There is no way to describe some of the events of the past few weeks … in Paris and in San Bernardino … other than horrific. Innocent lives were lost, evil (temporarily) triumphed over good, and we’re all left to contemplate the condition of the world and our role in it. The range of emotions have felt an awful lot like those after 9/11 (save for the passionate sense of American patriotism at that time), albeit back in 2001 the sheer scale and incredulity of it all magnified the horror beyond imagination. Adding to the morass is the fickle punditry and bereft everyday citizens like you and me, overflowing with opinions about who is to “blame,” afire with doubt that our government is doing the right things to protect us, and fearful of the “next” attack.
And yet, it’s all understandable. The variety of emotions and reactions is, in my mind, natural and to be expected in light of the horror that ensued, and has been our reality since 9/11. Granted, terror commenced LONG before 9/11 and is going to persist until the day Jesus returns, but in our lifetime nothing has left so deep a mark on us.
What is not understandable, in my not-so-humble opinion, is blame. Well, blame in the form that some have purveyed. Let me say definitively first that I do agree with those who say we are at war with radical Islamic terrorists. I’m not a military person, but I do understand that unless you identify your enemy, you cannot defeat them. So to be unwilling to utter the identity and nature of one’s enemy is inane at its core. But to move from calling out the actual culprits to assigning blame to others by extension is dangerous, first because it detracts from the focus of the fight, second because it forwards one of the objectives of the malefactors in dividing us, and third … and the subject of this week’s message … it fails to recognize a larger and longer-lasting battle and the means to achieve it.
As I near the end of my one-year through the New Testament reading plan, marching through 1 John 5, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, and Revelation 1 – 3, and familiar passage struck me in an unfamiliar way. In 1 John 5:1-5 read:
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments. Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
Is there any doubt that the battle being waged today against radical Islamic terrorists is a battle against evil? To even introduce debate on that topic seems futile. Unfortunately, evil has existed since the fall in Eden, and will persist until the return of Jesus. That’s the reference to “this world,” the very evil nature of creation and humanity as a consequence of pride, which led to sin, which now permeates our very DNA as humans and the whole of creation as it breaks down little by little until it’s finally restored.
But note what John says above … “every child of God defeats the evil world.” (emphasis added). Every. And how does that happen? Through our faith. Of course, that faith has to be in the one and only Son of God … Jesus. Faith misplaced … placed in anything other than Jesus … is foolish, sort of like having faith in the ability of an airplane to fly with damaged wings. Faith is one thing … worthiness of the faith is another. But that’s a topic for another writing. 😎 But the point is, the victory can come through our faith in Jesus. By Him, but through US. We can be victorioUS.
The point? We spend an awful lot of time blaming. Blaming politicians. Blaming our “commander in chief” (quotations intended). Blaming jobs (sorry … I had to finish coughing after writing that). Blaming Israel (yeah, blaming the victim makes sense). Blaming the US policies. Blaming ALL muslims. And on it goes. Look, I’m not a fan of our current president. I’m not a fan these days of almost any politicians … who could be? I’m obviously not a fan of anyone that would harm another human being for no reason, let alone my fellow American citizens. So let’s call the radical Islamists what they are … murderers.
But I guess what I’m driving at is there’s a different, bigger picture at hand here, and I think it’s illustrated by John’s words above. Could it be that in the desire to blame, regardless of who is the subject of that blame, we’re missing a key point? Could it be we’re too busy focusing on others and not on ourselves and the power of our faith, through the power of the Object of our faith? To a degree … and hear me out … whether we blame radical Islamists or all Muslims (we shouldn’t the latter … not that I agree with their beliefs, let me be clear), is it possible that God cares less about who they are and more who we are in Him? Think about it, when Jesus asked “who do the people say I am?” After He got the answer from Peter, He immediately turned to ask, “who do YOU say I am?” (Matthew 16)
What I’m trying to say is let’s dispense with the blame. Let our “leaders” – for better or for worse – deal with how to kill every last evil [blank] radical Islamist who for Allah, jihad or whatever reason even THINK about harming innocents around the globe. But otherwise, we do have a role in this, church.
Have we ever thought of the fact that people die every day in their sins? An eternal death. Why? Because they haven’t “believed that Jesus is the Christ.” And to some degree it’s because they haven’t heard about Him from folks like you and me. Don’t misunderstand … I’m not saying that evangelism is a panacea and that all we have to do is love them, and they’ll come around. No. The Bible itself is clear that unfortunately, not all will believe no matter how much or how hard we try to spread the good news. But … there are Muslims for many reasons. Some of which are because there aren’t enough Christians, or effective enough Christians to curtail belief in a false religion … a myth.
Maybe if we all focused on our faith, our walk, our impact in the world, there would be less reason for others to be Muslim, or evil, or whatever. If they knew the truth, perhaps they would be compelled not to follow a lie. In short, what are we doing to make our Christian faith more desirable? Or more aptly put, what are we doing in our world right now that makes our Christian faith less desirable? Don’t get me wrong … evil is going to reign in the world for a while. Some people will just choose to be evil. But God CAN and HAS overcome evil. God has already won the ultimate battle. So have we. We are already victorioUS in Him. And we can carry out victory in our world through our walk … not everywhere, perhaps, but certainly more.
Jesus had followers because of who He was … and He commanded us to take that role from Him … are people following us because of who we are and how we show Who He is? Or is it the opposite? Are we repelling and repulsing them? Not casting blame, but just wondering if we know we can – in Him – be victorioUS.
Soli Deo gloria,