The Things My Church Taught Me about Charlottesville

If you have been following my writing at all, you know that I attend a multi-cultural church in Grand Rapids. It’s called Madison Square Church because 103 years ago when it was founded, the area was already known as, you guessed it, Madison Square.

We had a prayer service tonight and it was open to not only people from our three campuses but the neighborhood and other churches as well. The goal was to gather Christians in Grand Rapids for a time to pray and work through what happened, what it means and what do we do now.

I’d say that it was a resounding success on those fronts. Did it solve Charlottesville’s problems? Not by a long shot.

But I learned a number of things tonight about Charlottesville, about the church and about the future. In random order……
1. While many people don’t want to admit it, the “open” atmosphere that the political scene has brought has given many “fringe” white people the perceived “okay” to bring out their anger. Does that mean there is more racism now than there was 10 years ago? Not necessarily, but it means that there are more people who feel it is okay to be hateful towards “those” people in open and threatening manners than there were 10 to 15 to 20 years ago. (More on that later)

2. That anger is sin and like all types of sin, the sin of racism pervades our entire world. One of the preachers tonight had ICE make a raid on his house with the perceived intention being to send him “back” to wherever “there” was. He’s a US citizen, so while it shook him, it didn’t impact him like it has others.

3. In some areas, the sin of racism is overt (like Charlottesville this weekend) and in others (like Grand Rapids most of the time) it is more covert and hard to see, but it’s still there.

4. Prayer is good. Prayer is important. But prayer is not enough.

5. God calls us to do more. To do more than pray. He wants us to pray. He wants to hear from us. But sitting at home in our nice comfortable homes while the world is burning around us is not acceptable to Him.

6. Some churches are more in tuned to the type of service that God is calling for in today’s environment. Some are very comfortable and are more comfortable to “just pray” about the ugly things in this world. Others are much closer to the “let’s get dirty and help other.” Some are already knee deep in the dirt that comes from God’s call to serve the “least of these” whether they are in Grand Rapids, Los Angeles, Iraq or Charlottesville.

7. Especially in situations like this and with “wake up calls” like this, God’s people are not serving the least as much as they should. You remember reading about the Last Supper on the night Jesus was betrayed? What did Jesus do? He washed all of his disciples feet.

He washed All of his disciples FEET. That means he washed the tops, the bottoms and all of the really smelly and infected and dirty parts.

He washed All of his Disciples feet. 12 sets of feet. Jesus knew that time was running very short until Judas was going to betray him. But he still washed Judas’ feet too.

God isn’t only asking us to care for the wealthy highly educated immigrants, He wants us to take care of those who live in refugee camps and don’t have anything, quite literally.

8. Does God say it’s going to be easy? Not a chance. But God says it’s right. God says in many places in the Bible that it is a mandate for His people to love our neighbors – even if our neighbors are different than we are.

I said earlier that I would get back to the open atmosphere that many are believing the political atmosphere and the campaigns and tweets and the like have paved the way for many angry fringe white people to feel like they can finally stand up and speak their twisted, warped viewpoints. Personally, I think a pretty strong case can be made for that view.

There is an author and pastor who I have quoted before by the name of John Pavlovitz. He wrote a piece on his blog where essentially he says to those who voted for Trump, “I believe you when you say you voted for Trump because of his business sense.” “I believe you when you say you voted for Trump because he’s a Washington Outsider.” “I believe you when you say you voted for Trump because he is going to drain the swamp and clean up Washington.”

I don’t believe that you voted for Trump because he says _______ about women and he does __________ and he believes it is okay to ____________ and he chose avowed racists for his advisors. So, unless you want me to believe you support those choices, stand up against those things. Stand up against his racist choices, stand up against the way he treats women……..

Then I will truly believe that is not why you voted for Trump.

I don’t have a copy of it with me, so google him and look it up. It raises a lot of questions about the people who voted for our current president and why they did.

But tonight, I learned that we need to pray for those who are our leaders, even if we don’t like what or how they lead. I knew it but it’s good to be reminded.

May we all go out and help our neighbors more, be more open to those who don’t look like us and serve others and shine God’s love where it’s currently dark.

That’s what my church taught me tonight.

Thank you, Brad, Erik, Joy, Darrell, Susie, Dave, Ricardo, Jermale, Laura, Attah – and I’m sure there were many more. You blessed us again tonight…..


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