Reflections on Charlottesville
by Pastor Matt Erickson, delivered in services at Eastbrook Church on Saturday, August 19 and Sunday, August 20, 2017
This past week has been a distressing time in our nation as we continue to reflect on the events that transpired in Charlottesville, Virginia. As a multiethnic church, we cannot let this moment go by without addressing it clearly and intentionally choosing a different pathway rooted in the good news of Jesus Christ.
Let me start by making a few observations about race. The Scripture clearly tells us that God made all human beings in his image (Genesis 1:27-28). In Acts 17, the Apostle Paul addresses the Athenian Areopagus in a culture where refined Greeks saw themselves as a much better than the barbarian cultures around them. Into that context Paul said, “from one man he [God] made all the nations” (Acts 17:26a). From this we see an inherent unity amongst all human beings that reveals God intentions for all ethnic groups and people groups, regardless of humanity’s tendency to divide.
Further, through the Bible and ultimately in the life and ministry of Jesus the Messiah we see God’s goal of bringing blessing upon all the peoples of the earth. God desires to bring all the nations together into his new kingdom and new people, called the church. Jesus himself told his disciples, “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18). This is at the heart of the gospel and is also at the heart of our life together as a church here at Eastbrook. The Apostle Paul writes to an early church in Corinth, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19). We will always aim to reflect that reality in the way we live, not because it is an eccentricity of our specific church but because it is actually at the heart of God’s intention and essential to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
There have been many times in history, including in our present moment, where movements have arisen bringing division, prejudice, bigotry, and hatred toward others based on their ethnicity or some other characteristic. This flies in the face both of God’s creation intention and his gospel aims in Jesus Christ. In fact, the evil one loves how our country is divided, using events like those in Charlottesville to play right into his agenda. Although God hates evil, hatred toward others is always antithetical to the ways of God and we condemn it as evil. There can be no equivocating or ignoring that reality for those who call themselves followers of Jesus Christ. The message of the unconditional love of God in Christ is at the center of the gospel message and we choose to affirm that as Eastbrook Church.
Likewise, there are times when the church has held back from naming evil as evil, aligning itself more with an ideology than with the Gospel. The most basic Christian declaration “Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 8:6). This declaration affirms that reality we encounter throughout the New Testament that our primary citizenship in Jesus Christ is to a heavenly kingdom (Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 13:14). We will always “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which [God] has carried” (Jeremiah 29:7), yet we will always do that in obedience to God’s truth and under God’s lordship.
As a church we must stand together in the plans of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As a diverse church – people from many different backgrounds, ethnicities, social situations, economic situations, and, yes, political persuasions – we must stand united so that we can display to a divided world the grace and truth of Jesus Christ. There is no other way we can achieve that sort of unity but through Jesus Christ our Lord, and we commit to stand in that unity together for the sake of God’s kingdom, for the good of one another, and for the sake of God’s righteousness and justice flowing into the land in which he has called us.
As a sign of that unity, I’d like to ask you to get into action with me today. I’d like to ask you to stand up and grasp hands with those next to you, even stretching across the aisles, that we might pray together in unity for God’s kingdom to come and his will to be done here on earth as it is done in heaven. Now let’s make this live out in the streets where we live.