Yesterday evening I drove down to Dallas Love Field to pick up my mother from the airport. As I drove back to Frisco, we talked in disbelief about the egregious and senseless taking of lives that we have seen in our country in the past 48 hours. The heartbreaking scenes in Louisiana and Minnesota that were captured on video for all to see on social media were horrific and saddening. I noticed that traffic was being stopped heading into downtown Dallas but at the time, I had no idea why. At last count, at least eleven Dallas Police officers were shot and five of them tragically killed during a protest against the recent shootings in our land.
As an Iranian-American who has experienced the depths of racial tension in America, this situation rests heavy on my heart. The fact that this is happening so close to home makes the emotions all the more profound: dismay, anger, fear, distrust.
The cycle of hate, violence, bigotry, and prejudice has always been the thread that runs throughout our human history. Mankind, left to its own devices, will always tend towards hostility against one another. This is part of our sinful human nature that stretches back to the Garden of Eden. Genesis 3 tells us how and when sin entered our human existence, resulting in a broken relationship with God and broken relationships between humans. This is why right after the Fall, we see in Genesis 4 a man killing his own brother in anger. This is also why today, when we hear of more hatred and killing, we can feel almost numb to it. The horror seems to never end. From San Bernardino to Paris, Belgium to Istanbul, Orlando and Baton Rouge to Minnesota and Dallas--hate and prejudice always perpetuates a cycle of anger, hostility and violence.
Jesus came to end this. In Ephesians 2, one of the most important passages for times like these, Paul lays out the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. All mankind is dead in sin, separated from God, and deserving of eternal punishment. But God, being rich in mercy and love, has made a way for us to be forgiven by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Jesus died to pay for our sins though we didn’t deserve it and he rose again to secure for us life after death. Through faith in Christ, we can have peace with God. But what does this peace with God do? Ephesians 2:13-19 tells us:
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.
Through his sacrificial death, Jesus has destroyed the dividing wall of hostility. Most importantly, this means that the wall of hostility between God and man has been broken down. God’s wrath is satisfied and the veil which separates us from God has been torn in two. But this passage goes beyond that and shows the implications of the gospel in our relationships with one another. In context, this passage is referring to Jew and Gentile – two groups of people who have a long history of hostility towards one another. Through Christ, we are not only brought near to God but to one another. The two groups who used to kill each other are now fellow citizens and family members. The two are made one in Christ. Christ kills the hostility between people through the cross.
The gospel reminds us that even when we deserved the wrath of God, through Christ’s death and resurrection, we received the love of God. It is impossible to be truly captured by the love of Christ and respond with hate to those who have wronged you. It is unjust to receive unmerited grace and demand others to earn your mercy.
The gospel compels me to identify with the outcast and marginalized in my own society, to care for and champion the mistreated and underprivileged. The gospel reminds me that my Savior was unjustly murdered on a cross; it opens my mouth to speak out against injustice in our land. And the gospel reminds me that Jesus died to redeem a people for God from every tribe, tongue and nation. That’s good news because that means you and I are both included! How could we, as fellow heirs of Christ, look down on one another because of skin color?
So we can boycott, protest, and lobby for new laws. These are not necessarily bad things and there is a time and place for them. Ultimately, however, Jesus is the one who breaks down the walls between us. He is our peace by killing the hostility, starting with the hostility in my own heart. As the love of Christ penetrates a heart, the wall of hostility comes crashing down. Jesus is the only one who can break the cycle of hate.
I urge my fellow Christians to turn to the gospel and let the love of Christ control your actions and words. Take time to pray and think about what you are posting on social media. Ask yourself, “Are my words even subtly contributing to the cycle of hostility? Or are they lifting up the gospel and commending the love of Christ to people?” We need to mourn the senseless loss of life of any human being who is made in the image of God. We need to pray for our nation and ask God to move in the hearts of our people. As a church we need to a picture of racial reconciliation and unity born out of the love of Christ. And as followers of Christ, we need to be those who promote peace and not hostility ultimately by pointing people to Jesus, our Prince of Peace!
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matt. 5:9)