Today, (Tuesday) many students on Vanderbilt’s campus, and also on other campuses, will be wearing white. People will be tweeting with the #wearevanderbilttoo hashtag. Facebook profile pictures will change to a white cross. All of that will happen in preparation for tonight’s town hall style meeting at Vanderbilt. My guess is, if you are reading this blog, you already know the issue, and most likely, you already have your own thoughts and your own stance. Most articles and tweets and facebook posts will be, in a sense, “tweeted to the choir.” Those who already care will care the most to follow what is going on.
The following is for those people who know where they stand and who will be wearing white today. More specifically, it is for Christians, although I know other people might be concerned with what is happening at Vanderbilt.
Regardless of what happens tonight (and honestly, knowing the pace at which this whole process has gone, probably nothing truly new will “happen” tonight) Wednesday will roll around. What then? What will I do? What are we, people who believe that Jesus is worthy to be stood up for, going to take away from all of this? When the excitement and fervor die down, which they will eventually, what will be left? We are wearing white today, what will we wear tomorrow?
I think that there are several answers to the last question, which help answer all the others:
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ... -Romans 13:14a
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts,kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. -Colossians 3:12-14
It will be easy enough to wear white today. Have people realized that, all along, we were wearing something even more significant? To have “put on Christ” and “put on love” ought to make far more of a statement than a day in white t-shirts. But actually, I think my last sentence is somewhat misleading. If we want to make a “statement,” being clothed in white will do the trick just fine. However, if we want to make an impact, we must be clothed with the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what must happen when the fervor dies down.
Putting on white can bring people together in opposition. Putting on Christ can bring people together in love.
White shirts will make a statement against this non-discrimination policy. If we put on Christ, we can make an impact on the unbelievable amount of very real discrimination and self segregation on Vanderbilt’s campus. For the last few weeks and during these days when the hubbub has been at its highest, many people from all over Vanderbilt’s campus have been brought together. However, over the long haul, only the love of Christ, who crossed all barriers to reconcile his people, will maintain that unity. Christ can make the most diverse people into one people (cf. Ephesians 2:14), because he has bought them, shown them grace, and taught them to show grace to one another. Will a real impact be made on disunity through this situation?
Putting on white calls us to pray tomorrow evening. Putting on Christ calls us to lean on the Father in prayer during seasons, good or bad.
Oh God, please let tonight’s gathering for prayer not be about simply making a statement. If we understand who You are, we will realize that nothing can make a greater impact on this world than the prayers of your people.
When I was a student at Vanderbilt, I was a leader in a Christian organization, and on various occasions was given the task or organizing and gathering people for prayer. Only a handful of people wanted to come and pray. Now that this new policy is at the forefront, and religious organizations are in danger, people have come together often to pray. That is a great thing that must continue.
If we are clothed with Christ, we will know that Christ is the one sustaining us at all times, and we will cry out to him in thanks during the joyful seasons and cry out to him for mercy in confusing seasons like the current one (cf. James 5:13). Also, if we have put on Christ, we will have eyes to see that, all along, Vanderbilt, the city of Nashville, and our lives in general were plagued with problems, sins, and injustice that desperately needed prayer. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Have we truly seen our need for Christ, and do we mourn over the ills of this world? Will this situation have a lasting impact on our prayer life, or will that dwindle after we take of the white?
Putting on white, we will boldly stand up for our rights. Putting on Christ, we will boldly stand up for others.
Allow me to play the role of a cynic for a moment. One might wonder: “Why is it that Christians can come together and mount a movement when their organizations are in danger, while that same kind of zeal is not seen to face the world’s “real” problems? What about poverty, sex-trafficking, AIDS, adoption crises, racism, etc? Do we only perceive injustice when it means we can’t have our meetings on campus anymore?”
There is a partial truth to that criticism. If we are clothed with Christ, we ought to walk as salt and light on the earth, and we will be the leading voices in the causes of justice for “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40). There are far greater problems in the world than one policy on one college campus, but it is so difficult to put one’s heart and effort into another person’s problems. However, that cynical sentiment is untrue if it determines that the small fights are unimportant. And honestly, who can judge exactly how important this one struggle will be?
If nothing else, this small fight ought to be a cause for great hope for all causes of the oppressed, because it shows that, when people wake up to a problem, they can come together to do something about it. On Vanderbilt’s campus, and the world in general, those who are clothed in Christ should be the voices of truth, comfort, justice, healing, and help when no one else will speak up. If our message cannot be backed up by this…then we will have just been wearing t-shirts today, and only doing it for ourselves. Today and beyond, if we have put on Christ, the same boldness we have today will lead us to fearlessly fight for the causes of others. That is what will leave an impact.
Putting on white clothing proclaims that we can believe in Christ. Putting on Christ proclaims Christ.
Today, people are uniting for religious freedom, a cause that is rightly worth defending. Putting on white declares, “We should be able to worship freely.”
However, being clothed in Christ calls us to something more. When he is our everything, our declaration is not simply, “We should be able to worship freely” but rather, “We should worship Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus, the crucified and risen Savior is the one we proclaim (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:23), today and for all time. White shirts, a symbol of religious liberty, serve not as an end in themselves, but, for Christians, as an avenue toward being able to proclaim Christ. Religious freedom alone will never save the world. Christ alone will. (cf. 1 John 2:2)
Putting on white, we speak up for our rights. Putting on Christ can free us to lay them down if necessary.
Who knows what will happen tonight and in the months to come? This post has just been an effort to say that, regardless of what happens, tonight is not the end. We trust and worship Jesus Christ, and when the white shirts come off, he will not. If the following months bring a victory for religious organizations on Vanderbilt’s campus, then we will be clothed in Christ and thank him and worship him for that victory. If Vanderbilt decides that their policy is not changing, then we will still be clothed in Christ, putting on his love, compassion, and forgiveness, trusting that he knows best. After all, Christ’s greatest victory came when he laid down his rights and gave himself up for us all (Philippians 2:5-8). Perhaps his greatest victory through us will happen when we do the same.
When we wear white shirts tonight, it will make a statement. If we put on Christ, he will make an impact, and one that we never could have imagined.