Conventional wisdom says, “Trust your gut… your first instinct is usually right.”
Not this week. Not with the news coming out of Charlottesville, VA.
You’ve seen the images, I’m sure. Protesters with tiki torches. Counterprotesters with candles lit. Screaming, yelling, fighting. A heinous act of domestic terrorism that killed one person and injured many more. A governor declaring a state of emergency. A president’s initial equivalency on the violence, followed by a delayed condemnation of some hate groups in particular.
You’ve seen the images. You haven’t seen my Facebook feed.
But I imagine yours was similar. Many friends and family members were speaking out on the issue in general, but I also saw several comments aimed directly at the Church:
“If your church says nothing about this, you need to find another church,” was the gist of most comments, with a counterpoint occasionally saying in so many words, “If your church says nothing about this, you should stay because you are in a mission field.”
My gut instinct is to pick a side and join in the screaming, yelling and fighting. My gut instinct is to hate the people with torches and lay blame at the feet of political leaders. My gut instinct is to sigh, throw up my hands and say, “How long, Lord?!”
Then a friend of mine asked a question that gave me pause: “How should we respond to a group of people who feel marginalized, feel deep hurt, and are expressing their frustrations negatively?”
My friend was asking about the protestors, the ones affiliated with hate groups and spewing bigotry.
And my friend is Hispanic.
I was convicted by his question, because my gut instinct wasn’t even close to asking the same question. “How should we respond?” I thought. “You mean my hate toward the hate groups and my resignation about the whole mess aren’t sufficient?”
This question from my friend reminded me again that Jesus isn’t about conventional wisdom, and if I’m not tuned into the Holy Spirit’s leading, empathy and compassion will not be my first, gut instinct.
What about you? As you heard the reports and saw the images, did you pray for those with hoods and tiki torches? When you learned of the death of Heather Heyer, did you pray for the driver, James Alex Fields, Jr.? Because those people with hoods and tiki torches are not the enemy. James Alex Fields, Jr. is not the enemy. The “alt-right” is not the enemy. Donald Trump is not the enemy.
The enemy is Satan. He is a great deceiver, and people spewing hate and bigotry are deceived.
So what should the Church do?
Speak out against bigotry and hatred, for sure. The brazen racism that turned violent in Charlottesville, VA, was disgraceful. A statement from the leadership on the main stage should be a given, but maybe your church leaders don’t say something because they think it’s a given. Let them know you need that statement.
I would also recommend a congregational self-evaluation. Is your model of ministry and growth having unintentionally divisive racial consequences in your community? Here are a couple of recommended resources to get you thinking:
In addition to saying something, pray something. Pray for the truth of God to penetrate the hearts of those who are hurt, marginalized, and frustrated. While the images on the screen suggest they are to be feared, remember that they are, in fact, afraid. They are broken. And they are wounded. And wounded people wound people. So pray for them. They need Jesus.
And then ask God to show you what you can do to help answer your prayers for them. They need people who will love them, hear them and show them compassion. Ask Him to give you opportunities for relationship so that you can be a conduit of reconciliation.
If that sounds scary, remember that perfect love drives out fear.
Since those who are in Christ have nothing to fear, let’s act like it.
About Travis Hurley
Travis Hurley is the director of the Dream of Destiny Initiative, because he is convinced that visible unity – unity that the world can see crossing ethnic, socioeconomic, generational and denominational lines – is a powerful testimony of the power of the Gospel of Jesus to reconcile people to Him and to each other.
A graduate of Ozark Christian College and Cincinnati Christian University, Travis has been working in multi-ethnic ministry for over 15 years. He is a doctoral candidate at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, pursuing a D.Min in multi-ethnic leadership, while continuing to teach and consult on issues of unity and diversity in the body of Christ.
Travis and his wife Dena have been married for over 20 years. They have four children, two sons-in-law, and two grandkids.
For more information, or to have Travis come speak, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.