CONFRONTING RACISM IN AMERICA

The horrific image is seared into our national conscience – a black man dying under the knee of a white police officer. Legitimate protests in cities around our country have, sadly at times, devolved into chaos and mayhem, threatening to obscure the original crime. As pastors, we should use our prophetic voices to speak out against racism just as we often speak out against other moral issues facing our nation. I have watched, read, and listened, seeking to hear with my heart and not just my head. I am but one little voice in a sea of sound reminding us all of important biblical truths during this time of upheaval. My heart goes out to African Americans who too often suffer the wrongs done to them under the authority of government.

“Let love be without hypocrisy; abhorring what is evil, clinging to what is good” (Romans 12:9).

HATING THE EVIL

Paul uses two participles to describe what it means to love without hypocrisy. Shockingly, hate is the first act of love. To love without hypocrisy means to hate what is evil – to hate what God hates is to love as God loves. We are to abhor evil. An inner revulsion should erupt in our souls as Christians when we see evil. We should experience a visceral reaction in our guts to the evil we see with our eyes. Racism is evil. Police brutality is evil. Murder is evil.

Derek Chauvin nonchalantly kneeling on the neck of George Floyd for over eight minutes until he gasped his last breath is evil. We should hate it. Three other officers watching what happened without lifting a hand to help Floyd is evil. I, like most of you, was revolted by these images. African American mothers and fathers have felt compelled to teach their children to fear police authority and white vigilantes for far too long in our country. This should not be. We must call out racism as evil and stand with those who suffer under this evil.

Looting, pillaging, burning buildings, and rioting are also evil. We should hate these evils too. There is no reason that we cannot look at both and call them evil. Those who co-opt the lawful protest of an evil for their own evil ends are evil. George Floyd’s family has cried out for protesters not to use his memory for evil ends. They want people to protest passionately but peacefully. A visceral revulsion should well up in us when we see rioters destroying cities and attacking police officers. The first act of genuine love is to hate evil in our world.

JOINING THE GOOD

The second act of love is to cling to what is good. The word means to join with someone or something. We join ourselves to the Lord so that we are one in spirit with Him (1 Cor. 6:17). The word was also used for a man to be joined as one with a wife (Mt. 19:5). It meant to associate jointly with a person or a cause. Sheriff Chris Swanson in Flint, Michigan, faced the protesters and asked, “We’re mad too. What can we do?” The protesters said, “Walk with us.” So, he did. He joined the peaceful march. Police officers have taken a knee to demonstrate their agreement with lawful protesters around the country, even though they must arrest others who commit crimes. They are associating themselves with good. We should applaud them as they uphold the law by clinging to what is good. We do not applaud looters, but we must support those who are hurting, those who seek justice, for this is what it means to join with what is good.

AN EVIL/GOOD ANTITHESIS

The antithesis between evil and good permeates our world because it inhabits our souls. It is not just out there. It is in us. How we respond to the battles between evil and good shows the world that we are followers of Christ who came to transform us by His grace. This evil/good antithesis shapes Paul’s thoughts in Romans 12 with twin bookends (12:9 and 12:21). Paul follows his admonition to hate what is evil and cling to what is good (Rom. 12:9) with a series of admonitions about how we should live in this evil/good world (Rom. 12:10-20). We are to bless those who persecute us, rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Never retaliate with evil for evil. No payback allowed. We don’t hit back harder when we are hit. We must not take revenge on our enemies, but we are to care for them. Paul concludes by returning to his evil/good bookend, explaining how we should live in this world (Rom. 12:21).

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). The word means to prevail over or vanquish another. These are commands. They are not options. In this evil/good world in which we live, good should guide our agendas in life. The danger is that we will be sucked into the evil we hate. It is so easy to slip into vengeance as we can see with the pillaging protesters. We can even make vengeance masquerade as justice, like the response of some in positions of power. Evil conquers us when we respond with evil. Evil wins when we try to overcome one evil with another evil. Retaliation and payback are not justice. Seeking justice, not vengeance, for wrongs that are done is good. God calls us to do good because that is the way to defeat evil in this world.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8)?