Rivalry. Resistance. Racism.
I'm often preoccupied with distracting myself with entertainment. Just this week I was pretty drawn into the Little League World Series and the Mayweather vs. McGregor prime time fight. (Yes, we stayed up til 1:30 am to see all 10 rounds of action!)
There is nothing wrong with a little Netflix binging or enjoying your favorite sporting event. Yet, there are some really big things happening in our nation. Right before our eyes.
Events that need to be seriously considered. Events that should cause some personal reflection. Events that need to be processed with the generations following us.
I’ve been greatly disturbed by the events that recently took place in Charlottesville, VA.
How could such a beautiful community manifest such ugly and toxic mentalities? Didn't we grow past so much of this hatred through the powerful Civil Rights Movement of the 60s and 70s?
As a culture we've come far when it comes to racial discrimination, but clearly not far enough!
Jesus never has and never will tolerate racism in the hearts of His followers.
The hate, violence, ignorance, and division has been atrocious to witness even from the safety of our couches and news channels.
When it comes to personal discrimination I have nothing to say. My experience with discrimination is incomparably pathetic. In fact, the only thing that even comes to mind is when I experience a frustrating "No Dogs Allowed" policy while attempting a hike with my German Shepherd on a trail while vacationing in the Finger Lakes of Upstate NY.
I have no clue what it feels like to be racially discriminated.
But people I love know what it feels like. And people who are perfect strangers to me, but carry God-given value and should never experience racism, know all too well the horrors of discrimination.
So when it comes to discrimination based personal experience, I have absolutely nothing to say. But when it comes to racial discrimination against my friends and fellow countrymen, I have plenty to say-because the Bible has loads to say.
But before we judge the hearts of others it is wise to check our own.
I once heard somewhere...that before we try to remove the speck of saw dust in our brother’s eye that we should remove the plank from our own. (Jesus in Matt. 7:5)
Racism is such an ugly and vile thing. It should not be tolerated in any form.
There is no room for racism or even favoritism in God’s Kingdom. (James 2:9)
I can’t even claim to love a God I can’t see if I don’t first love the people I can see. (1 John 4:20)
Jesus came to replace our hostility with real harmony.
He came to turn every insecure orphan [that would be all of us] into beloved sons & daughters.
He came to teach us that we all have infinite value in His eyes.
He came to create a family that would fight against injustice, not propagate it.
Many Christians are praying for our nation’s unity and healing. And rightfully so. Yet, I believe there is another vital step each of us must take.
Before we run off to fix broken things rampant in our culture, we must first willingly face ugly things growing in our hearts.
Before we can remove racism from our culture we must let God reveal it and remove it from our hearts.
I was raised to value diversity.
My inner circle of friends honestly resembles the United Nations.
I consider myself one of the least racist people I’ve ever met. And yet, those attributes don’t make my heart immune from favoritism, elitism or even racism.
My recent reading of Luke 9 helped to open my own eyes in a fresh way. In just one small chapter of Scripture, we see three HUGE heart issues crop up!
Take a quick look at Jesus’ closest followers. His own twelve disciples had to be confronted with the ugly, hidden issues of their hearts.
Jesus just finished setting a young boy free from a demonic & oppressing spirit. All of the people and each of the disciples marveled at God’s power and Jesus distinct greatness. Out of this miraculous context began to manifest some pretty ugly heart issues in Jesus’ disciples.
Heart Issue #1: Rivalry.
“Then his disciples began arguing about which of one them was the greatest.” (Luke 9:46 NLT)
[Tweet "Without the grace of God, the human heart will always compare or criticize before it celebrates."]
It’s often easier to measure ourselves with our company instead of with our Creator. Feeling better about ourselves based on our surroundings, instead of going to the Source of all life, is a dangerous thing.
Yet, comparison is an art form that far too many of us excel in.
It’s been said that “Envy is proof that you have not embraced your own distinction.” I’m guilty as charged and couldn’t agree more.
The disciples of Bible times were real people with real issues.
The disciples of our times are no different.
We are no different.
