Tragedy. Disgrace. Evil.
These are all fitting words to describe what took place this weekend in Charlottesville. In the end, three lives were lost to the senseless violence that erupted between white nationalists and their counter-protesters.
It's important that we remember the victims' names. Heather Heyer, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M.M. Bates all died because of a poisonous, racist ideology that for too long has found fertile ground in certain pockets of American life. As a child of the 60s, it's heartbreaking that in 2017 we are still dealing with the same issues of race and prejudice that have plagued our nation for so long.
Two thoughts are critically important to express at a moment like this.
The first is that the church must lead the charge in condemning racism. Anyone who honestly reads the Scriptures will be instantly confronted by just how little Jesus seemed to care about things like race, gender or income. Instead, he looked past them and saw a person's heart.
Jesus once shocked his own disciples when He sat and spoke with the Samaritan woman at a time when Jews weren't supposed to speak to Samaritans because of their race. He spoke provocative truths to the rich elites and confronted the hypocrisy of the ruling authorities, even though he knew they would likely kill him for it. He spoke compassionately to the oppressed, healed the sick, fed the hungry, played with children and defended the unfaithful woman from public execution, all when none of these people could offer Him anything in return. He loved everyone.
His followers came to realize the same. In Acts 10, the Apostle Peter said: "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him." And perhaps the most famous verse on the subject comes from Galatians 3: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
As Christians, our community has moved quickly and spoken boldly to denounce all forms of racism, prejudice and hate but we must continue to do so and raise our voices even more loudly. Jesus, who we follow, taught us to love all people, regardless of any earthly difference, and so, it is our great honor to do the same.
The second critical idea is about hope, and just how desperately we all need an infusion of it right about now.
You see, it's easy to feel like Charlottesville is just another tragedy in a long line of bad news, divisive news, and depressing news. The truth is it's nearly impossible to find an upside in what happened this weekend.
But as a Christian, I believe Jesus came to earth on a rescue mission. Why? Because the world we inhabit is broken and needs redemption – and he's inviting all of us to be a part of the solution.
No person, political leader, movement or cause will ever satisfy our deepest longings for joy, peace and justice. What we need instead is a national miracle to heal our political and racial divisions. That miracle, I believe, can only be found in the Gospel. It's time to come together and collectively stand up for the hope we want but can't always see; for a unity that goes beyond our skin color and looks at the heart – just as Jesus taught us – especially on weeks like this one.
This Friday marks the beginning of a three-day event at Angel Stadium called SoCal Harvest 2017. We've been hosting this free event for 27 years right here in Southern California, but this year many of us will be thinking and praying a lot about Charlottesville and all that it means for our nation. More than 100,000 people from all walks of life, ethnicities, income levels and backgrounds will show up to hear a life-changing message of hope, that I believe, is the miracle our country needs.
My prayer is that God helps heal our nation through our time together over the next few days. Wherever you come from, whatever your age, gender, race or background, I hope you'll consider joining us too.