What Really Happened In Charlottesville, Virginia?

Last weekend, while Alan and I were strolling beaches and climbing sand dunes along Lake Michigan, a firestorm was enveloping Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia. What started out as a protest against the removal of  the 100-year-old Robert E. Lee statue ended up as a brawl between two groups of extremists. Among the protesters were white supremacists, neo-Nazis, outlaw bikers, and KKK members (to name a few of the most egregious and radical). Among the counter protesters were Antifa, Revolutionary Communist Party, Redneck Revolt, and the Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council (again, naming a few of the most egregious and radical to my way of thinking). Do you identify with either of these groups? I do not.

Who told the police to “stand down” and let it happen? I guess we won’t know until the report comes out on September 6th. But, who failed to stop the brawl isn’t the biggest question. The biggest question is: “Who’s Causing the Trouble?”

It looks to me like angry fringe groups at both ends of the spectrum are causing the trouble. This isn’t a liberal vs conservative or democrat vs republican issue; this is an issue of two conglomerations of extremists who are restless and angry. However, it looks to me like the media is having a hay day trying to turn it into a smear campaign against conservatives and Trump. Come on, Americans. We need to pull together to stabilize our nation. This should be about good vs evil, not Trump vs the liberal press!

The right for a peaceful protest is a privilege of democracies. I’ve seen men on soapboxes at the corner of Kensington Park in London speaking their minds, and I’ve walked like a salmon swimming upstream beside a massive (and scary) protest in Lisbon, Portugal. People disagree with each other the world around, and much as I disapprove of what they believe sometimes, I am thankful to live in a country where people are allowed to express their opinions.On the other hand, the more I studied the Charlottesville tragedy, the more I’ve become convinced that it isn’t just differing opinions that cause problems. Violence commences when people stop obeying the laws of civil behavior and start taking matters into their own hands, which is completely against the clear teachings of the Bible. Jesus taught that we should “turn the other cheek,” not punch people in the face. In the events last weekend, there were two groups of extremists who became so angry and agitated that they stopped obeying the laws of our country (and God). Having a 20-year-0ld student kill one woman and injure 19 more is indefensible no matter how angry he might be.

Criminals need to be prosecuted. Laws need to be respected. If we’re going to be a country that provides “liberty and justice for all,” then that includes everybody…on both sides. Racism is heinous to me. To hate anyone based on their color or ethnic background is really just hating God, because He made us each the beautifully unique creation that we are, whether we’re from Syria or Israel or Germany or the heart of Africa. But, I don’t think we should kill racists. Do you? Aren’t we supposed to “overcome evil with good”?

Wake up, America! God calls us to love everyone, not just those we find attractive and with whom we agree. In the parable about the good Samaritan, Jesus pointed out that “our neighbor” (whom we are to love) is anyone with whom we come in contact who needs rescue. It’s easy to be critical of failure; it’s really hard to love. Can we choose love over hatred and try to be a part of the rescuers rather than armchair critics?

25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?

27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.

33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,

34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. (Luke 10:25-37)

 

Take Hold and Help the Homeless

Preparing lunchesDo you have people looking for handouts on the street corners in your town? Ten years ago, I would have said, “Not in my neighborhood,” but recently we’ve had people with signs posted near our grocery store. While visiting in Singapore, I learned that they have an unemployment rate of less than 3%, and the guide thought it was because “vagrancy” is considered a crime punishable by a public beating with a bamboo pole! While this seems very severe, the Bible does suggest that people who are unwilling to work should not be allowed to eat (i.e., no handouts for lazy bums, 2 Thessalonians 3:10). However, I have a friend who is a missionary in France and routinely gives alms to the poor, believing that if the poor could do better, they would. In fact, there’s an extremely high statistical correlation between homelessness and chronic mental illness, particularly if it’s co-occuring with substance abuse and/or chronic physical illness. So, what can we do as ordinary citizens? I’d been pondering what to do for the folks who stand on the corner near my grocery store, and an answer came to me Saturday as a result of spending the day helping out at an inner city ministry. A group of about 20 young adults gathered to prepare good lunches and toiletry bags that included handwritten notes of encouragement and scripture verses, and then we went out in small groups to distribute the food as gifts from Jesus, inviting folks to visit Take Hold Church (a daughter ministry from our church) just around the block on the main thoroughfare of our city in “Heartside,” the poorest area of town. Although it was a little intimidating, no one was hurt, and almost everybody was polite and appreciative. In fact, they practically flocked to us once they knew what we were doing!  Daffodil in vase As I returned home, reflecting on the experience, I saw a daffodil that had been uprooted while Alan and Stephen were raking leaves. It was all wilted and lying in the driveway. I love flowers, and so I picked it up and stuck it in the vase on our kitchen table. This morning, the daffodil looked totally revived and as beautiful as any in the gardens that hadn’t been uprooted. I’m going to pack a lunch before I shop, and if someone is looking for a handout, I’ll give them my lunch and a gospel tract. Money can be mis-spent, but food is a gift you know is good, and perhaps mine will help revive a soul that’s been uprooted and is lying all wilted beside the road of life.

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8).

Spring Daffodils copy(P.S.—This afternoon I got so inspired that I went out and found all the daffodils that had fallen over along our driveway. Hopefully, I’ll be as outreaching to people, who are worth infinitely more than flowers!)