Tear down all the statues

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good-- except God alone.” (Mark 10:17-18)

In the wake of George Floyd’s death in May of 2020 and the Black Lives Matter protests of the past few years, one ongoing result has been the evaluation of statues, buildings, roads, and even holidays named after historical figures. In our capital city of Hartford, a statue of Christopher Columbus that had stood for 94 years was removed one month after Floyd’s death. In my hometown of Windsor, the statue of John Mason, the town’s founder, was vandalized. The statue, which had been erected in 1889, commemorated “the heroic achievement of Major John Mason and his comrades, who near this spot in 1637, overthrew the Pequot Indians and preserved the settlements from destruction.” Despite plans by the historical society to relocate the statue to a museum, it has yet to happen.
john-mason-statue-july-2020-400x736   lincoln
No one, it seems, is safe from the reckoning. Columbus Day was renamed to Indigenous People’s Day. Statues of individuals associated with the southern confederacy, like Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis, were removed. Around the country came cries to take the names of people like Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson off schools and buildings and to tear down their statues because of their problematic history with Black or indigenous people.

As this process of re-evaluating historical figures continues, Jesus’ words, spoken to the rich young ruler in Mark 10:18 are being proved true: “No one is good – except God alone.” With these words, Jesus challenged this young man who had addressed him as “good teacher” to recognize that either he was correct in calling Jesus “good” because He was God in the flesh, or to give up the term “good” as a description.

The truth is that maybe it isn’t such a bad thing to tear down all the statues and remove all the names of historical figures from the buildings. As Jesus told us, every human being is “problematic.” We are all capable of achieving noble things while also committing atrocities. Martin Luther King Jr. courageously fought for civil rights while also reportedly having multiple affairs. His namesake, Martin Luther stood up to the injustices of the Catholic Church while displaying some awful anti-Semitism. Dig deeper on the lives of Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, or anyone else you admire, and you will find moral failings. And trust me, if you spend a few days with me, you will find plenty of reasons not to erect a statue in my name.

No one is good but God alone. Take the people in your life and in our history off of their pedestals and see them for who they are: men and women created in God’s image, capable of great things, but also broken by sin, and therefore capable of horrendous acts as well. And then transfer your worship to Jesus, the only one who deserves it, and put your hope in Him.

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