The world seems to be coming unglued! Militant, radical Muslims in Iraq are killing Christians, minority religious groups and even other Muslims. Hamas bombards Israel, and Israel responds with shelling that is killing women and children. At home, police decked out in military gear in a Missouri town are confronting an angry mob looting in the street and threatening to kill policemen.
Daily posts on Facebook and other social media demonize Barack Obama and “liberal Democrats”, or greedy corporations and capitalists, or Israelis or Hamas. The air is filled with ranting on both sides and all sides decrying every conceivable evil in the world. The cacophony seems to be reaching new heights. The many forms of social media make ranting as easy as shouting out the window to a world that is right within earshot.
I have found myself caught up in the torrent, reacting and re-reacting to the various comments, news clips and videos, like waves of offensives and sieges, until I began to realize something was happening to me….
Maybe it was the news of Robin Williams taking his own life. I jumped into that fray too, but I could feel the darkness sucking me in with it.
A few days ago, I began to to pull back, and and to seek the voice of God. When I realized I was being sucked in, and turned to God, I found these words running through my mind – “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” I put them up on my Facebook page.
We dare not stare too long into the darkness lest we be sucked into it. We dare not stare too long at the face evil, lest we become a reflection of it.
These words also came to me: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
So much of our discourse with the world is lacking grace and salt. When we allow the darkness to creep in, we risk sounding like so many other angry voices in the din as we respond in kind to the evil, and the hatred and the unrighteousness that we see. My son, who is not a believer, asks why Christians are not more loving.
Yesterday, a wise young woman responded to a post about the systematic killing of Christians in Iraq by ISIS, beheading children, crucifying men, putting their heads on sticks. He rightfully called them barbaric killers and “scum of the earth”. No sane, God-loving or moral person would think otherwise. The response caught me up:
We are called to love, bless and pray for those who persecute us because we are Christians.
Don’t let hate come in. Pray for that situation, do all you can, spread awareness about the wrong being done, find ways to help and spread love, but don’t spread hate.
What Would Jesus Do
She is right of course.
Jesus Himself spoke those words at the Sermon on the Mount. “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt. 5:44-46)
I have been thinking about how we react to the violence and the unrighteousness and the evil in the world. We hate it! All of it is sin and antithetical to God. We respond to it with a knee jerk righteous indignation. But is our response really righteous?
There is a judge, and His name is the Lord Almighty! We are called to love our enemies and bless those who persecute us.
How in the world do we do that? I honestly don’t “know”. I know in my head that Jesus calls us to do it, but I can’t find that in myself. I do not have the capacity to do that.
If I am being honest with myself, I do not want to love people that behead children! Put men’s heads on stakes! Crucify Christian! I do not want to love people like that. THEY DO NOT DESERVE IT!!
WHY would God ask us to love those people and bless them?!!
Jesus was persecuted, whipped, scorned and crucified. God knows. He asks us to follow Him.
But, there is more to it. As I became increasingly involved in thinking and dwelling on the evils in the world and reacting to them, I could feel darkness creeping in. If I hate them, I let the evil seep into me. Like the moon reflects the light of the sun, I begin to project the same spirit. It is less intense to be sure, but I reflect in my heart the unrighteousness I fix my eyes on. The same darkness creeps in.
At the root is sin, itself: the sin that I, myself, have in my heart. There is no one who is righteous, not even one person. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. I may not be “as bad as THAT guy” or THOSE people; but it does not matter. I am no more righteous then anyone else. There are only degrees of unrighteousness, but I am in the same basic sin condition as the ISIS soldier beheading a child.
They do not deserve the love of God…, but I do not deserve a love like that either. There is nothing good in me.
How CAN I love like that? The answer clearly is: I can not. Only by God’s Holy Spirit dwelling in me do I have any hope of loving like that, blessing those who persecute.
“Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”
Though we are confronted with the images and videos and stories of some of the most horrific atrocities that can be conceived, though we are bombarded with the reality of police acting with military tactics, shooting thieves instead of arresting them, though many in our society have lost respect for the police and provoke harsh response, though we can not avoid the evils in the world, we must fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
We can not afford to let the darkness swallow us up. We need to face into the Light and allow the God who dwells in us to work out our salvation, from glory to glory, so that we become reflections of Him and of His great love in the world.
In Him is our hope.
Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy—think about these things: dwell and meditate on God so that we become a reflection of Him.
Then, let our speech by full of grace, seasoned with salt – because they will know us by our love.