us, to look down upon those who are different from us – immigrants who take our jobs, especially the older ones who do not seem interested in learning our language or adopting our customs, who refuse to conform to our way of life, continuing to dress in a way that is strange to us, and hoping to change us, to convert us to their religion that is domineering (especially male dominated), and exclusive. Yes, we too have our prejudices.
However, let me make a distinction between prejudice and racism. Racism is prejudice plus power! Racists are those who would use what power and authority they have to keep another group subjugated. They see themselves as superior, and they will do whatever is necessary to prove that they are right, that all who oppose them are wrong. The Bible warns us about such people, and admonishes us to “put on the whole armor of God” that we might be able to “stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11). The Word of God does not hesitate to identify the “powers and principalities of darkness” as being Satanic forces at work among us, the “strongholds of evil” we are called to help pull down by speaking out boldly and standing up courageously for righteousness and truth, being peacemakers rather than troublemakers, instruments God can use to “quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one“ (vs. 12-16) – serving as “agents of reconciliation“ for the glory of Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to “break down the dividing walls of hostility“ in this broken and fragmented world (Ephesians 2:14), that He might “make peace” by “putting to death all hostility” (vs. 15-20) – creating in Himself “one new humanity” (vs. 15). This is our hope, this is the goal toward which the whole creation is moving day by day (what theologians call “unrealized eschatology”). when all things are united in Christ, which is God’s plan for “the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians1:7-10), when there will be “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1).
That is “kairos” time (time we cannot measure, time that is unknown to us, time by God’s own timetable – “crisis time”). We are now living in “chronos” time (tick-tock time, time we can measure – calendar time). Now is the time for us to be sure we are responding obediently to Christ’s call to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-16). This is no time to be silent! This is not time to be inactive! This is not time to be indifferent! Let us remember that we have been called to “…do justly, to show mercy, and to walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8).
Injustice will not be addressed, and justice cannot be administered by uncaring and corrupt politicians. Social inequality, in all of its forms (not only racial inequality, but gender in-equality, sexual orientation inequality) will not be abolished by governments that refuse to eliminate all kinds of discrimination by defending the civil rights of all our citizens equally. Mercy will not be shown by special interest groups, by the privileged who are prejudiced against the poor, for wealth and power will dominate, and the poor and powerless will continue to suffer.
So it is up to those of us who call ourselves the people of God, who claim to be followers of Jesus, to rise up and become “doers of the Word, and not merely hearers” (James 1:22), and to not sit idly by waiting for others to do what we know we should be doing ourselves every day of our lives, making the most of every opportunity God gives us: opposing injustice, supporting truth, pursuing righteousness, and showing mercy.