Major events are like Rorschach tests – our response to them brings to light what is within us. Yesterday’s eclipse elicited gasps of awe, wonder, and joy. For a few hours, millions of people were united in a special way, exulting in the wonders of the heavens. This event called forth good and positive things from the hearts of men and women and children.
In contrast, last week’s events in Charlottesville brought a lot of bad stuff into the light. We saw with undeniable clarity what many have wanted to ignore – that white supremacy is neither dead nor is it the province of a few isolated loners. Nazi flags were openly paraded down American streets; voices joined in chanting nazi slogans as marchers passed the synagogue in Charlottesville. Long forgotten fascist iconography reappeared on the shields and banners of some of the groups participating. Certainly not every participant in the “Unite the Right” rally was a white supremacist. But those who dismiss the wanton display of white supremacy as “fake news” or a “false flag” operation are engaged in willful self-deception.
In Charlottesville, white supremacists felt emboldened to creep out of their enclaves into the full sun and be noticed.
Jesus said “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” (Luke 12:2-3)
In the days after their march, some of the rally attendees are feeling the backlash. People are disassociating from them or are publicly calling them to account for their stance. Ideas have consequences, after all.
And here is the lesson: all our words and actions will someday be shown in the light. Even if the dim light of earthly justice doesn’t reveal our deeds, the perfect piercing light of God’s justice will make all things known.
Are you prepared for your thoughts and beliefs to be shouted from the rooftops? Would you feel vindication or shame? Do you speak boldly in private among your peers and companions, but mince words more closely in mixed company? Do you indulge in crude and dismissive language in private? Do you dehumanize those who disagree with you as “wingnuts” or “libtards” or “rethuglicans” or “feminazis”? What does this reveal about you?
Big events push us to search our hearts and be honest with ourselves. Psalm 139 invites God to deeply examine us: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24) This is a dangerous prayer.
As I search my heart, I see the fear curled up there, dragon-like. Fear that speaking my mind will alienate friends or family. Fear of those who enforce their thinking through shouting, intimidation, snark, condescension, and insults. Fear that I might be wrong. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
My job is to face the inner stuff that these events bring to light. To bring that inner stuff to Christ, seeking His grace and mercy. He says to cast all our fears on him, for he cares for us (I Peter 5:7). My job is to seek diligently His grace that saves me from my sin, delivers me from fear. But what’s more, my job is to listen to Christ and be shaped and sent as His ambassador. After all, the only thing that counts, says Paul, is faith expressing itself in love (Galatians 5:6).
Rather than reacting and dismissing and evaluating everyone else’s response, how about we turn off the pundits and ask ourselves “what has been revealed within me?” Where you find things that reflect love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness, then be sure to give thanks for God’s grace working in you. Where you find things that reflect selfishness, bitterness, anger, and strife, then acknowledge your need for God’s grace to heal and be better.
Bring your inner world to light now, so that you won’t be ashamed when it is brought to light later.
About the cover image: This image is a medieval alabaster carving of the Resurrection of Christ. This particular version hangs in the Cincinnati Art Museum, though I’ve seen similar carvings in other museums. I find the image striking because of the pose that Christ takes: strong and powerful. His right hand shapes a traditional blessing, but it is turned as though he’s gesturing to make a point. This is curious – Is he offering a blessing? Is he revealing hidden truth? Is he indicating that his work has begun, but there is still work to be done (the second coming). Overall this image conveys something of the feel of the unexpected encounter with the all-powerful Christ, which is why I chose it for this topic. When He reveals all, I expect that we will be like the soldiers cowering. Yet I also expect we will be like Peter by the seaside in John 21, experiencing relief and joy at the grace and mercy of Christ.