Pastoral Reflections from Charlottesville

By Keith Goad

The events of this past weekend have been difficult to process on many levels. It was surprising and heartbreaking to see so much hatred, bigotry, and violence on display. As a Christian and a pastor, it was challenging to think of what I should be doing as this battle has come to the forefront. I want to offer a few reflections as a pastor.

First, I praise God that his Word is clear regarding racism. In both creation and redemption we see that there is no room for racism in the church of Jesus Christ. Every human being, regardless of age, gender, skin color, race, ethnicity, disability, is made in the image of God. God has given the same dignity and honor to each human.  This dignity and honor puts a responsibility on us to honor and care for one another.

Christ came to save a people for himself who are unified not by the color of their skin, but by being covered by his blood. He not only reconciles us to God, but then calls all kinds of sinners to be reconciled as his church. We have truth that corrects the racism that may tempt us and the message of hope . Church, we can be a beacon of hope by being a church of all different kinds of people that is united in Jesus Christ alone.

Second, I am encouraged by how many fellow pastors and churches in Charlottesville are seeking to proclaim the gospel boldly while speaking out against the protest. It is a blessing to partner with so many other local churches that are committed to standing against the evil of racism. We pray for other churches in our area regularly so that we can have a united witness to the one savior.

Third, I am grieved by the sin that was on display this past weekend. The hatred against strangers because of the color of their skin and ethnicity was difficult to watch. I became angry as I thought about how this kind of sin would incite fear in my friends. As believers in the God who created every human in his image, we should be seeking to defend the just and fair treatment of all human beings. We can too easily think this is something that needs to be done far away, but we need to realize there are still causes here in our city among our friends and fellow believers.

Fourth, I am ashamed of my own sin. As I mentioned on Sunday, in response to others’ sin I try to meditate on Jonathan Edward’s 8th resolution. “Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.”  

Witnessing the declaration and action of white supremacy caused me to see how I constantly battle with self-supremacy. I do not love my neighbors as Christ commanded. Too often I judge them or ignore them altogether. Rather than following Christ’s model of considering others as more important, I consider myself as more important than everyone else. My selfishness does not cause the kind of damage to strangers witnessed downtown this weekend. Rather, my sin causes damage and conflict in my home and church among loved ones.

Even more, thinking of myself as supreme is not just a sin against man, but God. I sin against him even more by pretending that my ways are better than his when I want to pursue and enjoy something he has not approved. My sin is not unlike the sin which disgusted me Saturday, even if it’s demonstrated in different ways.

Fifth, I am amazed by the grace of God because he saves every kind of sinner. I praise God that where our sin abounds, his grace abounds even more. My disgusting sin has been forgiven by the powerful love of God. I praise God he saves sinners like me. I need to trust this truth I hold so dearly for myself and proclaim it boldly to those who are sinners like me who need salvation. We have the message of hope, peace, and reconciliation. We cannot be silent about God’s grace. Pray for opportunities with coworkers, neighbors, and strangers with whom you can share the gospel of grace.

Sixth, I am praying for myself, our church, and the other churches in Charlottesville that we will be more faithful followers of Christ. I see a genuine desire among most Christians in our city to proclaim Christ and to oppose the kind of hate that we witnessed this weekend. I believe we have a lot of room to grow in this area. I hope we will be humble enough to learn from one another, especially white Christians from non-white brothers and sisters, so that we can better work toward a unity that protects one another and glorifies Christ. We must unite with our fellow citizens of heaven and praise God that he saves all kinds of sinners. Our church needs to be a witness by being a people of all different kinds of image bearers who are united in the one song of Jesus Christ. We need to be proactive in being the church that testifies, rather than reactive to events like those that took place this weekend.

We have the message that the world needs to hear. First, that God has created every human being in his image which means every human being has the same dignity and honor. We have a responsibility to treat one another with the same respect and defend the honor of others. Second, we not only have the message that can promote peace on earth among men, but the gospel of God that can reconcile man to God if he believes in Jesus Christ. Pray we are bold and wise as we seek to be proclaimers of Christ’s peace in a place that is tense because of the anger that was on display.  Pray we are faithful.