We watch the news with sadness. We read the stories with tears. Why do events like Charlottesville happen? I think, “Aren’t we past this?” Nazism, KKK, white supremacists all seem like bad memories from a deep, dark, distant past. But, here we are again. Confronted with hatred in our broken world. And, we wonder why. Why do these race riots continue to occur? Why do have terrorism? Why do people hate others for no reason? Aren’t we better than this?
Yet, this is nothing new. This is an age-old problem, and it is not going away save for the grace of God. For you see, as much as we would like to legislate love and civility, it really is a matter of the heart. The problem behind Charlottesville is not a race problem or a terrorist problem, but a sin problem. The deep, dark and ugly kind of sin for it reveals the true heart of a person. Sin is that rebellion against God and His way of love. It all goes back to Genesis 3
when man decided he didn’t want to do things God’s way, he wanted to be in control himself. Man rebelled then, and we still rebel today. And, it takes the grace of a loving Savior, Jesus, to make us new.
Into a world of rebellion and hate, steps Jesus. When Jesus came, the Romans ruled the world. They were bent on total domination. They believed themselves superior to all other people (sound familiar). They saw other nationalities as inferior and deserving to be conquered. The Jews were a part of the Roman conquest. The Jews hated the Romans. The Romans hated the Jews. The Jews hated the Samaritans, their neighbors and distant relatives (whom they called “half-breeds” and “dogs”). And, the Samaritans hated the Jews.
Enter Jesus. Into a world of hate, He came with a message of love. This was radical back then, and it is still radical today. Jesus called 12 ordinary men – fishermen, business guys – nominally religious, but willing to follow. They knew that Jesus was different. The way He responded to people, His teaching, His love was anything, but normal and they wanted to know more.
What they discovered, is that Jesus loves all people. All people! Every race, nationality and even gender (which was big back then because women were treated as less than slaves and slightly above animals). Every person – poor, rich and everyone in-between. Jesus never said anything bad about the Romans, and He even healed the servant of a Roman Centurion. They didn’t understand, and they would have never done this on their own. But, Jesus was teaching them a different way to live.
The tipping point for many of Jesus’ disciples came one day when they were headed from Galilee, up in the north, down to Jerusalem in the south. Now, since the Jews hated the Samaritans so much, they would literally walk out of their way around Samaria so that they would not even step foot in their country. But, not Jesus. Jesus goes straight through Samaria, and look what happens:
“And He sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for Him; but the people there did not welcome Him because He was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to destroy them?’ But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then He and His disciples went to another village.” Luke 9:52-56.
What? Two of Jesus’ disciples wanted to bring down fire from heaven and destroy some people. Really? Jesus had to teach His own disciples to love. Jesus rebuked their hate. It is not our natural tendency to love. Sin makes us selfish. And, because, even those guys, had this “selfish ambition and vain conceit” inside them they wanted to destroy anyone who didn’t agree with them. If you start to think of yourself as better than someone – anyone – then this ought to be a red flag that you are moving away from the heart of Christ.
Yet, this John, who wanted to call down fire, after being with Jesus was transformed. He would later write a letter, entitled 1 John, which is all about love. “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.” 1 John 3:14. If we are all completely honest, deep down, inside all of us, like James and John, there reside some dark places. And, before we met Christ we were much more inclined to hate than to love. It is only Christ who can change a heart.
Peter, another one of Jesus’ disciples, actually takes a sword and cuts off the ear of one of the High Priest’s servants. Jesus, again, rebukes Peter and heals the servant’s ear. Later on, Peter will call us to focus not on hate, but on the love we see in Christ:
“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. ‘He committed no sin and no deceit was found in His mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:21-24
It is only Christ who can change a heart and change the world. And, Jesus is greater than hate. This is why He came into our world to bring healing and hope.
At the heart of events like Charlottesville is sin. That is why, this side of heaven, there will be more events like Charlottesville, shootings in Paris, Race Riots like St. Louis, Detroit, and even the horrific atrocities like mass killings and the Holocaust. Our world needs Jesus. And, as followers of Christ, we need to share Jesus’ message of love.
This is a wake-up call for all of us. For all disciples of Christ, this is a wake-up call to love radically. To love the least, the last, the lost. The poor, the blind, the broken, the betrayed. Love in big ways and small ways. The antidote to hate is love. Christ Jesus taught a message of love to His disciples, and we are to take that message to a world in need.
Men and women like William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King, Jr., Elizabeth Fry and many others, stepped into their world of darkness and hate to bring Christ’s message of love. Because of their obedience as His disciples, they changed the world in their day. Now, it is our turn.
So what do we do in our day and in our generation of darkness and hate?
- Pray – It is only God who can change a heart. The government can make laws and can even put people in prison for not obeying those laws, but it is only God who can transform a life from hate to love. Pray for our country and our world. Pray for those involved in Charlottesville and for all those who will be involved in what is to come. God said: “if My people, who are called by My Name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14
- Love – In big and small ways, we must love others. In this world of hate, love stands out. Love is radical and different. Love is what our world so desperately needs. Love all people – just like Jesus. Love will drive away the darkness. Start at home, work, school – put others before yourself. Then, love whenever and whomever. “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18
- Live like Jesus – We can’t just talk about love, we must live it out. In everything, what we post on social media, how we interact with our children and even searching our own hearts in why we do what we do, let us live like Jesus. Let us live out love. This is what will make a difference: “Christ in you, the Hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27
This is our day and events like Charlottesville are happening on our watch. Our forefathers in Christ had the Romans, the Samaritans, the Nazis and more. Today, we have racism and bigotry in our own country. The only antidote to hate is love. And, the only way to real, true, life-changing love is Jesus Christ. As His disciples, may we be all that He has called and created us to be and may we love. May we love everyone – whether we agree with them or not – may we love. He is the only Hope we have in a world of hate.