[Note: This is an update to a word I originally posted in July of 2020. As Solomon said in Lamentations 1, “… there is nothing new under the sun.” Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, as we, as a culture, continue to push against the God of the universe and allow the spirits of hatred and death to run rampant, we continue to experience levels of violence otherwise unknown in our lifetimes.
I thought it would be appropriate to repost this updated version in response to this violence and to remind us where our trust and hope truly lie. Godspeed!]
I feel the move in my spirit to respond to the events that have occurred in our country over the last several months. And, in response, the word I am once again sensing is Balance.
I know. Once again you are feeling the pressure to respond to the school shootings and other acts of violence that show up daily in the news and rightly so. However, it is past time for us to see the bigger picture and dive in. There is a spirit of hatred and death that has been released upon the earth. Maybe because we are calling on it. Maybe because the church has let its guard down and forgot to come against it. Maybe it's God's "judgement" (he often lets us get our own way when we insist on having it and we call that "His judgement"). For whatever reason, hatred and death have been released in a way and in wave upon wave. You and I have ever experienced this before and could not have imagined its possibility. And if we’re honest, we’ve been complacent.
With that said, many men, women, and children have been murdered. By a person. They were murdered by another human being who decided that they should die or, at the very least, a person who did not care enough about the victim’s lives to let them live. Either way, they were not directly murdered by the culture. They were not murdered by "them.” They were not even murdered by “the system.” They were murdered by a person. An individual who exercised volition.
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift." – Matthew 5:21-24
“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” – Matthew 15:18-19
These murders often touch off protests and rightly so. Protests which other individuals, having the same heart as the victim’s murderer, have used to steal, kill and destroy in the name of “justice.”
"The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy." – John 10:10a
Disruption, disrespect, confusion, anger, hatred, malice – the same emotions that instigated the shootings themselves are alive and well in the hearts and minds of many of those protesting. There is no difference. There is no excuse. No act of hate, malice and violence will bring about peace, healing, or restoration.
School shootings in particular and the culture of death, theft, and violence that pervades much of our society is a much larger issue. And, if we are honest, the issue is not a cultural or, to use a popular phrase, “systemic” because when we blame the “culture” or “the system” we essentially blame no one.
Who is “The Culture”? Who is “The System”? “The Culture” and/or “The System” cannot be held accountable for anything. Accountability only exists at the individual level. It is only individuals who commit the acts of violence which we all mourn. Only an individual can be punished for breaking the law. We know the issue is human brokenness and we know that there is only one way for that brokenness to be healed and life restored. The life and love of the Lord Jesus Christ.
"I have come that they may have life. And have it to the full." – John 10:10b
John Adams had it spot on when he said:
“We have no government armed in power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”
We are now experiencing the results of our general turn from God. When our Constitution was written there were some assumptions made in the writing. A relationship or, at the very least, a respect for religion and morality were at its core. And while we see some turns to the contrary most of what the world presents and what we experience runs counter to those assumptions.
So, as we lean forward, to lament is appropriate and right. To peacefully protest and wail is an appropriate response to the loss. But we must remember who the real enemy is.
We must also remember that Jesus is calling us to more. More to be and more to experience. He is calling us to lead people to him. The angry, the hurting, the broken, the thirsty, the confused, the misunderstood, the poor, the rich, the living, and the dying. Because it is only in him that we can love without measure. Love without ulterior motive. Love with a righteous passion.
So, when it confronts us, what is the appropriate response to hatred, malice, death and destruction? Love. And, sometimes, love gets angry. Jesus showed us that it is possible to love even when we are angry. Unfortunately, most of the time, our response to hatred, malice, death, and destruction is fear; and fear only breeds more hatred, malice, death and destruction.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” – 1 John 4:18-21
So, I urge you to acknowledge the truth. Men, women, and children have been murdered. They have been murdered by other people acting out of hatred and malice. There is no justification for that. The aftermath, fueled by the very same spirit of hatred and malice; death and destruction that killed, is just as horrendous; and just as worthy of anger, protest, and lament. But as Christians the thing we are called to do above all else is to love.
"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." – 1 Peter 4:8
How ever we as individuals are called to respond, we must, as followers of Jesus Christ, also find balance. I really like the way Eugene Peterson put it in The Message ...
"Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life." – Ephesians 4:26