On Sunday I spoke at City Church Dayton on the issue of terrorism. It is a part of a #trending series based on issues that the world is facing today. The hope is to answer the questions that our people are asking (even if only silently) by looking at the Bible for a proper response to the world around us.
I make a point not to preach against much, but rather to point to the way of the Kingdom of God. Generally, I believe that if you point the world to Jesus then there will be a heart change, and there will not have to be a lot of time spent keeping the world from hurting itself because those will a heart change will be following the ways of Christ. However, some months ago I felt it necessary to speak on some current issues and see what God is saying about them.
So, with the events this past Thursday in Chattanooga, TN, I scrapped my plans for the Sunday message (on the issue of “RACE” by the way) and focused on the issue of terror.
There is a war raging all around us, and to believe differently would simply be putting your head in the sand. There has actually been war and terror and danger for thousands of years. It is nothing new, but in the age in which we are in the events that unfold seem to be “closer,” if even only through social and news media. So what are the issues surrounding terror that we face?
First is the fear.
It is natural to be afraid at times. In fact, there is a healthy fear that we must understand and work with. For example, you want your child to be afraid of the pool before they are able to swim so they will stay away from the water. However, as the child matures and learns to swim, you want the fear to subside. Fear can be a nice teacher, but makes a horrible master.
When we encounter fear some tend to allow that fear to control them. They allow fear to be their guide in life, and cause them to run away because of it. They forget that courage is not the absence of fear, but a commitment to continue forward in spite of the fear. Others don’t run, but freeze in the midst of fear. They allow fear to immobilize them and keep them from any action, even the action of escape.
Second is the anger.
An actual emotion of the grieving process is anger. When terror strikes there is a also a tendency for some to move straight to anger, bypassing all other thoughts. We are justified in our rage, and if we could only strike back then it would make everything “better.”
I have seen this over and over in my ministry. Hurting people hurt people. Its what we do, and when with clenched fists we know that after the first blow the fight is on. Out of a reaction to the pain we strike back with vengeance, and we feel “right” as we are striking. The hate keeps us warm in the cold, dark days that we are facing; and revenge tastes sweet.
As with fear, anger makes a horrible master. Make no mistake, there are reasons at times to fight, but anger is never one of them.
So what does the Bible say about fear and anger?
2 Timothy 1:7 says that God gives us power, love and self-discipline, and that immobilizing fear does not come from Him. Ephesians 4:28 says that our anger should not control us, meaning that a measured response is always better than a reactionary one; and Matthew 5:39 give us a way of life that shakes the “me in me” to the very core. It says that my first reaction might not necessarily be to strike back, but to “turn the other cheek.” Some have said that this is a mandate for a pacifist mindset, but an understanding of the context is that revenge should not be a motivation for “settling the score.” In other words, not to live “reactionary.”
So what is our response to the fear and anger that comes from terror supposed to be as believers?
We are not to live in fear, but to walk in boldness.
God sends us out in to the world to change it for the Kingdom of God. The world doesn’t want to live according to those principles. In fact, there are some (as seen in terrorist activity) that seek to destroy the ones who would share the Truth of the scriptures and the love of God. God says that the best they can do is take your life from earth, but God holds much more in His hands. It’s found in Matthew 10:28.
God is NOT asking us to sign up for martyrdom I believe, and I know He is not calling us to simply live to curse or destroy the darkness. He IS asking us to be bold enough to walk into the darkness because they really need the light. In fact, the darkness is really dark if the light refuses to shine.
Also, we are to be spurred to action, but not retaliation.
We as believers are not to react, but are to act on the direction of the Spirit in our lives. It is a subtle difference, but an important one. We are not to turn a spiritual battle into a physical one; lest we tend to believe that we have done something when we “handle it” in the physical, only to have the fight the same battle at a later date because the spiritual side never came into submission to the King. It’s Ephesians 6:12 as the guide, folks.
Our action is prayer. And is not the “action” of prayer only, because then we begin to get satisfied in our disciplines more than the answer of God. Discipline is good, and time spent in prayer is never wasted. However, it is the answer to our prayers that is the goal, to truly see God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. How many times have we gotten in the way from God accomplishing His will because we wanted to make a spiritual battle a physical one? Too often I would think.
I end with this.
I am not a pacifist. I will defend my family from harm and pray for the protection of our city, state, and nation. As I wrote before, there is a time to fight.
However, the issues of anger and fear are never to be a director of actions. In fact, only the Holy Spirit is meant to be our guide. We make gods of our own emotions when we allow them to control the moment rather than following the leading of the Spirit, Who is the only One that can make the way straight.
One last thing, and this is hard. In myself I don’t want to do this one. It is why I submit my will to the Father in moments like these.
… I say [JESUS says], love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!