Rising tensions between nations, the threat of war, and now the violence and tragic deaths resulting from a white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, all draw our attention to the brokenness of our world.
Christians believe that every human is created in God's image and that we are all united in the extravagant love expressed in Jesus Christ. Though we may look different than our brothers and sisters in humanity, or have different cultural dress and practices, we also seek to recognize that we share one Divine image, one spirit, and one soul. Acts which deny the Divine image, spirit, and soul of another human being are against God's will and scar the image of God we carry within us. Such actions are sin. They are expressions of evil.
Those baptized as United Methodists have committed to vows and a covenant that compels us to act in the face of evil. Our baptismal vows ask:
Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?
Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
Reflecting on these vows, United Methodist Bishop LaTrelle Miller Easterling offered these thoughts [read her full letter here]:
These questions do not presume that we will simply reject evil, injustice and oppression quietly in the confines of our own hearts and homes. Rather, these questions imply, in true Wesleyan fashion, that we will actively resist this wickedness. We are called to action through prayer, standing in solidarity with those being persecuted, preaching and teaching love and inclusion, and denouncing acts borne out of hatred.
May we renounce the forces of wickedness and repent of our sin—including our complicity in fostering racism. May we embody the freedom God gives us as we love our neighbors as ourselves. May we offer hospitality and protection to those most vulnerable—as was also witnessed in Charlottesville. May we seek to upset the broken cycles of our world.
We begin by uniting in prayer with Bishop Sharma D. Lewis, who presides over Charlottesville, and invites to join her:
At a time when fear and hate are so readily in our faces, I would ask that you pray with [us]. Pray for the loss of life and the injured. Pray for those acting from hate. Pray for calmer heads to surface. We, as The United Methodist Church, must witness to others what prayer can do in times of fear and hate. Charlottesville is a city hurting in many ways, so we pray for the restoration of calm, civil order for the community and its people today and in the days ahead.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers.