Bring Them Down!

Victor Chininin Buele

We have a lot up in the air! Things going up, things coming down. Outrage on the left and outrage on the right. Put them on, keep them off. My body, my choice. Don’t tread on me.

I would like to propose to you that these all are just fruits of the same root.

We do not know how to repent.

And we do not know how to repent because we’ve been pretending for too long that there is no such thing as sin.

You see, if everyone can be simultaneously right about everything, it is only a matter of time before one wants to fly a Confederate flag and another wants to take down his great grandpa’s statue downtown. And we can no longer push the discussion any further into Never Land. The time of judgment is here. And we do not know how to repent. We can’t keep pretending our problems, our sin, don’t exist.

My focus here today is rather narrow. If people were truly repenting, what we are seeing would look like kids’ play because of the number of things that would be going up and coming down because of true repentance.

You see, the Christian gospel is not about coercion. Most people believe a caricature of the Christian gospel—that we are here to force you to believe things. That we are here to make you comply with how we want the world to be. Do this, don’t do that, say this, don’t say that, love this and not that, love in this way and not this other way. That is absolutely not what the gospel is.

Also, the Christian gospel is at the same time the most inclusive and exclusive message. It calls everyone to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord—no exceptions, no preferences. We are all called to bend the knee to Jesus: the lawyer, the landscaper, the Mexican, the Indonesian, the Hindu, the Muslim, Trump, Biden, my mother, your mother, me, you. No distinctions, no barriers, no excuses. Everyone must have access to the gospel. They must hear. We can’t force you to hear. We can’t force you to repent. God has to do that work in you. And if you remain in your sins, that is quite a tragic story with a different ending that none of us should want.

But if you do believe, a miracle happens, where everything changes inside of you. That which you once called good is shown for what it truly was all along. And you want to change.

You will have to die to self. You will want to be freed from your chains. And some of those chains are thick and heavily secured over a lifetime of doing that which is not pleasing to God. You may have to deal with the marks on you and some of their weight even until the moment you leave this life. But, you will be increasingly, every day freer and freer.

You see, I don’t buy that Donald Trump is a Christian. I know many people I love deeply and care and respect a lot believe he is. My point is not to fight, but I want to share why I don’t buy that. Why don’t I believe he is a Christian? Because I have not seen Trump get hit by a Mack truck, figuratively, please Secret Service, don’t read that literally. I have not seen President Trump hit by the cost of discipleship yet. I have not seen President Trump broken and contrite saying good bye to the old Donald Trump. Why would a redeemed man hide his tax returns? Why would a redeemed man not speak the truth about so many things? Why would a redeemed man not count others as more significant than himself?

But it is important that I take you to him because one of the most critical things that are happening, if we are paying attention, is that he has caught your attention! Were it not for Donald Trump at this key moment in history, you would still be happily walking to Never Land without having to deal with the sober reality of truth. You see, somebody had to come and lie so much that you would have to admit that the world of relativism that we built is a lie. Somebody had to come and be so immoral that you would have to come and admit that there must be some semblance of morality somewhere.

And that’s where we need to come and reckon with our own sins.

I know what it is like to miss out on going to to an elite university on a scholarship partly because the school board of a small town in rural America did not give me a class rank. I don’t dare to directly associate that to my national origin because that would definitely be a Title VII violation, and that would be unthinkable, right? It didn’t matter that my dad fought for me. I know what it is like to walk into fancy restaurants and be asked if I’m there not to dine in because I’m brown. I know the looks of a bathroom shared by at least a dozen undocumented immigrants paying far more for renting a room in the outskirts of Newark than I was paying for renting a luxurious apartment in Nebraska. I know what it is like to be taken seriously by somebody until I open my mouth with my accent. I know what it is like to be assumed to not be a U.S. citizen and treated with disdain. I know.

You see, I used to cross the street whenever I saw a man from Esmeraldas walking in Loja. Let me translate that for you, I used to cross the street whenever I saw a black man walking towards me. I AM NOT WHITE! But we all sin in forming our own little tribes, groups, and excluding others. And that’s just the root. The fruits are awful—we call them names, we mock them, we ridicule them, we can do all sorts of things. We can exclude them from everything and reach awful places. If you read the history of the Jews, you know what Hitler did. This is deeply embedded in us. We are rotten. This is also not new at all. We see this in the New Testament:

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.

1 Timothy 5:21 (ESV)

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory[…] But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

James 2:1, 9 (ESV)

Racism is a flavor of this. I have repented of that. I have been changed. It is a miracle. I cannot imagine what my life would be like had God not changed me in this way. I treasure the blessing of friends and brothers and sisters from all kinds of backgrounds. I have brothers and sisters in Bangkok. I have brothers and sisters in Mexico. I have brothers and sisters in Brazil. I have brothers and sisters in France, the UK, Spain, several countries in Africa, Asia, the Americas. It is amazing to hear them, to know how they think, to have had my theology tried and tested and improved and pushed upwards by them and their realities and lives.

And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”

Revelation 5:9-10

That is what’s coming. That’s what eternity looks like. Variegated. Diverse. Rich. In complete unity. Worshiping the Lamb who was slain for every evil word, thought, and deed I have committed against every human being, Caucasian, African, Latino, Asian, everyone. My sins are truly many. I still cannot comprehend entirely how in the world I can dare to approach the throne of mercy with all the sin in my life. But I do know it is because of Jesus. Jesus Christ, the One who had to destroy my life, my so-called hopes and dreams, my aspirations, and become the “gracious Savior of my ruined life.” He came that I may have life and that I may be an “instrument in the Redeemer’s hands.” I am not my own. I was bought for a price, the price of the precious blood of Jesus.

And it is in Him, through Him, and by Him that we can have true peace.

But it does require us all to die to ourselves. To lay down all our sin, all our trash. All of it. Far more than Confederate statues and monuments to materialism and the worship of ourselves.

Until then, just remember, if this were true repentance, we would be seeing a coming down of statues and idols of a truly cosmic magnitude, and we would start to see the glimpse of the glory of the Lord filling the earth.

And that is where this cancel culture fails us. There must be redemption. True repentance leads to true redemption. The beef is that since we can’t acknowledge our sin (personally first, then collectively, etc.), we can’t rightly repent, so we can’t be redeemed. And we all know that. That’s why people get canceled as permanently irredeemable. Because when this is left to fester, it becomes a main propeller for seeking vindication by ourselves. Until we get that it is God who is offended first and foremost, we will keep trying to get people to make atonement to us. And this will never get fixed. And what is worse is that those who feel canceled are going to be able to vilify their ‘cancelers’ (is that what I should call them?) as seeing them as irredeemable because they are spotting the fake repentance.

Let’s be clear. True repentance will be seen and known. Loud and clear. All deadly, idolatrous, cheap substitutes MUST COME DOWN! Bring them down!

On the Day My Daughter and I…

Victor Chininin Buele

Shortly after moving to Johnson County, Kansas, it became clear to us that our phones were not working very well.  In the process of figuring this out, one day my daughter and I walked into a very special place.

I very soon realized I must not have looked like I fit there because nobody said hello or helped me.  My daughter and I left without buying a phone from such a slick place.  I realized what may have happened.  I was wearing a Mexican soccer jersey and old jean shorts.  She was wearing play clothes and non-matching shoes.  Her hair was unkept.

When I came to the United States, almost twenty years ago, I made two “promises” to myself in an attempt to survive the cultural change: (1) I was never going to allow myself to be homesick, and (2) I was never going to allow myself to participate in self-racisim.

You can see my delusion of godness there thinking I had more control over things than I did in reality.

Addressing homesickness came because I observed these big plans of my fellow Lojanos to go to big places, but very shortly thereafter, I would see them back in the streets of Loja with dreams unfulfilled.  My 17-year-old self was too proud, too selfish, and the wrong kind of ambitious to desire against all obstacles to avoid going back to Loja.  But what about the self-racism promise?

My 17-year-old self developed this theory that it takes two to tango.  If I would refuse to see myself as fundamentally different than the rest of the U.S. population, no matter what other people would think about me, I would not be contributing to the development, brooding, and systematization of racism.

