It’s time we take a seven mile walk, friends.
It’s time we turn one ear to heaven, and bend one ear to earth…..
This weekend was a hard one for our country.
Honestly, it’s been a hard few years.
I don’t remember all this hatred when I was growing up. Maybe it was there and I didn’t see it. Maybe my parents sheltered me from it. Maybe things are worse than they were in the past.
Maybe this, maybe that. Maybe right, maybe wrong.
I don’t know, I really don’t.
But I know I’m tired.
I’m tired of seeing humanity rip itself a part. I’m tired of seeing brothers and sisters in Christ break each other down. And I’m tired of seeing the enemy get a foothold from every argument, judgement, and act of violence.
We live in a hurting, broken, dark world that is starving for love, grace, forgiveness, and mercy.
It is starving for its Savior.
And that can’t be any more evident than by what happened in Virginia this weekend.
We all watched with horror what started Friday night as a show of hate by one group professing Christ turn into a battle of dark versus dark Saturday, and lives were taken. Families were changed forever. And I think Heaven wept as it watched God’s creation fall once again.
Because both sides scream hate.
Both sides feel righteous in their hate.
Both sides are wrong.
But let me be very, very clear about something before I continue..….
The message of darkness spewed by the “Unite the White” protesters is anything but of Christ. The god they are professing is NOT the Savior, the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament who walked among men in the New Testament and is reigning even now in this messed up world.
Throughout Scripture, Light is used to signify God’s holiness and righteousness; a greatness that defies humanity and our limits.
1 John 1: 5-9 says,
“This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you:
God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.
If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the Truth. But if we walk in the Light, as He is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the Truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
The “jesus” the supremists are claiming is dark, hateful, racist, and not a god to be glorified, honored, and praised. He is a selfish, merciless god that does not know the Light because he is not of the Light. He is of the darkness, an enemy to the Most High God; an enemy who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy humanity by dividing us from each other and from the One True God.
And that is exactly what the enemy did Saturday. It’s what he has been doing since the beginning of time. Dividing God’s creation from their Creator. Dividing God’s creation from each other. And dividing grace from the sinner who so desperately needs it.
Thankfully, there is a time coming when the darkness will be completely and utterly defeated. Jesus is the Light of the world now and He will one day defeat the darkness of the enemy and bring Light to all God’s creation.
“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
Come, Lord Jesus, come!
But until then, what should our Christian response be to Charlottesville?
How do we even begin to bring hope and peace when there is so much division?
We start, first, by condemning the hatred and racism displayed. It is not representative of our faith. It is not representative of our beliefs. And it is not representative of our Christ and His love for all humanity (John 3:16, Romans 5:8, Romans 8:37-39). We are commanded to love, and to love deeply (1 Peter 4:8). We are called to love despite differences in theology, ideology, race, gender, opinions, or pasts mistakes (Matthew 5:44-45).
But what next?
Should we pick sides, and lash out at the ones that don’t agree with us? Should we organize a protest to protest the protests? Should we join hands in solidarity? Should we plead for peace? Should we reach across the aisle politically? Should we look to the past to right the present and change the future? Should we take to social media and voice our opinions and our concerns in hopes of changing someone else’s mind and heart? Do we blame the media, the president, the police, whites, blacks, Christians?
To some I’d say, yes; others, no.
My question would be this though…..what good has any of these done in the past?
No protest has changed a mind.
No rally has changed a heart.
No post on social media has healed broken bridges or created new ones.
No song sung in solidarity has brought what once was broken into permanent union.
No blame placed on one group has brought peace with another.
Nothing has changed. Nothing has truly been made better.
Because none of these, even the seemingly good gestures, are the answer.
The problem isn’t who is right or wrong.
The problem is sin, our own black sin.
And the answer has, is, and always will be GRACE upon GRACE upon GRACE alone.
I was convicted Saturday to pray and seek God’s heart in all this mess and heartache and brokenness.
And the answer I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to wasn’t quite the answer I expected.
