If You Can See It, It's Not Your Enemy
The recent events in Charlottesville and around our country have been devastating to watch.
I believe we live in one of the greatest countries on the planet, yet it's often questioned as to how a country like ours, at times, could be so cruel; so evil; so dark.
While the issues facing our country are by no means simple, I'd like to offer a broader perspective rather than focus on racism itself.
From my understanding of the Bible, racism is the symptom of a deeply rooted and systemic problem called sin. While many will reject this concept, I believe this one simple reality influences every person and every action seen in our world today and nobody is immune to the effects of sin.
Right now, many are pointing fingers at a specific political party, a person in authority, or even history itself. However, the core of all of our problems will always boil down to the reality that every single human on the planet is deeply flawed and always bent toward doing evil things (Genesis 6:5, Romans 1:18-32, 3:9-18). Furthermore, America is not immune to the problem of sin and the fallen nature either (Romans 3:23). Therefore, in light of these Scriptures, it should not surprise us when humans do unspeakably evil things to each other in the name of whatever cause they happen to be representing, regardless of if it involves religion or not.
To make matters worse, the Bible tells us that all humanity has an enemy (1 Peter 5:8), literally called the Adversary, or Satan, and one of his chief strategies is to distract us from seeing the actual root of all our problems: sin.
Satan has done a masterful job of convincing us that the deepest problems we face can be seen with human eyes and solved with human hands. It's literally a satanic slight of hand, shifting our focus off of him and onto others around us.
Here's the reality though:
if you can see it, it's not your enemy.
In Ephesians 6:11-12, the apostle Paul tells us to take up the armor of God in order to stand against the schemes of the devil, which is a battle NOT here on earth. Paul says it's a battle that is raging in the spiritual realm. Unfortunately, too many people have fallen for the lie that our enemy lives next door to us, or in the White House, or in our state capitol building, or speaks a different language than we do, or has different color pigments in their skin.
When our efforts and focus are diverted towards people, Satan wins.
Interestingly, a quick sample of history should remind us that no significant change has ever come to our nation without a radical commitment to Jesus, building His Kingdom, and constant intercessory prayer. In Ephesians 6:18 the apostle Paul reminds the church at Ephesus to put on the whole armor of God and pray at all times! Paul makes reference to this in a letter to another church in Thessalonica when he says that the believers should stay awake, be sober minded, and pray without ceasing because Jesus will come again and we need to be ready and actively involved in reaching the unreached until He comes again (1 Thessalonians 5:1-24)
Paul knew that the battle we face today isn't going away tomorrow. As believers in the most glorious and life-changing truth of all time (i.e. the gospel) we should be ready (with the armor of God) and be in constant prayer for God to bring about restoration, redemption, and revival in our world.
When our focus is on prayer, the spiritual realities of sin and spiritual attack, the enemy takes less ground.
The only thing powerful enough to overcome the the magnitude of brokenness (Titus 3:3, Ephesians 2:3) we're witnessing in our world today is the gospel (Romans 1:16-17). The truth of the gospel is that every human is full of sin and bent toward evil, yet if we acknowledge this reality, confess our brokenness to God and trust in the perfect work of Jesus on the cross, we can be eternally forgiven of our sins (past, present, and future) and cleansed from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9-10).
WHAT'S OUR ROLE IN ALL THIS?
1. We shouldn't be surprised
God's Word shows us a very important reality: some people don't know what they don't know (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). On top of that, some people that have actively rejected the biblical worldview and chosen to reject God are living a lifestyle consistent with their stated beliefs (Romans 1:18-22). As millions of people live in constant and daily rebellion to God and His ways, we shouldn't be surprised when hated, evil, violence, racism, etc. manifests itself in our society. Why would we expect anything different?
2. We shouldn't be afraid or confused
Clearly, God's Word informs us that He is not surprised by the rebellious actions of the world nor is He confused about what to do. He has a plan and it's perfect and it will come to fruition in His timing. Therefore, we should devote ourselves to praying fervently for God to open the blind eyes, unlock the deaf ears, and change hearts of stone into hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26) by the power of His gospel. We need not be afraid because we serve a good King who is coming back again to set everything right again. Rather than condemning them we would do well to emulate Jesus' example of coming into the world "full of grace and truth" (John 1:17) and pray for the welfare of our city and nation (Jeremiah 29:7).
3. We shouldn't be passive and apathetic
Let's not be idle while we wait for Jesus to come again. We should be embracing our God-given identity as His ambassadors, representing Him and His Kingdom at all time, declaring the message of reconciliation, and persuading people to repent and believe in Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:11-21).
The apostle Peter also offers us a poignant command to follow when he exhorted believers to "always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15, emphasis mine). The last part is often what's missing in our Christian witness today: gentleness and respect. Peter clearly encourages us to be ready to share the hope that we have in Jesus and yet he also adds some qualifiers: gentleness and respect.
Church, I believe that if we're going to have a voice worth listening to in our society, especially on matters like racism, we must be mature enough to speak gently and respectfully about the gospel. By the grace of God, it is my prayer that the unbelieving world would see the goodness of Jesus Christ through His ambassadors living as salt and light in all corners of society (Matthew 5:13-16).
For the Kingdom,
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES ON RACISM
Bryan Catherman, Lead Pastor at Redeeming Life Church, has made a great video in response to recent events about racism and offers a biblically grounded perspective on how Christians should think and respond to the issue of racism. If you've got a few minutes, I'd highly encourage you to watch it.