The news and images coming out of Charlottesville, Virginia are troubling, to say the least. It’s Monday and many of us are now back to work, discussing these events with our coworkers or at home trying to explain them to our children. For a brief rundown of what happened on Saturday, see Joe Carter’s post on The Gospel Coalition.
It seems almost insane to think that all this is happening in 21st Century America. As much as we in the United States may try to hide the skeletons in our closet, we’ll never be rid of the stench of systemic racism. After all, slavery and Jim Crow are not simply scars which hide just south of the Mason-Dixon line; they are a scourge which forever impacts our nation.
Many things went through my mind over the weekend. I don’t particularly care which side of political spectrum any of my readers might fall. I respond as pastor and as a Christ-following Christian who confesses the perfect life of Jesus Christ, His death on the cross in the place of sinners, His resurrection from the grave, and the necessity of repentance and trust as our natural response. These realities mark how I reflect on the events in Charlottesville, and it is through the message of the Gospel that I appeal to you.
As Christians, we believe that all people are created in the image of God but have sinned against Him and therefore stand in His judgment. But God, in His mercy and grace, sent His Son, Jesus, to die on a cross to take our place. Jesus substituted himself for us, and through His death we are reconciled to God. Not only does His finished work reconcile us to God, but it also reconciles people from different ethnic groups and backgrounds to one another.
Ephesians 2:14–16 says, “For He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”
To my knowledge there were no burning crosses in Charlottesville this weekend. However, these white nationalist demonstrators are the ideological children of those who cowardly wore white hoods and marched around a burning cross not long ago. The reality of the Gospel is that our cross is not burning, but that it’s bleeding. The bloody cross of Christ is where God and man meet and where we become one with our brothers and sisters from all backgrounds. Hostility between people dies in the death of Christ.
There’s no room for a burning cross in the throne room of heaven, nor in our churches, nor in our living rooms, nor in our hearts. The Devil himself will lead the march around a burning cross in the only place there’s room, and that place is the very front yard of hell. We Christians must be blood-washed clear that the Christ of the Gospel is fundamentally opposed to any hint of racial superiority. Have we not learned from history? As Albert Mohler reminds us, the ideology of racial supremacy has had devastating effects all over the world.
Fellow believer, whether you’re at the water cooler with your coworkers or at the kitchen table with your kids, tell them the Gospel! Tell them that Christ came to reconcile us to God and to unite a new people from every background to be part of His family. We don’t believe white supremacy to be wrong simply because it’s mean; we believe white supremacy to be wrong because it is in harsh opposition to the Gospel.
A bloody cross and a burning cross cannot stand together. A bloody cross saves, but a burning cross damns.
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Zac Hess joined the pastoral staff in 2013 after serving as an intern during his seminary studies. He grew up on a farm in Ashland, OH and later met his wife, Sarah, who grew up as part of Grace Polaris Church. Zac pursued biblical studies at both Grace College and Grace Theological Seminary. He loves sports, the outdoors, reading, and a good cup of coffee. Zac and Sarah are the proud parents of Jacob and Caroline.