By Pastor Stephen Hess –
A couple of weeks ago I turned on the news and saw images that I found it hard to watch. There were images of men marching at night carrying torches deliberately reminiscent of KKK rallies. There was video footage of men chanting Nazi slogans and performing Nazi salutes. I am, of course, speaking of the events that recently took place in Charlottesville, VA, when a group of white supremacists and neo-Nazis gathered to unapologetically spew their racist ideology. These demonstrations shocked many people and caused us to once again wonder: How could this happen in 2017 and what are we to make of all this?
The gospel gives us a framework not only for understanding these disturbing events in Charlottesville, but also for understanding how we should respond as Christians. Regarding the events themselves, the Bible tells us that we should not be surprised at what we are seeing. Our fundamental human problem is sin, which is rebellion against God. Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve, human beings have not only existed in a broken relationship with God but in broken relationships with one another. Instead of treating our neighbors as people created in God’s image and therefore full of dignity and worth, history is full of endless examples of human beings mistreating one another because of our sinful hearts. One of the ways that this sin continually manifests itself is through racism.
The sin of racism has always been present in our country and in every land throughout history. There is an interesting story about racial prejudice in the life of Moses. Many people remember the episode where Moses’ sister and brother—Miriam and Aaron—challenged his authority (Numbers 12). But what many people miss is that their anger towards Moses was partially motivated by racism. Numbers 12:1 says, “Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married.” “Cushite” meant that Moses’ wife was a woman from Cush, a region in Africa where people were known for their black skin. It appears that Miriam and Aaron did not appreciate the fact that Moses had married a dark-skinned African woman.
What happens next is stunning. God doesn’t get angry with Moses for marrying a black Cushite woman. Instead, when Miriam criticizes Moses for his marriage, God strikes her skin with white leprosy! It’s as if God is saying, “Ok Miriam. Do you like being light-skinned? Do you belittle the Cushite woman because she is dark-skinned and foreign? All right then, I’ll make you light-skinned!” Numbers 12:10 says, “Behold, Miriam was leprous, like snow.” The story of Miriam reminds us that racism is as old as sin, and just like all other sins, God hates it.
God hates racism because the idea that one race is superior to another is a direct attack on his creation design. Satan wants to instill racial hatred in the human heart and enslave us in our sin. As Russell Moore wrote in a recent Washington Post article, “The church should call white supremacy what it is: terrorism, but more than terrorism. White supremacy is Satanism. Even worse, white supremacy is a devil-worship that often pretends that it is speaking for God.”
The good news is that God sent his Son to die on the cross so that we might be free from the sin of racism. When we are washed by the blood of Christ and born again, we are not only reconciled to our Creator but we can begin to be reconciled to one another as well. As Paul says in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Until Christ returns, we will still live in fallen, sinful world. And as long as we are living in sinful world, there will be more events like Charlottesville. But the church need not be silent in the face of this evil. We can loudly proclaim the truth of God’s word which declares that people of every race are created in his image and are equal in dignity and worth. We can proclaim the good news of the gospel, which is the only news that can set people free from the sin of racism. And we can live out a counter-cultural community where we are united with believers from every tribe, tongue, and nation (Rev. 7:9), for that is what the Kingdom of Heaven will look like.