I aim to think through everything in life from a theological perspective. What I mean by that is that I try to look at the world and form my opinions and take actions in the world based on my understanding of who God is and who God wants me to be. I aim to operate based on who Jesus is, and where I feel like he’s leading me to go. I make every effort to allow the Spirit to guide me as I read Scripture and pray, not that I will become more knowledgeable about Jesus, but that I’ll become more obedient, living my life by the words and teachings of Jesus.
What I hope for the people in my church and for people who claim to be followers of Jesus is that each of us view the world in this way – through theological lenses. My great hope is that we will look first not to our own opinions or our own politics or our own preferences, but that we will look first in all things to God and aim to see the world and live our lives in response to that.
This week, the events in Charlottesville and the response to those events demand that we be theological in our words and in our actions. Very often, being theological requires us to speak into situations that have been politicized. Although it’s been politicized, this is not a political situation, this is a theological situation. Who is God in this? Who are we to be in light of who God is? This is an important time to proclaim theological truth, what we believe about who God is and what God opposes.
Evil is real. Racism is real. Hatred is real. Injustice is real. Oppression is real. Sin is real. What has happened in Charlottesville and what continues happening around the country in the name of white supremacy is indefensible and it is inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus. There is no plausible way to deny that.
Yet hope is real. Love is real. Forgiveness is real. Grace is real. Reconciliation is real. Justice is real. Jesus. Is. Real. There’s no possible way to stop that, no human effort of hatred and violence that can overcome the love of God. It will not be defeated.
There will not be two sides with very fine people in the end. In the end, only the side of love will prevail. Only the side of goodness will prevail. Only the side of truth will prevail.
When I became a follower of Jesus, I pledged my whole life to follow Jesus.
When I became a follower of Jesus, I pledged to follow a leader whose love and grace transcend the borders of nationality, race, gender, ethnicity, and any other human category.
When I became a follower of Jesus, I pledged to follow a leader who laid down his life not only to save his friends and the people who looked like him, but in order to extend grace even to the people his friends considered enemies.
When I became a follower of Jesus, I gave up my rights to myself and said I would instead give it all to him so that I might be shaped and molded in the way he saw fit.
When I became a follower of Jesus, I gave up my “freedom of speech,” and I made a vow instead to speak life, truth, grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness, even when it’s difficult, even when it doesn’t serve my own interests.
I don’t believe it’s possible to simultaneously follow Jesus and defend the words and actions of people fueled by hatred and self-concern. I don’t believe it’s possible to follow Jesus into a white supremacist rally unless you’re following him there to oppose it. I don’t believe it’s possible to follow Jesus to a podium and do anything other than clearly denounce the evil and hatred that have been unleashed by white supremacist groups and their allies.
This is not a time to be silent. This is not a time to waffle. This is not a time to defend the indefensible.
This is a time to pray for wisdom and forgiveness. This is a time to grieve. This is a time to listen actively to those for whom the effects of this hatred are a daily reality. This is a time to proclaim the truth of our faith.
The book of Revelation contains some of the most beautiful, hope-filled images of what’s to come and toward which we are called to work. I’ve been drawn to this image over and over again in the past several days, and I continue to gain hope from the beauty these words contain.
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” Revelation 7:9-10
May it happen soon.