My heart has been so heavy this week it’s been hard to think. I am so thankful for the comfort and teaching from the heart of God which we heard from the pulpit this morning, and this passage which was used as a benediction. It helped me to process part of why my heart is so heavy. Here is the passage, and some of that thought process. Perhaps it might encourage good in anyone patient enough to read it through.
“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
- Titus 3:1-7
2 crimes are committed every time a human loses their life to racist abusers. The first is the judicial crime of murder, which should never be excused. Public activism can help to hold murderers and the judicial system accountable for the punishment of their crimes. But murder isn’t what is causing so much upheaval and rage. Otherwise we’d be in this state of brokenness all day every day in every city and state.
The second crime committed is the crime of malice in the heart of the racist abuser. This is the crime that has so many angry and hurting. But friends, all our activism and “this has to stop” posts are never going to change the malice in the heart. Only the gospel can do that. Jesus was the creator of every color, nation, and tribe, the champion of the poor, lonely, and oppressed. He is the champion of women, of refugees, of the socially oppressed. Jesus, and Jesus alone can reach into the hearts of malicious people and change them from the inside out.
This means the only real, LASTING way to effect heart level change is the spread of the everlasting, never giving up, transforming love of Christ. How can we do that if His own body, His own beloved, His own ambassadors fracture like a shattered bone every time tragedy strikes? The vitriol and judgement and condemnation from brother to brother and sister to sister shames the name of the gospel and the unity of the cross.
Take a stand, speak against injustice, don’t sit back in silence, and while you do that, don’t forget where your identity lies. Your first and biggest loyalty, if you’re a believer in Christ, is to the word of God. Moments before His death on the cross, Jesus wept tears of blood in Gethsemane that His body might be one: United. Don’t throw out the direct commands found everywhere in scripture towards gentleness, brotherly love, courtesy, and grace for the sake of a mission which only the gospel’s reach can accomplish.
There is a way to BOTH stand for justice, equality, love, peace, affirmation of wrongdoing, and compassion towards the abused, AND do it in a way that honors Christ’s heart for His body the church to be one, unified in the cross, speaking to one another in love, gentleness (which by the way, means power under control), courtesy, and forgiveness.
If you’re doing one but not the other, you’re attempts are futile in the desire to change the malice in the heart of racism. If you are causing division you’re bringing shame to the gospel, which will serve only to prolong the malice pervasive in this culture.
Protests and posts and public words of horror and anger are helpful in keeping those in power accountable. But if you’re trying to change the malice of the heart, get off Facebook, get off your screens, go invite your neighbor to be part of your dinner table. Weep with those who weep. Be courteous to all. Let your gentleness and reasonableness be known to all. Be the blessed peacemaker. And spread the only antidote to hatred to all you encounter, which is the pure and undefiled love of Jesus Christ the King of heaven and earth. Make disciples. Who will then make disciples. And so on and so forth and if that is our response to tragedy like racism, perhaps we will see the kind of heart change happen which will lead to the kind of peace we are all aching for.