I don’t normally like to write these articles myself preferring to find better writers and wiser people. However, the events in Charlottesville, VA last week need to be addressed. I write on this subject with hopes of being a good pastor to our people.
1. Racism is wrong, evil, and has no place in the hearts of God’s people.
2. Murder is wrong, evil, and has no place in the hearts of God’s people.
3. We have to ask God to show us where/how our hearts do not reflect the heart of loving Father in regards to these issues. I am shocked at the level of prejudice in me that is revealed when these things arise. It is not racial prejudice but ideological. It goes beyond disagreement with the left and the alt-right. (I do strongly disagree with both). It is anger and disgust with both groups. I do not have love for any of them but disdain. I am tempted to think of them as enemies.
In these emotions, I am reminded how impossible it is to be a Christian. Not just hard…IMPOSSIBLE. Read what Jesus said about how we treat our enemies.
Luke 6:27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
How do I make my heart feel differently than it does? I can choose to not act on how I feel. I can choose to act as I know I should but I still don’t love them. How do I disagree so strongly and yet still “love my enemies”? How can I be angry about sin (Racism is sin. Vandalism is wrong.) and still “love my enemies”? I don’t like seeing how far from being like Jesus I really am.
4. We need grace. I can’t do what only God can do. I can’t change hearts, even my own. I have to humble myself before the Lord and confess that my heart is still far from being like His. I agree with Him that this is not good and it is not an excuse. I am called to “love my enemies” when I really really don’t like them. And then I ask for The Helper to help me as I set my face to obey. I know I can’t obey unless He helps me. Here is what I am learning about relying on grace and about myself in all this mess.
a. I am very very very weak. It seems that I am not even a little like Jesus. How does he love those who are beating Him unjustly and I can’t love people I have never even met but with whom I so profoundly disagree? I am humbled by the reminder that I am not near as spiritual or good as I would like to think that I am.
b. Love begins by setting my mind on Jesus first. If I think of the Alt-right, Antifa, BLM, etc then I can’t love them for I find little to love. But when I meditate on Jesus and His grace, goodness, and love then I find my heart actually softening. I begin to see them a little more through His grace and less through my disdain. I love others best when I look to Jesus first. I have to focus on Him and not on them or this mess. I have to see all of this first through the grace revealed in Jesus to a broken world.
c. Humbly Pray. My goal is to obey the command to love my enemies therefore, I have to humble myself in prayer constantly. As I pray for them it begins with the humble confession that I do not yet love them but I desire to reflect Christ in my prayers. Do I feel like a hypocrite at times? Yes. Do I want to love them? Not for their sake but I want to love them because Jesus has loved me and this reflects Him and pleases Him. And this causes me to humbly agree with Holy Father that I am not yet like Him and never will be without His help. “Father, help me love as you love even when I don’t love at all.”
d. Stand on His Word. 2 Peter tells me He gives us all we need for life and godliness. I am also told that I am His even when I fail. His grace is greater than my sin that He has defeated. Therefore, I know that He can do in me what I can’t do and He can do in my enemies this same heart change. My job is to honor Him in all this mess and stand confident in His grace while I am being changed to be like Him. He will help me stand for righteousness AND love my enemies. His word is the truth that keeps my emotions in check and my mind focused on Him and my purpose. It brings me back in focus when the emotions might carry me away. I have to be in His word and keep my eyes on Him because the truth is firm and it helps me discern what is right and right thinking.
These are complicated times with complicated and emotional issues. It is easy to justify our feelings but let us be careful that we don’t miss God’s work in “conforming us to the image of His Son.” He was able to both stand against sin and love those doing the sinning. He was able to be angry about evil and yet sacrifice Himself to defeat it. He is making us like Him so let our focus be on Him during these messes. I am not great at this but He is patient, kind, and merciful at my failures. Now if I can just learn to be that way toward others. We can do this Live Oak because of Jesus.