Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Racism? Yes. The Answer is Love (a former Nazi story)

Here's a Facebook post I recently shared regarding the recent events in Charlottesville:

"White nationalism is militarized ignorance that speaks neither for the South or for Christianity (for sure). It is a gross perversion of the core tenets of the Gospel and in a cultural sense, what it means to be American. Horrible. #prayforcharlottesville#charlottesville"

While I most certainly stand by these words, its also easy to dismiss and denounce a white supremacist worldview. Or at least, one would think it should be so easy. Its easy enough for most people. The foundation of this worldview was so reprehensible and evil that thousands of brave men died in the fight against fascism in World War II.

To those who have gone before us, it was an easy to decision to fight such evil. And for many of us today, the decision is also an easy one.

As a nation, we are divided and have been for some time, but what is occurring is an extrapolation of the ever-growing divide in American society. Blame, anger, anxiety are dominating the day. Our nation is at a tipping point.  What is present in our hearts is what we will speak. In a very literal sense, we are the times in which we live.

If you don't like it, change it. But how to do that? Stewing in anger on Facebook is certainly not the solution, but neither is ignorance or acquiescence. 

Instead of joining in that fray, this reminds me of a story.

It was the summer of 1999, and I served with a home repair ministry called Carolina Cross Connection. Groups of teenagers and adult leaders go out into the community and help build wheelchair ramps, paint houses, perform yard work, etc. As a staff person, I would help create and oversee work projects, among many other responsibilities.

One such home (at an undisclosed town in North Carolina) was the home of Mr. Chuck.

This story is relevant to you today because Mr. Chuck was a former Grand Dragon (supreme leader) of the KKK. Our task was to rip out his carpet and put down new laminate flooring.

The difficult part would be actually finding the carpet.

Upon entering his home, its difficult to describe the squalor.  His wife had left him in 1987 and Mr. Chuck had not cleaned his home since then.  Thick layers of dust covered everything. Soda cans, cereal boxes and magazines from 1987 were left in their same positions. Its as if time stood still after his wife left him. He seemed to die that day and became a shell of a person.

His home was also covered in cigarette butts, empty beer cans, animal waste, rotten food and trash, and at least two dogs and three cats that never went outside.  For 12 years he lived in the darkness of covered windows and absolute filth. TWELVE YEARS in his own self-imposed prison. Nazi paraphernalia was scattered about as well.  He was to this day the most depressed and destitute person I have ever encountered.

God had brought our group to this man. He was about as unloveable of a person as you can imagine and he lived in the most unloveable of places. His immediate environment bore the fruit of his worldview and he was reaping the rewards. It would have been easy to walk away, a task about as easy as denouncing his false worldview.

However, grace is the great equalizer. God's forgiveness nullifies our past and empowers us to show others that same grace. God's grace is the hope of the world. 

A group of brave teenagers put on work gloves and masks and began the grievous work of cleaning his home. As the work continued, you began to see a lightness return to Mr. Chuck. He began to speak and share with us. He was thankful for our help. Light shone into his home for the first time in 12 years, and it took a group of teenagers to help make that happen.

Did Mr. Chuck hit his knees and repent for his evil worldview and past sins? Not that I'm aware of, but his response or lack thereof wasn't why we were there. Jesus tells us to forgive our enemies seventy time seven and to not only give to those who ask, but give beyond what they ask. Be faithful in the giving and trust God for the results.

You cannot argue anyone into believing anything, but you can love them. We can debate ideas, but we don't have to debate people. God's love can circumvent the defenses of the human heart and bring down walls that seemed to be impenetrable.

We don't get to pick and choose our enemies, and we also don't get to pick and choose who we're commanded to love.  

I like to think that after that day, Mr. Chuck was a changed person. Through our actions, we showed him real, unconditional love, maybe for the first time in his whole life.  When light shines, it will show the darkness for what it is.

As Christians, we are saved by a man who died loving his enemies. 

Let's not forget that.

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