It’s time to stop picking sides, because Perfect Grace and Love doesn’t pick sides; it doesn’t have to. Grace loves all. And Love covers a multitude of sins. Even yours. Even theirs. Mercy triumphs over judgement. And what the world needs now is Mercy, not judgement. You need to love, and then love deeper. You need to forgive, and then forgive again. You need to give grace upon grace upon grace. Starting with your own heart and your own sin. You aren’t on this side or that side. I bought you with My blood. You are now on the side of Light.
So, as I was writing this post in my head during service yesterday, I was being convicted by the message and by the Holy Spirit to say something about Charlottesville. And I knew that that something wasn’t going to be a message about picking sides or throwing blame or casting stones. I knew the message God was placing on my heart was about grace and redemption and seeking transformation in our own heart before looking for it in another’s.
I knew the message was that we all are sinners, we all need Jesus, and that this isn’t about sides, because no side is completely of the Light; no side is of Christ because all sides are made of broken, flawed people.
But I have to be honest.
I forgot quickly.
(How fickle is the heart of man.)
I came home and saw a picture of a black police officer standing in front of a group of KKK and Nazi members. The poster had written how this officer was so brave to be standing and protecting those who were calling for his death.
And I completely agree. All officers, no matter their race or ethnicity or gender, are brave to do the job they have been called to do.
But then I got mad.
Because this time last year white officers in Dallas, and across the nation, were doing the exact same thing at Black Lives Matter rallies. Standing the line, protecting those who were calling them “pigs” and chanting, “Kill them all!”
White officers, like my husband, were standing, just as this black officer was, protecting those who were protesting them.
And you know what the response was on social media….nothing. No praise. No pat on the back. No word of encouragement. No acknowledgment at all.
I got mad then. And I got mad yesterday. For a moment.
But then conviction set in and I remembered what the Holy Spirit had just whispered in my ear not twenty minutes before.
This isn’t about black or white. This isn’t about you or me. This isn’t about us or them.
This is about Grace and the fact that we ALL need it.
The protesters, the police officers, the KKK, the BLM, the Jews, the gentiles; Americans, Mexicans, Africans, Asians; Christians, Muslims, atheists; Republicans, Democrats, Liberals, Conservatives; Obama, Trump.
We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
None of us deserve what Grace so freely gives. And all of us deserve what Mercy takes away.
We all need a heart transformation.
We all need to take a seven mile walk with Jesus.
And then we need to take a seven mile walk with our neighbor.
It is the day of Christ’s resurrection. The women have just come from the tomb and found it empty. They immediately ran to tell the disciples. Some believed them. Most questioned their claim, but still hoped. Others saw no reason to hope and left Jerusalem distraught and heartbroken.
Two men, in particular, turned toward home, downcast and mourning. It would be a seven mile walk home to their village of Emmaus. They were talking about all the things that had happened the previous week when a man walked up beside them, asking what they are discussing. This man was Jesus. But they didn’t recognize him just yet.
They proceeded to recount for him what had happened and how all their hopes were buried with Jesus. They were hurting. They were heartbroken. They were needing comfort. They were needing a reason to hope.
What they got was so much more.
Jesus spent the next seven miles telling them all the reasons why they should have hope that what He said would happen, that everything Moses and the prophets said would happen, was happening. He showed them hope where there was no hope. He showed them Light where there was darkness. And their “hearts burned within [them](Luke 24:32)” when He walked and talked with them on the road and showed them Truth.
At the end of their journey, when they reached Emmaus, they pleaded with Jesus to stay with them. He agreed. And while He was there, He finally revealed to them who He was then disappeared from their sight, leaving them changed and transformed forever.
With just a seven mile walk, Jesus invested in the lives of these men. He loved them through their pain and met them in their grief. He brought hope to them where hope was lost. And He left them wanting more, a burning in their hearts to know Him.
That is the Gospel. And that is what we are called to bring to the world.
But while I think most Christians have the message mostly right, we have the order completely wrong. If we look at Jesus as our example, we will quickly see that He didn’t come onto the scene and immediately start preaching the Good News. No, He started with prayer, received the Holy Spirit, and heard from His Father (Luke 3:21-23). Then he began his ministry by first building relationships. He invested in those He was wanting to reach.
He brought hope before He brought the Good News.
