Late Saturday, August 12, 2017, Tim shared the following message with pastors in the Capitol Area South District – West Ohio Conference of the UMC.
What is our Response?
The reports that have come out of Charlottesville today are unbelievable and unspeakable. The event today is the latest event drawing white nationalists and alt-right-wing activists from across the country to protest. Today it was Charlottesville’s decision to remove symbols of its Confederate past. At least 1 person is dead and 34 people were injured in regard to the scheduled rally.
The events of the day are disturbing and disgusting.
The question I ask is the same question I have asked before: What is our response to such despicable activity?
When I heard the news, just like when other events of terrorism and violence occur, I recall the words of Paul in his letter to a church in Ephesus:
“Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. . . so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” –Eph 6:10-12
Everything about this act of violence is outside of my experience. It is outside my assumption about what it means to be peace-loving. It threatens my understanding of public safety. It is beyond my comprehension that we live in such an environment at this time in our history.
How are we to respond to such attacks? How do we stand firm?
First, let’s look beyond the immediate thoughts and feelings of outrage, horror, and fear.
We know things are not right in the world. It’s as if something or someone is organizing things against God. The acts that took place cannot be chalked up to differences in opinion. Nor can we write it off as poor communication. No, we cannot explain it away as someone’s likes and dislikes. It is called evil. And evil is large, cosmic, organized, subtle, pervasive, and real. The struggle in which we find ourselves is real and dangerous.
Second, as Christ followers and as peacemakers, we have the opportunity to show our communities and the world a power that is greater than evil.
I challenge all of us to stand firm in the faith. Our faith is given to us by God and is not always convenient. Let’s not abandon who we are as followers of Christ for the sake of convenience. We know that to do so is to give into evil. We must, in the midst of our vulnerability and weakness, stand firm in the strength of the living God.
If we stand in fear and react out of emotion, we give power to the evil that is not real or true. The people behind such hideous acts embody the evil of hatred and bigotry. At any given time, motivated by fear and emotion, you and I embody the same evil. Let’s not give into the intimidation.
Third, because of what we have experienced, we have the opportunity to be who God created us to be.
We can join hands, if not hearts, with people with whom we may not associate, agree, or understand. We have the opportunity to model for the world God’s design for all creation. Evil can seem overpowering. Yet, God’s plan for creation is greater than any evil embodied in violence and terrorism.
When we come to the end of the day “having done everything,” we can stand firm. We can stand firm because we know that:
Against all aggression, there is the presence of God.
Against all attacks, there is the promise of God.
Against all evidence, there is the power of God.
And against all odds, there is the victory of God.
With that being said, words are not enough. Feelings, whether rooted in compassion or outrage are not enough. How does standing firm get translated into positive action that brings about the redemption and transformation of our relationships, our communities, and the world? For too long we have either tried to make our way on our own power. Or, mistakenly decide to be silent and do nothing, thinking God will do something for us.
Is it possible to be intentional in our response? Nelson Mandela said, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Martin Luther King wrote “One cannot remove an evil habit by mere resolution nor by simply calling on God to do the job, but only as he surrenders himself and becomes an instrument of God. We shall be delivered from the accumulated weight of evil only when we permit the energy of God to come into our souls.”
Evil can be cast out. We cannot do it alone. God is not going to do it for us. Evil will be cast out as we open the door and invite God through Christ to enter in. To the church of the twenty-first century, the invitation remains:
“Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come to you and eat with you, and you with me.” –Revelation 3:20
Is it too much to imagine that we be faithful followers of Jesus in midst of such evil?
“Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. . . so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” -Eph 6:10-12
Yours In Christ,