I think it’s fair to say that all of us were shocked by the violence that took place last week in Charlottesville, Virginia. And you may still be reeling from the vile, racist, hate-filled demonstration which claimed three lives and was dozens of injuries. The cruelty directed toward African Americans in Charlottesville and the threatening rhetoric and violence hurled at white law enforcement officers over the last several months are reminders that hatred still exists in our society. Racism is still very much alive in our country and across our world. Why? Because humans remain just as corrupted by sin as the day Adam and Eve fell from grace after eating of the forbidden fruit.
In fact, the argument can be made that we have plummeted to greater depths of evil in our contemporary world than ever before in history. We’ve had millennia to perfect our sin. And yet, almost daily we invent new ways to improve our self-centeredness and self-glorification to our own eternal self-detriment. Racism is just one way among others that we exercise the detestable, uncurbed, sin-laden desires at the core of our being. That is, unless the grace of Jesus Christ effectively changes the heart.
Unless the redeeming power of the gospel changes a racist, his hate will survive. Worse, he will transmit his version of hate from one person to the next. The gospel is the only hope of healing. Jesus is the only one who can change a person’s heart.
This isn’t mere talk. The gospel is literally God’s power to change lives. But do we believe that? Or have we settled for other methodologies to fix the problem of racism? Have we bought into the lie that we can legislate away racism? Have we been deceived into thinking that we can educate people out of racism? Can racism be destroyed through cultural or institutional shaming? Have we fallen for the lie that we can expel racism by simply ignoring it?
My Bible tells me that freedom from sin comes only through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:1-9). And that includes the sin of racism – whatever form it takes. Racism, and hate in general, has no part in the Christian life. The Christian knows that he was once a hater of God and people – a hater that deserved eternal punishment in hell at the hands of a just, all-powerful, and sovereign God. He knows God (at great cost to himself) showed incredible mercy by forgiving his sin and also imputing his righteousness. What does that mean? Eternal reward for Christ’s work on the cross rather than eternal punishment for our own sin!
The Christian also sees every other person in the world as God’s image bearer, and therefore, deserving of dignity and respect. At its heart, racism reduces a group of people to subhuman status. It strips people who were made in the image and likeness of God of their the dignity, value, worth, and respect. And once racism is forged in the heart and mind, it gives rise to all sorts of crimes.
Let me repeat that racism, and hate in general, has no part in the Christian life. But let me also add – racism has no part in the universe that God created. One day racism – along with all other forms of sin – will be completely eradicated from world. Jesus will return, make all things right, judge unrepentant sinners, and visibly sit on his glorious throne. And until that day, we should denounce racism whenever it occurs in whatever form it takes and whoever is responsible. But more than that, as the Church we are called to participate in God’s mission to heal people of sin – including the sin of racism – and the pain caused by sin, one person at a time. We champion Jesus by boldly demonstrating and declaring his gospel which alone is the “power of God for salvation to everyone that believes” (Romans 1:16).
That’s the message we need to be reminded of in the wake of Charlottesville. And its the message we need to cling to no matter what other tragedies emerge during our lifetime and in the minutes, days, months, and years until our King returns.