We will never change our world, our communities, with the Good News of God’s Love and Grace without first walking our seven miles with Jesus, and then another seven miles with someone else. Jesus doesn’t just want us to shout to the world that it needs Him. He wants us to first turn our ear towards heaven so we can then bend an ear to earth and meet the hurting in their pain. He wants us to love others in and through their heartache. When we draw near to others, we build relationships. Once we build relationships, we can then bring the Gospel to them and then through the Gospel they can make sense of their story and the mess of this broken world.
I think too many times Christians are so focused on the message of salvation, of not going to Hell, and getting it “right” that we sometimes forget that Jesus didn’t come to establish a religion. He came to redeem a relationship; the vertical relationship between God and man.
For far too long we have been focused on the horizontal relationships between you and me. But we can and will never get those relationships right if we don’t first right our relationship with God. We can’t preach righteousness because none of us are righteous except through Jesus. We can’t bring the Good News, the Gospel of Christ, when our words are shadowed in our own darkness. We can’t change the minds and hearts of others until we seek the transformation of our own. We can’t renounce the darkness in another’s soul until we acknowledge the darkness in our own. And we can’t build relationships until we redeem the relationship lost in the garden.
I am guilty of this.
But so are you.
There is no side completely innocent, no side completely guilty. All are pointing at the log in our neighbor’s eye but missing the plank in our own.
Our enemy isn’t flesh and blood. That is all a show, a distraction, perpetrated by an enemy that knows his greatest weapon against God’s Kingdom is division. If we are divided we can’t love. If we are divided we can’t build. If we are divided we can’t see past another’s faults and flaws to our own sin. If we are divided we can’t serve others. If we are divided we can’t see past our self, our hurt, and our needs.
This isn’t about you or me, or even love or hate, because we can never love perfectly but we sure can hate perfectly.
It is about GRACE.
And GRACE only falls when we admit where we stand…..broken and black before a perfect God.
You see, we will never see the Light, His Light, if we can’t let go of the blackness inside our own hearts. If I can’t see myself as a sinner in need of a Savior then I will never and can never get past myself to be the light for someone else. I will always feel the need to pick a side because if I’m right then someone else has to be wrong.
But as Christians we shouldn’t be picking a side. I shouldn’t be on this side or that side. I am child of God, a citizen of the Kingdom of Light. My side was bought by the blood of Jesus on the Cross.
So, what should our response be then to Charlottesville if we are a Christian?
We should be praying for how God sees this mess, for what breaks His heart in this hurt so that we can see clearly His will through the noise. We should be praying for those lost, those mourning, and those hurting. We should be praying for those protesting in hate, that their eyes may be opened to the Light, that they would be transformed by His Grace and Love, and that they may be used to glorify and honor their Creator. We should be praying for our officers, black or white, who are having to protect those protesting them; the same protesters calling for their deaths. And we should be praying for our leaders, that they would lead with Godly wisdom and discernment, that they would be protected against the schemes of the enemy and that they would govern in the Light and not the darkness.
But most of all we should be praying for ourselves. The change starts in our own heart and in our own admission of sin. That message convicts us to not make this about you or me, right or wrong. It is all about Light and dark. Will you admit your failings and walk in the Light? Or will you cling to your imperfections disguised as righteousness, and walk in the darkness?
That’s what humanity has been doing since the fall of Adam and Eve. We got it wrong then.
We’re getting it wrong now.
If the goal is unity, we can’t possibly think that what we are doing is the answer. So maybe unity is not the goal. Maybe the goal is just to be right. That is the way of the world.
But as Christians our goal shouldn’t be to be right. It should always be redemption brought on by His Grace. Our goal shouldn’t be to win an argument. It should be to win hearts. And we will never win hearts with words. We will win them with Grace.
I began this post quoting 1 John 1:5-9, to speak of God’s Light. But there’s one part of these verses that speaks to us.
“But if we walk in the Light, as He is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another…”
With one another.
If we want to heal the brokenness of our nation, we must first redeem our relationship with our Creator.
We must first take a seven mile walk with Jesus.
Then we must take a seven mile walk with someone else.