Thankfully, the good news is that God’s grace transformed the hearts of the disciples.Each of them learned that their value came not from their own insecure measurements but from their infinite Maker.
Jesus needed to help even his most devoted disciples overcome personal rivalry.
Heart Issue #2: Resistance.
John said to Jesus, “Master, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he isn’t in our group.” (Luke 9:49 NLT)
John, the man who would eventually become the apostle of love and go on to record the Gospel of John, the book of Revelation and 3 significant early church letters based on radical love and acceptance of others, struggled with insecurely resisting others.
Again, before we judge others we should recognize how easy it is to do this.
We secretly [and sometimes not so secretly] think “our group is better than your group.” Unless you are “one of us” you are not quite with it.
Most church groups and ministries resist anyone that is outside of their own camp. We think our way of doing things is not only better but probably the best. We can struggle to partner with those who are different from us.
We forget that for two ministry leaders to form a partnership they only need to agree on essentials, not every single conviction or preference.
Jesus needed to help his earliest followers overcome insecure resistance of others.
Heart Issue #3: Racism.
“He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival. But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, “Lord should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. (Luke 9:52-55 NLT)
I love that the Bible includes excerpts like this. Not just the highlight reel of the disciples but also some of their biggest blunders.
The Jews and the Samaritans resented each other. For the most part, they stayed away from each other. They were related far more than they wanted to be reminded.
They both viewed the other as inferior.
The Jews viewed the Samaritans as “half-breeds” and a less than pure blood line because the intermingled with other cultures. The Samaritans, in reactionary fashion, judged Jews as self-righteous bigots.
Both sides judged the other categorically even more so than personally.
How scary it is when we can judge a whole people group based on categorical stereotypes without any real personal interaction!
Jesus needed to help his Kingdom leaders and surrounding communities to overcome racism.
What we are witnessing as a nation is an old problem with a new face.
[Tweet "“Racism-its root is vile, its fruit is violent and its face is utterly vulgar.”"]
As much as the terrorism and racism taking place in Charlottesville, VA bothered me. I'm troubled that it didn't bother me more.
I wish I wasn't tempted to turn the channel and look away. I wish I wasn't tempted to selfishly think this is someone else's problem to solve.
Before I am quick to judge President Trump's response, I should think twice and slowly reflect on my own.
If the twelve men who walked daily with and in the closest proximity to the Son of God had room to grow in each of these three areas, I’m pretty sure you and I should take another prayerful look inside our hearts.
Not that we could or should self-diagnose any of these conditions, but we can invite the Holy Spirit to search us and cleanse us.
Search me, God, and know my heart;test me and know my anxious thoughts.See if there is any offensive way in me,and lead me in the way everlasting. (David in Psalm 139:23-24)
I want to talk about this with influential leaders. I want to teach my children about the utter wretchedness of racism. I want God to stretch my heart and sensitize my spirit.
Let’s do more than pray for others.
Let’s make it personal.
Let’s allow God to deal with our own hearts on a new level.
Let’s not think we increase in value by comparing ourselves with others.
Let’s not tolerate diversity but celebrate it.
Let’s not allow “religious racism” to creep into our stream.
Let’s not think our “group” is the only group doing things the right way.
Let’s not allow any shred of racism to remain in the deep recesses of our hearts.
Let’s not stop at being the “mouth” of Christ with words only.
Let’s continue becoming the Hands, Feet and full Body of Christ.
Let’s be more than just voice that is heard but a presence that is felt with deeds that are seen.
My prayer is that you and I would listen to the One and Only Voice that is able to affirm our personal value. Then and only then, will be empowered to break down our divisions and start rebuilding the culture God always intended us to partner with Him to create.
Rivalry. Resistance. Racism- These three toxic heart issues that must be personally faced before they can be culturally fixed.
- Which of these areas do you see a need for more growth?
- What is your natural tendency when you are troubled by a national tragedy or cultural conflict?
- Did you ever realize that Jesus had to deal with these 3 issues in the hearts of His earliest followers?
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*photo credits: CNN.com