John MacArthur was recently on the radio in Los Angeles (the Frank Sontag Show) to discuss the Charlottesville attack, but it became a longer conversation on the roots of racism and the Christian's response to culture-wide hatred. Here are some of the highlights of that twenty-minute conversation:
Sontag: John, how to do we respond as Evangelicals to racism?
MacArthur: We need to understand the roots of this. The roots of this are really not political, they're not even economic. They're moral and have to do with the sinfulness of the human heart. The Devil is the murderer from the beginning. The first crime was a killing. That basically defines the Kingdom of Darkness. That defines the realm of Satan. Jesus even said to the leaders in Israel, "You are of your father, the Devil. You're either a child of doubt or child of Satan." Those are the only two possibilities. For those in the Kingdom of Darkness hatred, anger, hostility, harm, and even murder is just par for the course.
That's why God has designed mitigation into the culture. That's why God has given every human being a conscience so at least you start out with some form of internal restraint. That's why God designed the family and the rod in the family so that children can be harnessed and can be taught even to some inflicted reasonable amount of pain to be socially contributing to the well-being of society. That's why God has ordained the police and given them the sword because this solemn world is completely captive to hatred and hostility at the most vicious level.
Of course, it doesn't matter where it comes from. It might have various political forms, whether it's white supremacy, Black Lives Matter, or whatever other form of it. Whether it's Kim Jong-un or ISIS. This is how the worst in this solemn world conduct themselves.
It must be denounced on every level, but it also has to be understood that the remedy is not a political one. We need to restrain it by strong laws that are enforced at the highest level with justice essentially demanded and meted out.
Sontag: John when you say that the remedy isn't necessarily political, is there an inherent warning in those who are followers of Jesus to not get too caught up in "The president should have done this, the president didn't do that," or that somehow the solution is only found primarily in politics and the political process?
MacArthur: The solution is not in politics. The solution is not in education. The solution is not in science. The solution is not in some kind of economic advancement for people who are deprived. The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Man is at his most base level angry and hostile. He really is a threat to kill so he has to be restrained.
From the external standpoint, that's why you have a conscience and a family. Of course, when the family breaks down and you pollute the conscience by teaching false standards of morality, literally twist morality, put good for evil and evil for good, and reverse everything creating a generation of people who have no clue what morality is. All they know is that they think they are entitled to their own desires and their own will. They haven't been raised in such a way as to be disciplined in those kinds of things that make socially-acceptable human beings out of them. You have families that are just torn up by all kinds of animosity and hatred on all levels and across all of the spectrums. Then you start looking at the fact the police are continuously denounced and discredited. You have a formula for disaster.
But this is human history and the answer isn't political or any of those other things. The answer is the transformation of the heart.
The first thing that defines a gospel transformed heart is love. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another. That is the defining attitude of the believer. The apostles followed up saying, "If you don't have love, you don't belong to Christ." So only Christ can change the heart and only changed hearts can create the kind of love that has an impact on the force of the solemn heart in society.
Sontag: An interview that we've done previously I've brought up the tragic slaying of Martin Luther King Jr. Racism existed then and it exists now. I hesitate to say this, but there's racism in the church. There's some of us that say we are the followers of Jesus and yet we're caught up in this Devil's way of keeping us separate as well. Can you talk a little bit about that?
MacArthur: That's such a repulsive thing. The defining reality of a true Christian is love. That love knows no bounds. Certainly not racial bounds or ethic bounds. Where you have that hostility, racism, and those kinds of attitudes you have a very legitimate right to ask the question, "Are these Christian people?" because racism is antithetical to everything that is characteristic of a generous heart.
Sontag: John when you heard the news Saturday [about the death in Charlottesville], would you be transparent and just share your initial thoughts?
MacArthur: My initial thought, you might understand this, was to immediately go back into my memory to standing at the memorial not too long ago in Oklahoma City. The memorial was for all those people that died when Timothy McVeigh blew up that building. Immediately my mind was back there – that memorial by the way is a powerful, moving memorial - and I thought of the horror of that. It's represented in an ongoing way in that city and it was like, "Here we go again." This is as reprehensible as any kind of hatred and animosity. You might not like the fact that they are going to take down the statue, but come on, if that's what's harming, vilifying, and hating other people then you've got a pretty shallow life. You've allowed yourself to be driven by things that don't really matter at all. This whole culture seems to me to be just on that edge of anger breaking out in rash ways.
Sontag: You just made mention of our culture as almost on the brink of anger breaking out. We know if we look in the bible, nothing is really different. This is sin, this is where we've been then and this is where we are now. We need the lord savior in our life. That being said, anything you can add to the conversation that says yeah that's true, but my goodness it's been decades since I've really seen this unrest, this spirit of rebellion, a man in the White House that virtually no one foresaw him becoming president, etc. In other words, the grounds are where they are now. Any way in which you can address that and how we as true followers of Jesus and scripture can recognize, "Look we've got to be really discerning here, we've got to be bold, and we've got to be careful."
MacArthur: One way to answer that would be to say, this political thing has reached a point where there is so much hostility, so much hatred, so much anger that the whole American has ground to a halt. What we are seeing now is this extreme animosity and hatred driven at anybody that doesn't agree with somebody. The answer to all of this is for the church to demonstrate wisdom, love, kindness, and mercy. To love all people, all races, all ethnic identities, all parties, and all economic statuses. Endlessly to embrace them in the name of Christ.
One of the things that I love about Grace Community Church, and I love about the Master's University and Master's Seminary, is it looks like Los Angeles. LA is this incredibly wonderful melting pot, out of which the Lord is building his church and raising up leaders for the future. That's how it should be.