They say "forgive and forget." It is great alliteration. It is a fine pithy statement. It even sounds very biblical. However, in many ways it seems irrational and illogical.
The events of this past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia have fueled the media cycles and outraged a people. The outrage is completely understandable and the condemnation of racism and violence is unfortunately becoming a resounding refrain to a song that never should have been sung. The fact that in 2017 we must continue to fight against judgement of people based on their skin color, nationality, sexual preference, ideologies, or ethnicity is a pure sign that our country, our world is broken. I don't and won't have the best words for what has recently happened. I am a white middle-class man in southern America who since my years in college has not been very wanting for the luxuries of this world. Unfortunately I participated in prejudices and racist ideas when a child, because of the ignorance that surrounded me at the time. And yet even in that time I had friends of different races and backgrounds. My mind though worked in such a way where my belief was that since I was white and Christian I was better than others. Even to write those sentences now hurts the recesses of my heart. When I think of the way that I teased peers who were overweight or told racist jokes or found only people just like me to be friends with I cringe at that person. Sure I was a kid. Sure I wasn't exposed to a plethora of ethnicities or nationalities. Sure I changed over time and have borne witness to a different thinking. I never wore a mask, carried a torch, wreaked mischief, or enacted violence on those that were different than me, but I didn't necessarily speak out against it either. This all makes me sad and guilty too.
I'm forgiven. I'm redeemed.
And you are too.
And what we really want is it all to be forgotten too. But do we really?!
Let's chase that rabbit a minute. If I could take that paragraph above and erase it. And not just from this blog, but from the history of my past. So that even if I tried to recall the ways in which I thought and acted, I could not. What is to keep my heart from hurting with those who are having racism and prejudice enacted upon them? What is to keep a righteous anger from burning against the practice of evil, violence, and damaging rhetoric against a people? When we forget the pain we have caused through our own brokenness and sin, we are condoning once again these evil acts. Remembering how we have fallen short isn't an opportunity to glorify a past sin or the evil behind it, but it is an opportunity to remember how sin creates pain and how we have been forgiven and redeemed.
God has forgiven me of my past racism, elitism, and sin. God has forgiven you of the same. And yet I believe God does not want us to engage in short term memory loss so that we either return to that evil and sin or that we forget the pain it causes only to let others experience the pain when it could be stopped.
1 John 4:7-12 says, "7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us."
Jesus himself when asked about what the greatest commands were, replied: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” -Matthew 22:37-40
God is a god of love. Christians are a people of love.
We cannot claim to be what we aren't. So if we claim to be Christian, we claim to be love to God and the world.
Fighting against racism shouldn't have to take grand statements and gestures (unfortunately it is being required). Because if Christians are being who they claim to be, love will be ruling and every little and big act won't be propagated on whether we get what we want or not, but rather will be about how we love God and everyone else.
God loved us enough to forgive us.
God love us enough to not allow us to forget.