Praying for Charlottesville

Dear Citylife,

Although we cannot adequately respond to every event that is happening around our country, I was compelled to write a letter on behalf of the session and pastoral staff in response to what transpired in Charlottesville this past weekend.  I am sure that all of you were extremely troubled and disturbed not only as citizens but also as Christians to see the evil actions of racism fueled by white supremacy.  Although many people are in the process of making sense of what is going on, I wanted to clearly state that this is not a political problem but a moral one.  While it is easy to blame the political left or the right, I urge you not to do so.  We need to call out this alt-right nationalistic movement for what it is and to condemn it.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is antithetical to this sort of racist movement.  As a church, we need to repudiate all forms of racism, bigotry, violence, and terrorism.

We as Christians should engage in righteous anger against any form of white supremacy, and “we should speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute” (Prov 31:8).  This also applies to the rights of the unborn and all marginalized groups of people who often times don’t have a voice.  So we want to stand with racial minorities who are being oppressed and to condemn neo-nazi groups who consider themselves superior simply because of their race.  “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth” (Jer 9:23-24).

There is a profound scene in Mark 11 where Jesus got really angry where he took up a whip and drove out a group of people from the temple.  Jesus harshly rebuked the religious leaders by saying that “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations” (v. 17).  Those who were preventing Gentiles from entering into the temple were rejecting God’s desire to congregate a multiethnic and multinational group from every tribe, tongue, and nation who were being invited to worship him.

Why is this important for us now?  My friend Russell Moore had these thoughtful insights which I would like to share with you:  “White supremacy claims to do what they are doing in the name of Jesus Christ…[However,] they speak of white European cultural domination and NOT of Christianity.  Ethnic nationalism is not just a deviant social movement but it is idolatry of the flesh… This sort of racial superiority ought to matter to every Christian, regardless of national, ethnic or racial background.  After all, we are not our own but are part of a church that is made up of all nations, ethnicities, united not by blood but by the shed blood and body of Jesus Christ…White supremacy angers Jesus and it should anger the church.”

So what can we practically do together? Let’s begin with prayer and ask God to bring the seemingly impossible changes to our society that he alone can bring. Remember that God changed Saul, a religious terrorist before his conversion, to change the world with the gospel of grace. Below is a winsome prayer written by Mike Tilley that I’d like for us to pray together. Wherever you are reading this, take a moment to direct your hearts to God with the words below. I’ll conclude with a few practical things we can do in addition to praying as we seek to love mercy, do justly, and walk humbly together with our God (Micah 6:8). Let’s pray:

“God of steadfast love, would you show your steadfast love to those who live in fear today.  In love, we mourn with those who suffered loss in Charlottesville.  We praise you for the saving love shown to us in Christ.  God of justice, would you exercise your justice in the restraint and punishment of evil.  We pray for those whose hearts are captive to the spiritual bondage of racial superiority.  Would you set them free through the power of the gospel.  God of righteousness, we know that our only hope of righteousness is in Christ.  As your church, grant us grace to seek first your kingdom and your righteousness in our hearts, in our city, and in the world and not some political agenda.  You are the Lord who delights in these things.  We believe that these things can be through the gospel.  And we believe that they will be, when, through the gospel, you renew all things”. In Jesus’ name we pray together, amen.

Again, as important as prayer is, let’s not stop there. In addition to praying daily for Charlottesville, our city, and our nation, I want to encourage us all to do two things together as a church community. First, speak truth in loveuse your voices to work for racial reconciliation and for the dignity of all God’s image bearers where God has placed you. Let’s not be silent in the face of injustice. Secondly, act in accord with the truth of the gospel: this week, intentionally reach out to a neighbor that is different from you to form a bond of friendship. May our prayers, language, and actions glorify our gracious God and work for the good of all our neighbors.

Together in Christ,

Pastor Um