Still struggling to evaluate my thoughts on the black men who were killed in Minnesota and Louisiana, as well as the police officers who were killed in Dallas, I watched last night’s news of the terrorist attack in Nice and felt numb. How do we absorb all these horrific events?
I didn’t want to blog about Minnesota and Louisiana until more facts became clear. Too often, I’ve made comments on past blogs, Facebook and Twitter before I really understood all angles of whatever situation I happened to opine about. I’d therefore resolved to start holding my metaphorical tongue until I actually developed a decent idea of the matter at hand. Yes, I risk being misunderstood as indifferent to the world around me. But being misjudged beats making misjudgments, as I see it.
Last night’s attack in Nice troubled me, though. While I realize that I need to exercise caution in writing about it, I also keep in mind that such events have spiritual implications. A year ago I launched this very blog, in part, so that I could freely comment on current events from a Biblical perspective. The Obergefell ruling convinced me that, very soon, Bible-believing Christians will be censored. It’s a matter of “speak now, or forever hold your peace.”
Christians must recognize that our world has collectively rejected the Lord Jesus Christ and the authority of Scripture. The increasing lawlessness we see around us testifies to that rejection.
But rather than wringing our hands helplessly, let’s view these horrible events as reason to proclaim the Gospel. Human depravity now flaunts itself unapologetically (as I just said), leaving little doubt that everyone has turned away from God. Very much like Israel and Judah at the time of the Babylonian Captivity, Europe and America have rejected our Christian heritage. With that being the case, it may help to consider how the prophet Daniel responded to the sins of his people.
Daniel’s great prayer of confession sounds remarkably like a prayer that Christians ought to pray today:
4 I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. 7 To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. 8 To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. 9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. ~~Daniel 9:4-10 (ESV)
Daniel began his prayer by proclaiming the contrast between God’s gracious nature and the willful disregard of His commandments. Israel and Judah refused to accept God’s authority over them, essentially causing themselves the shame of captivity in Babylon (I may want to elaborate on that point after the election in November.) Largely, Daniel prayed this prayer to agree with the Lord that Judah had deliberately and persistently thumbed her nose at God’s faithfulness and love.
Notice that despite Judah’s stubborn rejection of God’s Word, Daniel acknowledged the Lord’s capacity to extend mercy and forgiveness. Daniel completely trusted that He would show mercy to His people.
I understand, of course, that the Church is not Israel or Judah, and that the Old Testament is not a series of allegories about the Christian experience. At the same time, the history of God’s dealings with Israel and Judah gives us insight into His forgiving and compassionate nature. Yes, our culture has sinned against Him just as rebelliously as Judah did. But we have access, as they did, to His mercy and forgiveness. He extends that mercy and forgiveness though the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. ~~Colossians 1:19-20 (ESV)
After atoning for our sin by dying an excruciating death on the cross, Jesus rose from His grave! His resurrection promises eternal life to those who place their trust in Him.
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. ~~1 Corinthians 15:20-23 (ESV)
The forgiveness of sin must be proclaimed to a society that celebrates its own wickedness. The general course of history will continue gravitating toward evil until Jesus returns to judge the earth, so please don’t misunderstand me to suggest that proclaiming the Gospel will produce massive social reform. But as society goes from bad to worse, people need to hear that Jesus offers hope. Please, my fellow believers, recognize the urgency of making the Gospel known while we still have the liberty to share it!