Lately I’ve seen a lot of Christian friends sharing John MacArthur’s response to what happened in Charlottesville. (The video has been shared 42 thousand+ times on Facebook and viewed 30 thousand+ times on Youtube). The question MacArthur was asked was, “What is a biblical, Christ-focused response to what’s happening in Charlottesville?”
John MacArthur gave a little speech, but he did not answer the question. I was disappointed. MacArthur has helped many Christians over the years have a better understanding of the Bible, of sin, and of grace. There are some people that think in order to care about social justice, you have to throw out the Bible (or just follow the most liberal interpretations of it); however, I think a conservative reading of scripture makes us even stronger advocates for things like racial justice. Which is why I think MacArthur totally missed the point in his answer.
In his books and sermons, John MacArthur has talked about sin as a cruel tyrant that corrupts the entire soul. He has said that “grace cannot be preached to unbelievers until the law is preached and man’s corrupt nature is exposed. It is impossible for a person to fully realize his need for God’s grace until he sees how terribly he has failed the standards of God’s Law.”
It’s human instinct to avoid hearing how we’ve failed. What MacArthur is saying is if we want to receive the gift of reconciliation to God, we have to first acknowledge we need this gift. We have to first acknowledge we’ve failed. MacArthur has argued that this is difficult for many people today to handle, because our culture teaches us to preserve our own self-esteem at all costs.
Christians who have MacArthur’s view of scripture should be quick to admit sinfulness. We should be quick to admit our own brokenness. When someone comes to us and says, “You’ve wronged me,” if we have a biblical view of ourselves and the world, we should immediately say, “I’m sorry, please tell me more. How have I wronged you? What can I do to make it right?” As Christians who have our own sinfulness as a central part of our understanding of the universe, we have absolutely no grounds for defensiveness when people tell us we have wronged them. It should be no surprise to us. In our understanding of scripture, we have wronged God, we have wronged his creation, we have wronged our neighbors… heck, we believe that even as young children we’re at odds with God’s ways and are capable of hurting God and others.
What the counter-protestors in Charlottesville were saying, and what the people starting conversations about removing statues which glorify the Confederacy are saying is :
You Have Wronged Us.
Black Americans and their allies are saying, “White people, whether you are part of the outright white supremacist groups like the KKK that showed up in Charlottesville, or you’re the grandchild of someone who got a college education because of the history of red-lining in this community, or you’re just someone who unconsciously clutches her purse when a black person walks by, you’ve wronged us. You wronged us when you brought us over as slaves, and you are continuing to wrong us by not acknowledging the effects this racism has and not working to rectify it, you have wronged us by silencing our stories in the history books, you have wronged us by letting your unconscious bias affect our chances of receiving justice in your criminal justice system…. You have wronged us.”
And as white, conservative Christians, like MacArthur, our response should not be to dismiss this. Our response should not be to use the general depravity of man and the breakdown of the nuclear family as a way to shift the spotlight off of ourselves. Our response should not be denial. We cannot claim that protestors are not upset about white supremacy if they are literally saying the reason they are upset is because of white supremacy.
We, of all people, with our biblical worldview, should be listening.
We should be quick to listen here.
We should be slow to speak here.
We should be slow to get angry when people are telling us why they are angry at us.
Our response should be weeping. Our response should be shame. Our response should be a deep, deep awareness of our need for grace.
Christians talk a lot about racial reconciliation, about the need for unity. Christians complain that protests like this just stir up racial division. At times like this, we want to preach a nice sermon about how we’re all one in Christ, hold a prayer meeting, then move on.
But if Jesus were here, he would lock the church doors and tell us all not to come back until we white people had turned around and gone to speak with our black brothers and sisters who are angry at us. Jesus would say, “White people, this is your chance! Settle your differences quickly, while the door of reconciliation and forgiveness is still open. Otherwise that door will close, and you won’t be free until you’ve paid every last penny.”
I can understand why people who don’t know Jesus, or don’t have a conservative reading of scripture would be defensive about claims of white supremacy, and might resist the taking down of monuments that glorify the confederacy. They’re busy preserving their sense of self-righteousness.
But us Bible-thumpers who actually believe we’re all sinners? We don’t have a leg to stand on.