Last evening, I was watching Ken Burns's documentary, “The National Parks – America’s Best Idea”. Any documentary by Ken Burns is very thorough and I particularly love this documentary because of the many places we have been privileged to visit as a family. I never traveled much when I was growing up, in fact, I can only remember 2 trips. One was to see my brother graduate from Marine boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina, which left a very deep impression on my 14-year-old psyche. I decided at that point that I never wanted to be a Marine if that is how the Marines were being treated even with the parents and families being there. Earlier I remember a trip to Gettysburg when I was probably 10 or 11 years old. That is all the traveling we ever did. However, what really stuck in my mind was when I was in fifth grade our teacher, Mrs. Boyer, as she was teaching us the geography of America would share pictures from her family trips that she took every summer of the many historical and awesome places they visited in America. That so struck me as a great idea, and I thought if I ever had a family, I would love to do the same thing with my family. Isn’t it amazing how one suggestion or illustration from a teacher’s life can so change the life of a young student? So, when the Lord granted me the privilege of being a dad that is exactly what I did. Deb and I had visited all 50 states and my two middle children, Matt and Lisa, have been to 48 states in our great nation. We have been to the national parks in the Everglades in Florida, Arcadia National Park in Maine, to Yellowstone National Park, to the Grand Canyon (several times), to Yosemite, to Crater Lake in Oregon and to Glacier National Park in Montana and many points in between. Through my experiences, I have concluded that we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. So, you can see why watching Ken Burns's documentary gives me a deep sense of nostalgia as I reflect on all the places we have been as a family.
I love America and the opportunities and advantages we have as Americans. I am saddened by the awful and tragic history of racism that could have been addressed right from the very foundation of our nation and I have visited enough places that reveal this tragic history of racism and discrimination in our nation. Hitler even used America’s treatment of African-Americans in the 1930s as guidelines for his own persecution of the Jewish people. He was very much aware of racism taking place here and used the model of the Jim Crow laws as he began to persecute the 1% Jewish population living in Germany. But I must share with you that I am watching this Black Lives Matter movement with deep concern. Oh, I agree with the statement, “Black Lives Matter” and I believe there has been much discrimination, racism, and police brutality that has targeted the African-American population. It is not the statement itself that I have a problem with, it is the organization behind the Black Life Matter promotion. If you would go to their website (blacklivesmatter.com, as others are using this BLM label as well) and read the charter of what their purpose and their intention are, maybe you will understand my concerns. I believe that there is a serious political agenda behind this movement that has nothing to do with protecting black lives or any other lives. When MLB or the NBA or even the streets of New York City paint these words across their product are they supporting the statement, “Black Lives Matter” or are they endorsing the organization and all the positions the organization is promoting? That is something that should be of concern to every one of us who hold to a biblical worldview. As you read their charter (which I beg you to do), see if you can reconcile it with a biblical worldview?
Paul tells us in the third chapter of Philippians that you and I, who claim the name of Christ, should have a very different viewpoint than the secular world that we live in. He writes, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that we will be like his glorious body,” (Phil.3:20,21 NIV). The people who lived in Philippi were very proud of their Roman citizenship. In fact, it was at Philippi where Octavius and Mark Anthony defeated Brutus and Cassius in 42 BC holding the Roman Empire together. They designed their city to be like a little Rome. But Paul was teaching them, and us, that we should not be blind to what is being done in our own country and realize that we have a greater place that waits for us. I think America is beautiful and I love our nation, but I am not planning on spending eternity here. I know when I get to heaven, there is not going to be any ethnic or racial divisions nor any denominations either. If your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life, you are just passing through this nation. If your name is in the Lamb’s book of life be thankful and grateful to God for the privileges and advantages you have as an American citizen, but please don’t lose view of the fact that this is not all there is. When we travel to a foreign country, we need a passport to prove your citizenship and to get back into American. But none of us, regardless of the color of the skin or are ethnicity or our parent’s spirituality will be able to enter into heaven without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
When Jesus Christ came into my heart and life, He began to change all my viewpoints, prejudice, and pride of being raised in an Italian American family. When I first got saved and was working in the Post Office I started to share my faith with my coworkers and I found I had a lot more in common with my African-American brothers and sisters in Christ then I did with my white coworkers who didn’t know Christ. I realized that the gospel is the thing that changes our hearts and lives as nothing else can. Paul reminded the Galatians of this when he wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise,” (Gal. 3:28,29 NIV). It is when we embrace that in its fullness that we see the incredible blessing of being part of the diverse body of Jesus Christ. There is neither black nor white, Asian or Chinese nor Indian in the body of Christ, we are united in the awesome love of God, that He has demonstrated to us through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. This can transcend and overcome any prejudice or hatred. In the coming weeks, I would like to explore God transcending the Jewish prejudice against Gentiles, which led to the one body of Christ, which we count our heritage from. In the meantime, follow Jesus’s greatest commandments – to love God and to love one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.
For the King’s glory,
Pastor Rich Sivo