In light of recent news about the death of Osama Bin Laden, I have been thinking. Alot. There have, throughout the centuries of recorded human history, ever since the Fall, been acts of violence and hate, perpetrated on the basis of one man/group thinking themselves in the right, or one man/group taking what they want (be it money, power, or anything that falls under a subheader) at the cost of another.
Satan himself wages war on our God, because he wants what is not his (God's GODNESS and subsequent worship). Cain killed Abel because he was jealous of him. Throughout the Bible there are stories of evil and murder and in our secular history books: regimes taken by force and genocide in the name of political or religious advancement. I think of the Hutus and the Tutsis in Rwanda and Burundi, and of the massacre of the Christians in Sudan in the 80's, leaving thousands of orphaned children and a tribe of emigrating "Lost Boys". I am ashamed as a follower of Jesus of the Crusades, a bloody war that was fought for the "sake of Christianity". Today, people live in fear all over the world. There are civil wars and little or no religious freedoms or human dignities in the majority of many civilizations. While we sit in our air conditioned homes, we shake our heads at the condition of the people around the world, and thank God that it's not us.
When 9/11 hit, we were saddened and outraged. We lost friends and loved ones, our bubble of security and the American dream were threatened and we felt more keenly the evil that existed in our world. We went to war and vowed to take out the man who was one of the masterminds behind the attacks.Ten years later, here we are. I am not sad that Bin Laden is dead. What makes me sad is seeing the invisible wall between many Americans and Middle Eastern people in the US. I remember seeing an older Arab woman being treated like a criminal in the airport at JFK, the shame and anger at having her things strewn about in front of hundreds of people, and her indignant scream as she was mishandled by the guards. It was humiliating, and very scary. It is horrifying to think that some people may have terrible intentions, murderous plans that they will carry out in the hope that they may be honored by their God. It is heartbreaking that many kind and decent people will be treated like terrorists just because they are wearing traditional clothing or speak Arabic. Such is our world.
I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I believe that he is God, the second person of the Trinity, and that he came to earth as a man to live a sinless life and to willingly take the punishment I deserved for my sins by his death on the cross. I believe that he was buried to show that he was indeed dead, and raised again to prove that indeed, he was God! During his life, he forgave sins, and after his resurrection, he does the same to all that will call on him in repentance(sorrow for a life lived in denial of and rebellion against his Lordship) and faith (that by his grace, we can be forgiven and live eternally in heaven with God)! When we respond to Jesus in this way, the Holy Spirit makes his home inside of us and changes us into new creations, people who are not ruled any longer by the sin nature but whom have the capacity to live holy lives that are pleasing to God. We still mess up, of course, but with the Holy Spirit we will not be able to be the same as we were before we met Christ.God has given us his word, the Bible, to teach us more about himself, to renew our hope, and to give us instructions on how to live and treat one another. By his Spirit, we can live counter culturally, that is, live to obey and honor God, love him, and love others!
In light of this, how do we carry out this lifestyle in a world that is so messed up? I don't pretend to have all the answers, or to know much about anything. What I do know is that God has commanded (not suggested) that I love everyone, even my enemies. Loving them would mean..
Not burning the books they consider holy. I speak of a fundamentalist group in Florida who did this with the Quran. How can this bring anyone closer to God? This only shows that the love of Christ is not pouring out of you, HATE is.How about inviting people of different religions into your home and showing them love and sharing what Christ means to you and what he has done in your life? I have Muslim friends who are so dear to me. All it took was getting to know one personally (whom I call my little brother). I was able to see past the grouping of "them vs. us" and get to care for a person whom God died for and who is hilarious, smart, and so kind and loving. Through this I have developed a huge heart for Muslim people and I pray that they would know the overwhelming grace, the immeasurable love of Christ and the assurance of salvation. They are able to be around us often, and I hope that they see Jesus in us and through us.
Am I saying not to be angry at evil? Of course not! But God has said not to fight evil with evil, but with love!! (Romans 12:17-20). There is enough wrong in the world. We have to stick to the Bible's teachings and trust that God is working all things together for those who love him and are called according to his purposes (Romans 8:28), and we are also called to fulfill the Great Comission, which means sharing the Good News of Jesus with people who may not have access to it in their own cultures! There is certainly room for wisdom, prayer, and caution in the life of the Christian, but fear and hate are not of God.
How can we ACT for Christ in a world that is so entrenched in evil? The answer is to speak the Gospel and to speak truth to the people around us..IN LOVE! To live a life satisfied and abiding in Christ. To be a people who are rejoicing always and patient in hope, praying without ceasing, because this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us!(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
This applies to how we interact with people of EVERY background..even if they are so different than us that we can't see how we could ever connect. People respond to love. The word of God does not return void, and if it is him working through us then things will happen. My heart was transformed by Christ, and I know that I am a different person because of it. I was up to my neck in sin, miserable but didn't know how to live any other way, and God came in and showed his great power. He truly raised this life up from the dead. I saw the love of Christ in others and I WANTED it.
How do we show love to people who are living so contrary to God, who seem to have no desire for him or his Lordship? We love them and we speak truth in love. What if, instead of calling names, or belittling, or picketing..what if we opened our homes and our lives..what if we considered others as more important than our comfort or rights, but so loved them and wanted them to know Jesus that we showed grace, mercy, and friendship- even when they don't love us back or show us grace- even when they hurt us? What if we loved the one in front of us, even when it is hard, and they open their heart to Christ because there is no earthly reason for us to love them? What if they don't see human reaction, but what if they see God in us?
Let them see Jesus.