Racism is blatantly evil, and yet it lamentably is still a problem our country faces. The ugly events at Charlottesville have forced us to see once again the persistent “elephant in the room” in our nation. I sat glued to my TV watching the coverage thinking to myself, “This can’t be happening in America!” The KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists, some of whom were armed with assault weapons and shields, spewed their messages of hate, bigotry, and racism. The terrible violence that ensued, including the death of a young woman, was perceived differently depending on what side of the issue people were on. Yes, this IS happening in America… still.
What truly saddens me in all of this is the terrible racial divide that still exists in the Church.
We all know the saying that the most racially segregated hour in America is the hour of Sunday morning church services. More than simply segregation, there is racism in the Church.
We shake our heads at events like Charlottesville, we write fiery Facebook posts and send off indignant tweets, but all too soon, we forget what we were so upset about. The news cycle moves on to other things, and we go back to our normal routines. I’m guilty of this myself.
I often wonder what it will take to move us, the body of Christ, beyond spasmodic indignation to sustained active love for those who continue to experience marginalization, oppression, and hatred. Although Jesus tells us plainly – “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) – somehow we ignore those words or think that we can define who our neighbor is and is not. Surely our neighbor looks just like us, right? Jesus’s telling of the parable of the Good Samaritan is as relevant today as it was in his own time, instructing us that we cannot pick and choose our neighbors.
Our neighbors are black, Hispanic, Asian, Muslim, and white.
At the heart of our understanding of humanity is the idea that all people are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). This is what gives dignity, value, and worth to every individual, regardless of color or ethnicity. It is God’s unfathomable love for us that enables us to love others. 1 John 4:7 states this plainly: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” A few verses later, the author writes: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister” (1 John 4:20-21).
Like God’s love moved God to action on behalf of humanity, God’s love in us for others must motivate us to action.
When we value people and love them as God has loved us, we should be moved to bear their burdens (Galatians 6:2), to stand alongside them in the face of any form of oppression or marginalization, and to stand up for them against the alarming rising tide of racism, violence, and bigotry. Let’s choose to get to know someone who does not look like us. Let’s choose to stand up against racism and violence and to stand alongside those who are mistreated. Let’s choose to love deeply from the heart, just as Christ loves us.