Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head."Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. - Romans 12: 14-21 (ESV)
In an absolutely horrific story yesterday, two police officers were executed by one deranged individual who had earlier in the day tried to murder his girlfriend in Baltimore. Two men who were just doing their job. Two men who were stolen from their families just 5 days before Christmas. There is no defense possible. There is only the understanding that as Christians we know we are living in the last days. The love of most has waned cold:
"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. - Matthew 24: 9-14 (ESV)
Mind you these verses are speaking about believers. The murderous assassin from yesterday's story is not who these passages are about. The love of most in the world has always been cold. They already betray one another and hate one another. They already ascribe to lawlessness - on both sides of this argument. No beloved, these verses are about the man in our mirror and yesterday serves as a stark reminder of who we really are and where we are really heading. The carnal explosion on social media is to be expected after such a volatile incident following the previous volatile incidents. Once again, fully expected from the world but the reactions from Christians was more frightening. Using the incident to prop up their personal politics. Using the incident to lay blame upon anyone who had the temerity to say that the previous incidents had any merit to them. Not just from everyday Christians but from leadership! Pastors, who ought to know better. Preachers who ought to know they will be held to a higher standard for every careless word that escapes their mouths. Hate feeding hate. Anger feeding anger. Distrust feeding distrust. Using the model the world and Satan offers up for us. Find someone to blame and vilify them for the cause of everything wrong in our lives. Except things are rarely that simplistic in reality. You cannot paint with a broad brush like that and still be dealing in the truth and that was when it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks.
We no longer care about the truth.
I would let that sink in for a minute. I am afraid that we have reached a critical tipping point in history and in the state of the church. When the church spends Sundays to preach about wealth, motivation and three sermon points to a better you then it is no wonder that we have lost the desire to protect the precious truth. It is precious because the world devalues it so much. One of the greatest things about becoming saved is the discovery of absolute truth. That things are black or white and right or wrong. That the shades of grey the world sells us are only there to make us feel better about our sin. Absolute truth is one of the primary reasons the world hates Christ and His Word so much. What do our critics say beloved? Oh you Christians think you know everything. How can there be only one way to heaven? What makes you better than me?
The answer of course is nothing! I am not better. I am just covered by the blood of the Lamb! The world finds the notion of Jesus being the only way offensive because they want to find their own way. A way that doesn't mind their adultery. A way that does not mind their cheating or stealing. A way that will not hold them to the standard of the truth. That is what we saw yesterday and in Ferguson and in Staten Island. We did not see people rushing to embrace the truth. Desiring to find out the truth. People seeking out the truth. No. We saw people rushing to find someone to agree with them that their personal worldview was correct. That the other guys were wrong. That they are to blame for everything wrong in this society. We have traded in "tell me the truth" for "tell me I am right."
Come on now. We are adults. Let's be honest. Depending on what side of the argument you were on determined what "news" channel you watched. That is because the "news" is no longer in the truth business. They are in the ideological division business. They have an ideology and they sell it to you. Not out of meanness or spite but because that is exactly what we want from them. We do not want the truth anymore in case it does not fit with our personal worldview. In case the truth reveals we might be wrong. Or we might be prejudiced. Or we might be hateful. We just want that smiling anchor to come on and tell us that we are all right. That truth is malleable and can be shaped into anything we want. That might work well on this side of eternity but I simply do not understand how Christians forget that the Bible teaches us that we will all stand bare before the one to whom we must give account. Where is the fear of the Lord?
So I lay in bed last night wondering what Jesus would do. I believe the Holy Spirit led me to the key verses from Romans. Specifically He led me to the verse about weeping with those who weep because now is the time for us to weep with the families of Officers Ramos and Liu. I can only imagine the heartache and pain their families will go through. Much like the families of Eric Garner and Michael Brown had to endure recently as well. No one life is worth more than the other. God loves us all and does not play favorites:
He will render to each one according to his works:to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. - Romans 2: 6-11 (ESV)
God shows no partiality. So today we mourn with those who mourn. We support those that need support. That is what we ought to do as Christians. We do not bicker as the world bickers. We do not divide people against each others as the world does. We love people and by doing so show them Christ. Then I started reading the context surrounding the "weeping" verse and realized God was not done speaking to us today. The first admonition from the key verses is we are called upon as believers to bless those that persecute us and not to curse them. Leave it to God to start with a hard one! Those people you cannot stand - bless them! Those people who make your blood boil - bless them! Those people you think are so wrong in this situation, regardless of what side you think you are on - bless them! That means you ought to pray for them. Reach out to them. Love them. What a wonderful way to build a bridge! God always knows a better way because if you look at our current landscape with these issues there is no one building any bridges. They all seem in a rush to burn down whatever bridges they come across but no one is building. I especially like the part that says do not curse them. God knows our wicked hearts. His heart must break when He sees the vicious hatred and bitterness we show towards one another. I do not even mean how unbelievers treat each other but rather how Christians interact in these situations. Take the following verses very seriously beloved:
If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. - 1John 4: 20-21 (ESV)
It does not matter if your Christian brother is on the other side of these social debates and incidents. What matters first and foremost is he is your brother in Christ. The Bible tells of a time when Jesus had to set the standard:
While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him.But he replied to the man who told him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers!For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." - Matthew 12: 47-50 (ESV)
It is not that His mother and brother did not matter. It was about teaching that our family starts with those who share our beliefs. Far too many Christians today have fit their Christianity into their lives instead of making their life to be about Christ.