In other words, I banked the foundation of my survival in America in this–that a white person may choose to look at me as whatever they would want to look at me, but I would not reciprocate that by acknowledging it, fearing it, acting differently because of it, living up to any stereotypes, or changing my plans because of what they may say, think, or do.  In other words, this was self-esteem on steroids.

And as one of the very, very, very few Hispanics in Nodaway County, Missouri, back then, there were far more than a handful of interesting encounters that would have crushed my soul had I not had this front up the whole time. And wearing this mask was exhausting, I must confess.

Yet, none of these encounters threatened my life. They are actually pretty comical in retrospective. Beside the usual high school mockery and sidelining, a few strange questions about whether we have cars in Ecuador, a date asking me if Ecuador was in Texas, none of these things put my life in danger.

Most of my life in the United States I have lived as a coconut, which is how they would call it in that Netflix show Gentified. Brown in the outside. White in the inside. And in God’s kindness of His providence to me, He has shown me a glimpse of another world I had always succeeded in avoiding. White/brown relations were always very simple for me because I‘ve had the means to live mostly as a white person. There are only a couple of places where I’ve really felt out of place–Monroe County, Illinois, and Johnson County, Kansas.

Yet, in the last four years, a number of strange incidents have continued to occur where I’ve been seen and treated differently. And also, in God’s kind providence, we have discovered the joys and challenges of gathering with the saints in a Spanish speaking immigrant church. We’ve edged towards a different circle of influence, and we’ve felt and seen different things than before.

I was only partly right as a teenager, imagine that—yes, I can compound the problem by responding to racism, which is a real problem, and to systemic inequality, which is a real thing, by making my identity largely a response to real and perceived racism. My identity is not founded in this, and it cannot be. If it were, it would be soul crushing. What I did not account for and what I was largely blind to as a result of living in different socioeconomic circles than the majority of Latinos is that racism dos remain a big sin in our country, a very real struggle, and a foundational roadblock for peace. And the King of Kings specializes in the solution for this sort of thing.

Donald Trump did not create racism. He is an opportunist who has leveraged sin in people’s hearts to rise to power and try to hold on to it. That’s what he does. And it is vile. But if we didn’t love it, if we didn’t desire that sin, we would not fall for it. The racism in our hearts must be put to death.

We have to deal with our sin.

There is no other way. We can keep putting it off and only make it worse. It’s time to wake up and really get woke. Not as the popular use of such a term but as in “I have my eyes open, what must I do to be awakened to this? What must I do to be saved?”

First Peter 2:11: “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” We wouldn’t be racists is we didn’t have this passion inside our flesh for it. We wouldn’t be entitled looters if we didn’t have this passion for entitlement inside our flesh for it. If we don’t love it, we don’t fall for it.

We have to face the evil desires within ourselves. We must put that sin to death. We, minorities, must destroy the sin within our hearts. The traditionally not thought of as minorities who are becoming the minority, must destroy the sin within their hearts. We are both a very entitled people. We demand to have. We are envious. We hold grudges and are not quick to repent. We loot and set things on fire. We play the victim. We oppress, we abuse, we victimize. We do not foster opportunities for true advancement of those who don’t look like us. We do not make it a point to actually incarnate, to pitch a tent and live among those who do not look like us. We do not make any efforts to truly understand those who are different than us: What is their plight, what is their sorrow, what is their joy?

In short, by becoming more like the King of Kings, Jesus Christ, we can put to death these sins that are destroying us. This is not a mere call to “act like a Christian” or to “do Christian things.” The gospel is not about mere behavioral change, but it is about a radical transformation of the heart that only God can bring about. A man being turned into the image of Christ will be made more and more like Him every day—every day the sin within the heart that leads to murder, to abuse, to looting, to rage will be put to death a little bit more.

It is time to seek the Lord while He may be found and heal this land.

There is no other way. We keep trying what looks like other paths. And here we are again, it’s not even June of 2020, and the sad story repeats itself. George Floyd is the name today. Will you wait until it is your name to turn and seek Christ?