You can make all sorts of arguments about whether or not the world is getting worse. When you look back at events like the Holocaust and periods of history like slavery and segregation you could make the case that we are not more violent and worse off than in the past. And then, Charlottesville. It’s tragic and shameful. It’s almost hard to believe it really happens. Almost. Except, it happens every day. This might be the worst we’ve seen, but every day people would rather take for themselves than give to someone else. People chose to fear the other and decide that a message of hate is going to save them.
First, may we all condemn white supremacy and the events from Saturday. Secondly, let’s admit that violence and hatred and suppression happens every day. It happens in big huge giant ways and in the smallest of small ways. It happens every time there is an incident of domestic violence. It happens every time we refuse to condemn amisogynistic statement or a racist joke. It happens every time we tolerate a gender pay gap and a minimum wage that leaves families below the poverty line. It happens every time we give in to the fear that someone will come and take away the life we have ‘built’ or our security. In both big and small ways we are guilty of putting our own well being above all else and deciding that someone else’s life matters less than our own.
What then, must we do?
Open our mouths. Dare to say something when your friend, your neighbor, your fellow church member or even someone in your family privately or publicly says something that is oppressive, racist, supports gender bias or invites hatred. We must say something. It won’t be easy, it probably won’t be popular, but it will be right. But it must go beyond just our voices. If we really want to be agents of change in our society we can’t just use our voices but must embody justice, equality and peace with our whole selves.
For those in my tribe called Christian and especially Nazarene, it means putting your money where your mouth is and then making sure your hands and feet follow your money. That’s right. It’s not enough just to send your money to the after school program or the food pantry or the non-profit. Giving your money is necessary and sacrificial but not necessarily transformational. To be transformed means you take an afternoon off from the comfort of your office where you are paid more than you probably ever need and find yourself sitting next to a child that looks remarkably different than your own and help them learn to read or finish their homework. To be transformed means to bring your kids with you to serve a meal to someone for whom life has not given many opportunities and forge a friendship. Not only will it transform you but your kids will grow to understand they aren’t the only people who matter. Transformation is to remove the “us” and “them,” to eliminate the fear of someone who believes differently or looks differently or behaves differently than you.
Today, if you find yourself saying “I haven’t done anything terrible” think about those first 4 words. Have you done anything at all? Be generous. With your time, your money, your life. Put the needs of someone else above your own. Condemn anything that represents hate of the other, fear of those who look differently than you or closing doors and windows to the poor, the widow and the orphan. Instead, may our lives reflect a God who would rather arm his people with food, with health and with life than with weapons. A God who looked beyond gender, race, age or anything else when He came to offer healing and hope.