Sadly, we have been down this road before. Whenever a pandemic has arisen, so, too, has hatred and violence against “those people;” scapegoats unfairly blamed for the plague. In the Middle Ages, the Black Death was blamed on “the Jews.” The spread of syphilis in Renaissance Europe was blamed on “the French.” In the past year, anger regarding Covid-19, which was given the racist nickname the “China Virus,” translated into hate crimes against Asian-Americans.
Sadly, we have been down this road before. When Sam was little, he loved Super China Buffet so much that as a preschooler he would say, “Let’s go to ‘Chinese Chicken’ – blending the restaurant name with his favorite dish there. I was always glad to take him, but I was always sad, too, because I always saw the big, ugly swastika carved on the inside of the men’s room door.
My attitude about hate has always been: There but for the grace of God go I. If I had been born in a different family; if I had not had the education I was privileged to receive, then I might be someone filled for hate for Asian-Americans, African-Americans, Hispanics, women, gays, immigrants, anyone else different than me.
The ethic of “hate the sin/love the sinner” seems correct when considering the Atlanta killings. Clearly, the murderer was disturbed mentally. But his racism and sexism didn’t come out of thin air. There are sources of those hatreds, which God calls us not only to reject, but also to root out. Here are some ways you can do that:
One of the main ways racism and all the other “ism”s exist and spread is through “jokes.” Now, no one tells me those jokes because I am a pastor. But you have friends who do tell them to you. When that happens, do the right thing and tell your friend that hate masquerading as humor is never funny. Humor is the camouflage the evil one uses to make hate okay. Challenging a friend is hard, but if you’re really a good friend, you’ll do it.
The same goes for older friends and relatives. When they say something that is clearly hateful, it often gets excused by saying, “Well, you know John. He’s really old, and that’s just the way he grew up.” As someone who is older, I can tell you that you do no one any favors when you treat them that way. Considering “old” people too fragile to be confronted in love as an adult is demeaning. So, be honest with them and give them the chance to change, which we all can do no matter how old we are.
Racial prejudice once was based on eugenics; on a “scientific” hierarchy of races. But that has been debunked as pure myth. Scripture has been twisted to demean “the other.” But on page one the Bible tells us: God created us in God’s own image. Everyone. No exceptions. The New Testament is even blunter: “Anyone who says they love God and hates their neighbor is a liar (1stJohn 4:20).” A heart filled with love for God has no room for hate. Period.
We are to make that love real in our relationships and our communities. Justice is what love looks like the public square: Treating others the way you want to be treated. Making sure that everyone is respected, treated fairly, and valued equally – that is what love does and that is what justice is.
We have structures in the way things are that make life easier for some and harder for others. Because I am white and male, I automatically benefit from much of the way the world has been set up. I get more money for the same work; I get better schooling; I get better health care; I get purer drinking water; I get my Covid vaccination sooner; and I get to live longer. I get all those things because of who I am. Others don’t get those things because of who they are not.
We who belong to Christ can do better than that. We are called not to privilege, but to service. Jesus commands us to love everyone as he loves us all (John 13:34). That is the abundant life that Jesus came to give us: A life of love that saves us not only when we get to heaven, but in how we live with God and one another right now. We are to make that love real so that everyone has a full, equal, and grace-filled opportunity to become who God created them to be and to live the life God has given them to the full.
No nation is better positioned to fulfill God’s vision for how this world should be than America. We are all immigrants. As Martin Luther King said, “We all came here on different ships, but we are in the same boat now.” If Jesus truly is our Captain, then let us follow the course he has set. No more hate; no more demonizing; no more “I’m up here; you are down there.” Because God’s dream and the Bible’s vision is this: “There is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:28).” Translation: Racial differences don’t matter. Economic differences don’t matter. Sexual differences don’t matter. The only thing that matters is how much God loves us all. So, let us thankfully receive and humbly reciprocate that saving gift by loving everyone as well.
As we do, we will form a more perfect union and God’s kingdom shall come.
In reading this, your heart may be stirred. What you’re feeling is the Holy Spirit drawing you to Christ. To begin or renew a relationship with Jesus, just pray:
“Lord, help me receive your love. I regret the wrong I’ve done. Forgive me. Jesus, I believe you are God’s Son and the Savior of the world. Be my Savior. Save me from myself. Save me for yourself. Enter my heart. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. Help me to serve you faithfully and well. Help me to love as you love. Lead me in your Way, Truth, and Life now and forever. Continue to show me who you are and who I am in you. Amen.”
Jesus says: “Behold, I make all things new.” The good news is that that definitely includes YOU!