Photography by Matt Wyatt

Xenophobia meet Philoxenos

“As a white Christian male, let me say that there is zero room -nay even less than that- for hatred or violence toward anyone of any race, gender, religion, handicap, or sexual orientation. Sometimes pastors and Christians don’t post on these topics because of their controversy, but we cannot let other “Christians” misrepresent us unchecked. Jesus is love in the purest form imaginable”

This was my Facebook status update in response to the acts of evil that took place in Virginia over the last week. I still stand by that statement, but as I continue to process the events, I want to think more fully think through what a Christian response looks like. If Jesus is love in the purest form imaginable and He is my role model, how does that shape my response to those who perpetuate racism?

The Greek word Philoxenos used throughout the New Testament translates into English as “hospitable” but a more literal definition is “love of strangers” That’s what a supporter of white supremacy is to me, they are a complete stranger. I don’t personally know of any supporters (that I am aware of) and the ideology is so completely foreign to me that I can’t understand why anyone would support it. Racism in any form sickens and saddens me. To think that sin has spiraled us into such a pitiful civil war, instead of being awe inspired by God’s kaleidoscope of humanity is pathetic.

Some even carry out such acts using skewed Bible verses and claiming that God supports their efforts. A quick review of Romans 12 among many others squashes this lie. Romans 12:19 tells us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” This one verse alone leaves no room for hating anyone because of their color or creed. Instead it calls us to radical hospitality. It’s radical because Shalom (the concept behind the word peace) through Jesus, which is the Biblical remedy for the broken world we live in,  calls us to live in oneness, wholeness, completeness etc. It insists that we not be hospitable just for the sake of hospitality, but because it is God’s desire for us be one with Him and one with each other. That’s trinitarian based love and hospitality. 

To agree that racism is wrong and we must live in peace should be a no-brainer, but being called to love those with seemingly half-a-brain and promoting white supremacy- that’s tough. Yet, Jesus calls us to love others the way He loved us, meaning even while people are still sinners and making bad choices. In Romans 12:18 Paul tells us this; “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.” That means my response to those practicing Xenophobia (fear of strangers/those who are different) is supposed to be Philoxenos. More specifically, I am to somehow be hospitable even to those who practice racism.

I don’t mean hospitality toward the ideology of racism itself or in anyway accommodating to it, racism in all forms should always be ousted, but it’s the people that matter. I also don’t mean that we gloss over things like hate crimes. For those who have taken criminal action based on the ideology, there is and should be consequences. Loving others does not eliminate justice or provide a free pass to those who have committed hate crimes. However, one caveat to justice is that it needs to be carried out in the proper setting and not taken into our own hands. The courts will have their justice here on earth and God will have His justice in eternity.

Ultimately, a Christian response is to condemn white supremacy, demand justice in its proper context, but also remember that the people who practice it were created by and are loved by God too. That’s not easy to say, but on both side of the aisle, lives matter to Jesus and therefore should matter to us. We have to look beyond the things people blindly perpetuate and repeat the words of Jesus on the cross, “Lord they know not what they do.” It may be a choice they are making to promote the ideology, but we have all been misled by the great deceiver to believe one thing or another will bring us happiness. The only thing that matters and the only thing that ever will bring true joy is the supremacy of Christ.



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