The past weekend in Charlottesville has become a mirror of the deep hate that is in the United States. It has forced all of us to check our prejudices, our supremacist views, our racism, and the foundation of all of these sins—our hate.
The white supremacists, the neo-Nazis, and the KKK are hate groups. Their trinity of thinking is frightening. They think that they are better than the rest of humanity, they think that they are surrounded by enemies who will take what is theirs, and they think that it necessary to hate and destroy those enemies. I remember a student came to me after I lectured on the future of Christianity in the United States and shared that his grandfather was a preacher in the South. One evening, the KKK came and torched their church. As his grandfather came out of his house to watch the burning church, the hood of one of the KKK members fell. It was one of the leading deacons in a nearby churches. Just that morning, all Christians had the Lord’s Supper and that very evening a deacon who distributed the Lord’s Supper burned another believer’s church.
As I was watching TV and listening to various commentators, I wondered what Martin Luther King Jr or Mahatma Gandhi would do. From Martin Luther King Jr’s study of the Bible and Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent approaches, he concluded that he had to prepare his marchers in hymns and prayers so that they would not hate. From the littlest children to the people who led the marching groups, they had to search their hearts so that they would not hate their oppressors. Going into anything with hate in one’s heart is not a solution.
That is where the demands of Christianity come to the forefront and they are extremely difficult. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said: Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be the sons of your Father in heaven.” When we watch the TV clips, it is easy to choose sides. Some people love the KKK and some people love those who gathered against them. As they hit one another for their just cause, you can see hate in the eyes of people in both groups. As that man drove his car through the crowd, his whole being was filled with hate and he wanted to destroy as many people as he could. (One can say that this was indeed a page from ISIS – if one dies, they should kill as many people as possible.)
The church in Rome experienced similar things like we are experiencing today in our society; they were considered enemies of the Roman Empire because they did not worship the emperor or any of his idols. Apostle Paul writes, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. In protesting it is so easily to be overcome by the evil passions of those whom we consider the enemies, or the evil ones.” And to the supremacists, Paul would write, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition nor vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”
As I watched the news, I had a difficult time praying. Yet, that is what Jesus would have us do and he began his passion on the cross by praying, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” In the cross, in his love for humanity, Jesus reconciled the enemies – enemies with one another and enemies with God.