Charlottesville

I left Bible study today really sad and heavy-hearted.  Afterwards, I went to get an allergy shot and found myself holding back tears as I sat in the waiting room.  As I mentioned in my last blog post, these kinds of tears are unusual for me.

We were discussing Titus 2:1-10 today, and as we looked at the behavior Paul was exhorting Titus to teach to his church members, it didn’t take long for the topic of Charlottesville and the events in Durham last night to come up.  It’s one thing to read articles online.  It’s another to process them in a group with an African-American friend there.  To realize how these things affect your friend – your sister in Christ, someone you respect and value – makes the gravity and horror of what is happening in our country far more real.

This is not what I typically blog about.  I never want this to be a place that is political or denominational.  I want it to be a place that encourages women to trust and follow God.  But I have to express this weight on my heart and these tears.  And so my hope is that this post will still fit within my parameters – that it will be clear that it’s not political and that it will encourage those who read it to trust and follow God in light of what is going on in our country.

The events in Charlottesville were a wake-up call for me.  I have heard about the racism in our country – I read the newspaper (yes, I still get one), watch TV news, read articles online.  But since I’ve never met anyone with that kind of hate towards blacks, it was just hard to believe it was that intense – that so many people are like that, that they would express it the way they did in Charlottesville, that they would kill someone.

What was embarrassing today was to admit my naïveté to my African-American friend.  To look at her and know that she wasn’t surprised by Saturday.  That she didn’t need a wake-up call.  She didn’t say much so I don’t know her personal experience.  But I know she has experienced racism many times in many forms.

One of the women in the group who is older than I am mentioned that she can’t believe we are still fighting this battle, that she remembers when they were fighting it in the 60’s.  Since I am younger than she is, I don’t remember the fighting.  I only experienced the blessings, the amazing changes that Martin Luther King, Jr. and others fought for.

I started 1st grade in 1971.  My school was integrated – I’ve never experienced segregation.  I was in class with black students every year, and I don’t remember thinking about the differences.  They were just my friends.  I also don’t remember my parents ever saying anything negative about my African-American classmates and friends because of their race (or for any other reason).  I guess I was naïve then as well but blessedly so.

When I was in college, the protests over race were about apartheid in South Africa – not about our country.  I remember walking by shanties at UNC and marches to call for the university to divest from companies that did business in South Africa and being doubtful such protests would work.  But they did.

The first event of race-related anger and violence I remember were the Rodney King riots in 1992.  I guess I should have had my eyes opened then.  They showed what had really been going on under the surface.  But it was in California and seemed far away both geographically and personally.

I say all of this to explain my shock on Saturday.  While of course I knew there was racism in our country – because it is in every country in different forms because it lives in the fallen heart of man – I just couldn’t believe that it was this bad.  That our country was still so far from what Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. and others had fought for and what many had given their lives for.  How can we be here?  And so today I grieve.

As we got to the end of our study of Titus 2:1-10 today, I asked them what were the reasons Paul gave for teaching these character traits.  They are:

  1. That the word of God many not be dishonored (not maligned, reviled). Literally “blasphemed”.  Verse 5
  2. That the opponent may be put to shame having nothing bad to say about us. Verse 8
  3. That they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect (NIV – “make the teaching about God our Savior attractive”). Verse 10

We realized that this also relates to what is going on in our country right now.  First in that the members of these white supremacist groups who link themselves and their mission to Christ are blaspheming God and His word.  But also, the church needs to respond in a way that doesn’t dishonor God but instead makes the gospel attractive.  As I think back to another recent division in our country – immigration – I’m not sure the church always did that.  Of course, there are individual churches that did and are doing so now in their response.  But if you were to ask non-believers or even our ethnic brothers and sisters, how would they describe the white evangelical church’s response to these situations that impact them so deeply?  Do they see those responses as adorning the gospel?

Do I have the answers of exactly what the church should do?  No.  I’m just starting to search for the answers of what I should do.  Even if it’s small.

During our discussion on Titus today, I shared that the word translated “teach” in     Titus 2:1 literally means “speak” or “articulated words”.  I shared that I think Paul was encouraging Titus to not just teach but to speak up instead of saying nothing.  One of the women mentioned how we need to do that as well.  So this is my start of “speaking” rather than saying nothing.

Also, the overwhelming realization that our nation needs healing brought 2 Chronicles 7:14 to mind:  “and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”  Sounds like a good place to start to me.

Lord, have mercy on our country.  We are overwhelmed as we see injustice and hate and the shocking expression of the wickedness that is in the heart of man.  Show us how You would have us respond whether it’s with our friends or in our community.  Show us the sin in our hearts that we need to grieve and repent.  May we live self-controlled, righteous (just), and godly lives that make the gospel attractive to others.  We acknowledge that only You can change hearts, and we ask You to bring revival to our country that results in people loving You and loving their neighbor.  Give our leaders wisdom as they address the challenges of their community and of our country.  Amen