Once again, my Facebook feed is full of stories and posts and responses and posts of solidarity. There is another slew of official letters and responses to what happened in Charlotte over the weekend. I first heard about it last night on the news because we were with our church family all weekend. And by the way, it was awesome, so is our church family. We are really blessed to be a part of it. If you are longing for a church family, you should come check ours out, because it’s awesome.
Once again, I find myself trying to make sense of it all. But as I thought about it, it’s really simple. Let me explain.
Made In The Image of God.
God made all human being in His image. That’s it. It’s really that simple.
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Every single human being is made in God’s image. From the moment they are conceived to the moment they take their last breath, we are stamped with the image of God. There is no argument, if you argue as some point along that way that we aren’t made in God’s image, then you open the door for for devaluing life all along the way. This is a hard line.
We are all made in God’s image. Because of this, every single person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Does that mean everyone is right about what they believe? No. But, a person’s beliefs do not make them less human. A person’s beliefs, right or wrong, do not dictate being treated in a different way.
This also must be a hard line. Why? If we are allowed to dehumanize people because they believe differently than I do, or than you do, or that popular trends dictate, then we are yet again on a very slippery slope. Who gets to decide which set of beliefs are more primary or important? Is it based on popular opinion or majority votes? If so, we should all be very wary, because there are many things that have been popular throughout human history that we see as egregious today.
All human beings are created in the image of God and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. If we abide by this simple truth, racism in all its various forms is dead. You, my fellow human, are my brother and sister because we are made in the image of the same father.
But then there was the fall.
Adam and Eve chose to rebel against that God who made them in their image. From this point on, murder, pain, grief and yes, racism entered the world. God had set up the perfect existence for us and created a garden for us to live in, where we walked with God. It was the perfect operating system.
But, Adam and Eve (and all of us since), decided we wanted to be our own gods. It wasn’t enough to be made in God’s image, we wanted to God’s power. So, instead of enjoying the world as God created it, we followed the liar into a world of deception. We replaced our Father with the father of lies. The whole foundation of our existence was cracked and began to crumble.
From that point forward (read from Genesis 3 to Genesis 4 and see how quickly things changed) our world was built on guilt, shame, blame shifting and lying. These characteristics drive our world today. And we, apart from God, are trying to create a world that is free of these things. The operating system had been corrupted by the virus of deception.
But, apart from God, we will never be able to.
Without God, we will never be able to truly end racism. Racism is not a person to person problem. Racism is the fruit of a life that is rooted in things other than God. The reason racism is not dead is because we are a fallen people. We rebelled against God. And as long as we are rebelling against the God who made us in His image, we are embracing the virus not the cure.
The virus will never provide the ultimate solution, because the foundation of the virus is deceit. We can do our best to try to legislate racism out of society. We can do our best to stand for unity and shame those who still embrace racism. But, in the end, we are using a fallen system to try to fix what’s broken. We’re using a broken wrench to tighten a broken bolt. We’re using a trojan horse to repair the damage of a worm. Racism isn’t just a behavioral problem, it’s a heart problem.
What do we do?
If we’re going to fix this (and the many other problems with our world), the only real solution is to reformat the hard drive and install a new operating system. We have to wipe the drive and start from scratch.
But, this isn’t something that can be done on a societal level. It can only be done, person by person, heart by heart, life by life. In other words, the solution to the problem of racism is not more laws. The solution is me. The solution is you. More correctly, the solution is the Love of God overwhelming our lives, overpowering the sinful ways in each of us and eradicating our old, broken ways of thinking, acting and living.
The more of us who are radically changed by the love of God, the more we still start to treat one another with dignity and respect.
We can’t expect non-believers to act like believers. It doesn’t work. It’s actually not possible. We can’t live a holy life without the power source that enables us to do so. Apart from God, we can do nothing. With God, nothing is impossible.
What is the solution to racism? Laying down your life and picking up the life God has for you.
But what if I am the target of hatred?
This is hard. While I have been mocked and made fun of plenty in my life, I have never really been treated poorly because of my race. So, I can’t exactly speak from experience. But, I do follow someone who set a pretty perfect example for how we ought to handle being treated poorly.
Jesus set the example for us. What did Jesus teach?
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? – Matthew 5:43-47
Not only was this Jesus’ teaching, it was his life. How did he respond to persecution? He didn’t set the town on fire. He didn’t riot. He didn’t stir the people he was leading to mount an insurrection. In fact, in the end he was replaced with someone who did when the people chose to release Barabbas instead of Him. He, endured the beating and the ridicule and the cross. And what was his response in the end? Forgiveness. “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.”
We can’t expect unbelievers to act like believers. When we see an unbelieving world acting out in rage and violence like we have seen this weekend, we see a world living out the only thing they know: brokenness. We see a world, veiled in corruption. Their only frame of reference is deception. There is no hope or peace to be found within the confines of this broken and corrupt world we live in.
So, we shouldn’t be surprised when we see the world acting this way. And, we, like Jesus need to learn to respond to this brokenness in the same way Jesus did. We see the world who doesn’t know what they’re doing. And our desire should not be revenge, it should be compassion. Our desire should not be to hurt, wound or murder. It should be a broken heart. They’re not thinking, speaking, seeing or hearing correctly. They don’t know what they’re doing.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another.Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
– Romans 12:14
What is our response? Good. Do good. Be good. Live good. It’s kindness and generosity. I understand the desire. We want to lash out in rage over the injustice we see. And we do have a responsibility to stand up for those who are being oppressed. But, we do not have a responsibility to respond with more injustices. We stand and lead the way for forgiveness. We don’t stand for the rights of one human over another. We seek to bring every human together.
Ours, after all, is a ministry or reconciliation.
11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Cor. 5:11-21.
Maybe we can all be ambassadors of reconciliation. Not to a political party or other agenda that is driving us. But, ambassadors seeking to see the world reconciled to the God who created them to live in harmony with him and with one another. The only hope for true, long lasting reconciliation is found here.