Yesterday, I had the opportunity to preach at church. I had been in a short series on Psalm 31 and 32 and yesterday's text was Psalm 32. The previous day was the chaos and racial violence that was Charlottesville, a town that is not very far from where I live.
I woke up Saturday morning to the news headlines of the previous night's torched march through the UVA campus. I immediately felt immense fear, anger, and anxiety only to be followed by that day's violent protests. I knew I'd be modifying my sermon, but couldn't figure out how to say what needed to be said about the Charlottesville incident and drive home the main focus of the text: confession. By God's grace I linked some points in the sermon to the events, but before I began preaching, I spent a few minutes giving an encouragement and exhortation to the congregation about the previous day. ( We have 3 services, so I said most - if not all- of this in each of the morning services.)
Yesterday was devastating needless to say. Waking up to the news of the protests of white supremacists and watching the fighting and violence yesterday in Charlottesville was deflating to say the least. It was purely demonic. I realize that we share a variety of perspectives, but we should all agree that the events which occurred in Charlottesville yesterday are not condoned by our Lord. White supremacy is not condoned by God.
I wish I would have preached on Psalm 31 this week, because I know I certainly need it now. Perhaps there are those of you here who may feel the same. I need to be reminded that as the people of God, our times - times such as these, filled with such chaos and vitriol - are in the hands of God. I need to know that God hears me in my distress now.
If you want to know how I really feel about it, you can talk to me outside of this. I’ve got so many words, but it doesn’t matter what I say about the particulars right here and now. It does matter what we do as God’s people in light of these events. It matters how each of us respond to this as individuals and as a body shaped by the good news of the gospel. Our words matter in our condemnation of racism, white supremacy, and any forms of supremacy other than the supremacy of Christ. It matters how we love, listen to, and lament with one another and bear one another’s burdens. It matters how we confess our apathy, ignorance or the vengeance and anger in our own hearts. It matters how we see God, the brokenness of this world, and His Son in moments like this.
I don't want to tell you that that if we "just preach the gospel" then everything will be fine. Certainly that is true, but what does that look like specifically for you to live in a way, shaped by the gospel, that responds to these events in the spheres of influence where you are placed? How does the gospel shape your loving, listening to, and lament with those who are different than you?
We know that in Christ - through Him, God has torn down the dividing wall of hostility between ourselves and Him and between one another. Ephesians tells us that He has reconciled image bearers to Himself from every nation, tribe, tongue, and people group, making one new man. In light of this - one of the great implications that Paul encourages Christians with; one of the great "therefore's that follow this already achieved reality is that as God’s people, those who walk in the light, we are to separate ourselves from the unfruitful works of darkness (Eph 5:11); but that is not enough. It is not enough to be passive and silent in these moments, we are called to do more than that - we are called to expose works of darkness as well. Racism and white supremacy are works of darkness. They are spiritual wickedness. This darkness includes the ethnocentric wickedness on display yesterday and in many forms in this world.
Followers of Jesus and children of the light, Expose them. Bring the light and truth of the gospel to the darkness that blinds many and oppresses others.
A Prayer of Lament
I modified this prayer from the words of Rev. Prince Winters , Psalm 31, and Psalm 120
My hope is in you, God. Deliver me from all my fears. O God, come quickly to help us. O Lord, come quickly to save us. In our distress, incline your ears to our cries. Too long it seems that our dwelling place has been in a world among those who hate peace. You are the God of hope and Peace.
Jesus, would you give us peace to guard our hearts and minds. Lord, we are for peace - even though the brokenness of this world is for war - against you and against one another.
In the name of the one who came that we might have life and have life more abundantly.