All summer, we've been looking at how Jesus engaged people with questions. In the wake of a difficult week of national tragedy, we may have some questions of our own. I'm always hesitant to give a running commentary on the problems of the world, because that's all I'd ever do if that's all I ever did! Our headlines and newsfeeds are packed daily with news that offends and horrifies us. It feels as if there is more of it now than there's ever been...or is it just that there is more available information than there's ever been?
We know Jesus was concerned about his generation and their violent tendencies. I think each generation feels our days are worse than the one before us, but any student of history sees the stories of racial tension, violent policing, murder, exploitation, and warfare going as far back as history is recorded.
We sense we are living in horrible times. So what are we to do? What's an appropriate response for Christians? I think each of us must find a way to be part of the solution. Each interaction we have with a neighbor, co-worker, or stranger is important. Not all of us will be activists or can adopt black sons or can work to change local laws. How you work for the good is up to you, but how we do it should reflect the nature of Jesus at work within us!
With that in mind, here are a few things for us to consider:
1] Jesus upholds the sanctity of human life. We believe we are created in the image of God and that Jesus restored and redeemed us with his own life. In Jesus, we see that the lives of people matter: the child in the womb, the person sentenced to death, the enemy in our crosshairs, the hungry and poor, the lonely and the leper, the outcast and imprisoned. In Christ, people are not disposable. Jesus upholds the sanctity of human life; so should we.
2] Jesus loves those our society labels unlovable. Jesus loves the outcasts, misfits, the peculiar, the black sheep, and the red-headed step child. His ministry was among the poor, the lepers, the racially outcast (Samaritans), the sinners, the demon-possessed, and the unclean. We read in Psalm 68:6 that "God sets the lonely in family and sets prisoners free and gives them joy." Jesus loves those our society labels unlovable; so should we.
3] Jesus calls the church to be a counter-cultural witness. He calls us out of darkness and into his light, and as followers of Jesus, we have a code to live by that rises above national and global chaos. Even if our nation is fractured, we here can model Christian unity. Guided by our love for God and for each other, we can find the courage to continuously look to Jesus rather than throw ourselves into the fray. Jesus calls us to a different way of living.
One more thing...
There's an encouraging story in the New Testament about a dead child and a frightened father. Jairus was a leader in the synagogue, and his 12 year old daughter was sick and dying. He went to find Jesus, because he believed Jesus could heal her. Jesus agreed to go to his house with him, but because there were so many people crowding around Jesus, it was slow going. Along the way, a woman who had bleeding issues for 12 years touched Jesus' cloak and was instantly healed. I'm sure Jairus was impatient and worried when Jesus stopped to have a little chat with this woman on the road. By the time Jesus got to his house, his daughter was dead.
The family and friends gathered in his home were crying and wailing in their grief, and Jesus asked, "Why all this commotion and wailing?" It's not that Jesus was insensitive to their pain, but his hope was someplace else. He took the girl by the hand and told her to get up.
And she did.
We do not want to be insensitive to what's going on in the world -- nor do we want to be desensitized to it -- but we must remember the source of our hope in this world. The outcome is in God's hands.
It's worth repeating: my job is not to offer continuous social commentary, but it is to continuously point us to Jesus. How we choose to respond to this world is up to you, but we should consider the Way of Jesus when we do.