Charlottesville: How to Respond When Chaos Seems Overwhelming
Written by Brittney Moses | August 13, 2017
This weekend in Charlottesville, all chaos broke out as hundreds of white nationalists including Neo-Nazis and KKK members staged a rally met by counterprotesters in the streets of Virginia. Violence erupted in the streets between the two parties, followed by a car plowing into the crowd of counterprotesters, leaving three dead and multiple people injured. Since then, the Internet has been buzzing with contempt, frustration and pleas for action and unity. You can read the full story here at your own discretion.
When tragedy and such heavy division strike our nation, knowing where to begin and what steps to take can seem overwhelming, to say the least. For Christians, who are called to love our enemies, pray for our broken world and live for justice and righteousness, how does this manifest on a personal level? Is engaging spiritually enough? What do you do when it seems no matter what position you take, to some part of the world it is considered the wrong one?
Maybe you feel like you don’t have enough influence to do anything. Or maybe you don’t want any influence…you’re just ready for Jesus to come back and for this whole mess to be over.
However, the truth is that no matter who you are or where you are, you can be a part of the solution to these heartbreaking events in a genuine way. In fact, as a light of this world, you are called to be a healing agent and a force of God’s Spirit in the broken places. So, here are five places to begin beyond social media.
1. Cover our nation in prayer.
This may seem like an obvious one, but it’s said so much it may have become white noise to you. You may even be wondering how effective prayer can be in situations like this where you don’t seem to see any real change. However, the Bible makes it clear that there are unseen rulers and principalities at work stirring up the darkness of this world. Ephesians 6:12 says our battle is not just an earthly one. It’s not only against people, but also the spirits behind them. It’s not just a social justice issue; it’s also a spiritual and sin issue. Prayer is our spiritual weapon for disarming the evil we can’t see at work behind the natural.
So, yes, take a moment and pray for hearts to be changed. Pray for those who are hurting. Pray for ways to be an example where you are. Pray for reconciliation and the healing of our nation.
2. Begin with those around you.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” —Edmund Burke
Change and healing begin one relationship at a time. Having conversations about social-justice issues in our world can be intimidating for many of us, so we tiptoe around it or step away from it. However, as believers who are first and foremost a family in Christ, we need to learn how to love and respect each other deeply enough to talk about how we can continue to be our brother/sister’s keeper through the hurt and frustration. What does that mean? It means we practice embracing and seeking to understand each other’s differences even if we don’t relate. Step outside of yourself, humble yourself and strive to be an open place of safety, integrity and fairness for the people around you.
3. Expose yourself to those who look different from you.
The more you expose yourself to others whose background, culture and vantage point are different than yours, the more you’ll be able to develop a holistic perspective of our nation—and I don’t just mean in passing or on the job. I mean develop deep-spirited, loving and respectful relationships with those who look different from you. With a nation in division, we have to realize that we are all more than a color, a political party or a social class. We each have stories that make up who we are. We each have lived through things that have shaped our convictions. If we do not start here, we begin from a place of ignorance, and we cannot be an agent of genuine love and change if we refuse to see people.
4. Listen to understand.
Something most people fail to realize is that listening is a skill. Many are hearing while having automatic responses and judgements in their head—but few know how to listen. When having conversations from different experiences with issues such as these, humble yourself enough to hear a person out. Active listening says “I love you. I care for you. I want to know where you are right now.” This doesn’t guarantee you will agree on everything, but it’s a starting place.
5. Love your neighbor.
The truth is that this world will not be in complete harmony and perfection until Jesus comes back. As long as there is sin, there will be dysfunction in humanity. So if you continue to place all your hope in man, it will fail you, disappoint you and at some point may hurt you. However, we are not of this world, so our standard is not based on this world. We are called to love even when we are hated, even when we don’t agree, even when the darkness is overwhelming. It’s like Luke 3:2 says: If you only love those who love you back, how does that make us any different from the rest of the world? Remember to begin from a place of love. Sometimes that looks like saying a prayer before you engage in a conversation—or, better yet, praying together for the situation. Sometimes it means letting the conversation go because it’s no longer fruitful.
The whole point is that we are led by the Spirit and by our love for one another if we truly want to see even the tiniest seed of change.