By Evan Nesterak (White supremacists clash with police) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

To Prevent Another Charlottesville, Begin Where You Are

By Evan Nesterak (White supremacists clash with police) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I find myself still stunned following the tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend.  The first question that leapt to mind was, “When will the hatred and violence stop, O Lord?”  
The question is prophetic.  The Jewish prophets of old continually asked God for a timeline as to when evil’s reign would end. Given that this question lingers unanswered, my second question is, “Lord, what shall we say?”  What word would you offer to your people during these bitter days?  How might your church respond to the issues that divide this nation?
This morning, my thoughts were directed to Jesus’ final words in Matthew’s gospel:  Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20, GNT).  
The words, “to all peoples everywhere” caught my attention.  Jesus didn’t command the church to limit our witness to particular geographic regions or to specific races or even to those who befriend us.  “To all peoples everywhere” is language that casts aside any barrier humanity can create.

Given such understanding, how then can God’s people place constraints upon God’s mission?  Any ideology that sets limits to those we have been called to love is opposed to God’s purposes and thereby evil.  What’s more is that as disciples of Christ, we are called to go and reach out “to all peoples everywhere.”  The worst decision a church can make is to expect the rest of the world to come to us, whereas the very first word of the Great Commandment is “Go.”  Jesus insists that we meet every person wherein they work, live, and play.  The church was never intended to be The Field of Dreams:  Build it and they will come.

Furthermore, the mission of making disciples is as much an individual task as it is corporate.  Each Christian has been saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus to be sent into her (or his) own corner of the world to share Christ’s love. Perhaps, we are looking at our present societal problems all wrong.  Rather than waiting for Jesus to show up and render peace and justice to our divided world, each one of us is to take Jesus to the parts of the world that we occupy.  In other words, every vagrant person I pass while walking into Nippert Stadium grants me opportunity to offer a gesture of kindness or every customer whom I meet in the grocery line affords me an occasion to begin a friendly conversation.

There exist in this world people whose lives only you and I can impact.  Typically, those persons reside within a short radius of our homes.  At St. Paul, were each of us to reach out to just one of these persons this week, God might just double the church’s worship attendance.  “O Lord, please, may it be so.”
-Pastor David
Photo by Evan Nesterak (White supremacists clash with police) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons