Terrorists bomb airports in Paris, Brussels and Turkey. A gay dance club in Orlando is attacked by a terrorist gunman. Black men shot and killed in traffic stops, police racism alleged. Police ambushed and killed in Dallas by a gunman who wanted to “kill some white people.” These are just a few recent news events that make us feel the world and our country are in trouble. Many are asking why and what can we do? There is a lot of finger pointing, anger and political agendas seeking to profit from the carnage. But how should Christians react to all of this?
Nothing new under the sun
As bad as things seem now, violence, racism and injustice have been around since the beginning of time. In Genesis 4:8-10 God holds Cain accountable for the killing of his brother Abel. This unjust murder happens in the first family. In Genesis 6 God saw “the wickedness of man was great in the earth and every intent of his heart was evil.” This so displeased God that he sent a flood to wipe out everyone and start over with Noah and his family. We could continue through the Bible and history to show that evil and injustice have been a constant part of the human experience.
These problems are problems of the human heart. Jesus told us that murder and adultery flowed from hearts of hatred and lust (Matthew 5: 21-22, 27-28).
The core solution for ending these evils is in transforming the human heart one person at a time. This is best done by the institution God created for it: the family, God’s building block of any society. Restoring, strengthening and helping families function according to God’s design is the long term solution.
Where is God in all of this?
This question is often asked when evil and injustice are running rampant in the land. Humans are quick to lay at God’s feet blame that belongs at our own. God created a perfect world (Genesis 1.31) and gave it to us as a gift. We were to care for it as his representatives. Part of being made in God’s image was the gift of free will. The choice of life or death was ours to make (Genesis 2:16-17).
By now we know how that turned out. This mess isn’t of God’s making but of our own. God in his grace is giving us a “do over” through his redemptive plan. He is in the process of restoring the creation we messed up to its original state.
Throughout human history God has spoken out about evil and our inhumanity to each other. He gave us the 10 Commandments to show us how to treat one another. Isaiah gave Israel a message from God in Isaiah 1:1617: “Put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.”
God has always taught it is the duty of a society to care for the poor and marginalized rather than oppress them. This is one of the reasons he brought judgment on Judah and cast them out of the land. “The Lord will enter judgment with the elders of his people. For you have eaten up the vineyard; the plunder of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?” (Isaiah 3:14-15).
Being created in the image of God means all races are to be equal in respect to worth and treatment. In light of all this truth, how should Christians respond to all the violence, racism and injustice in this present world?
Blessed are the peacemakers
As God’s image bearers Jesus called us to be peacemakers (Matthew 5.9). This means we need to stop the finger pointing and blaming, which goes nowhere. These tactics don’t bring peace in a marriage so why would we expect them to work on a societal level. Here are a few biblical ideas for bringing reconciliation.
- Pray for our governmental leaders at all levels so they will have God’s wisdom in addressing our problems in such a way that we may lead peaceful and quiet lives (1 Timothy 2:13).
- Listen to one another. Rather than seeing those who are different from us as adversaries, seek to build relationships with one another. Understand their position, experience and make one another feel heard. This is what Jesus did by seeking people who were far from God.
- Honor and give respect to all governmental authority because all authority comes from God. Paul tells us they are, “God’s servant for your good (Romans 13:17).
Remember this was written at the time of the Roman Empire when slavery of many races was accepted and Christians were persecuted. God shows us how to engage in peaceful civil disobedience when authority is going against God.
- Own your own responsibility. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Do the right thing regardless of how others are acting. Movements that have been successful in changing societal injustice have usually been peaceful and nonviolent. Think Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and William Wilberforce (slavery in England).
- Churches and church leaders can lead the way of reconciliation by proclaiming and living the gospel of reconciliation. It is only this message that can change the human heart.
The church then models this message of hope by showing a community how a group of racially, culturally and generationally diverse people exist in unity and love.
Dr. John Hawkins, Sr. runs Gateway Counseling Center in Boynton Beach along with his son John Jr. He can be reached by visiting gatewaycounseling.com.