Daily Devotion - Tuesday, November 24, 2015
For most of this week our daily devotions will be reflections based on the sermon I preached earlier in the week for Christ the King the Sunday. In the sermon, I made the assertion that if Christians truly believe Jesus is in charge, they should be without fear, worry, anxiety, etc. Our devotions will be centered on that premise for the first part of the week--and then we'll turn our thoughts toward thankfulness as the week progresses.
Some time ago, a friend sent me links to a series of news articles about the horrible atrocities being committed toward Christians living in countries surrounded by extremist Muslims. The stories were terrible to read. I was disheartened and dismayed to read through them all--each more horrible than the next.
I have to admit, when I read or hear stories about the systematic persecution of Christians around the world at the hands of extremist Muslims, I get angry. More than once I have wondered aloud whether God might see God's way clear to just rain down some serious vengeance upon all of those fanatics--Sodom and Gomorrah style.
If you feel this way, too, know this. We are not alone--none other than King David himself had feelings of vengeance and violence toward evildoers and sick, violent people. In Psalm 58, David prays that God will do awful things to these perpetrators of wickedness:
6 Break the teeth in their mouths, O God; Lord, tear out the fangs of those lions! 7 Let them vanish like water that flows away; when they draw the bow, let their arrows fall short. 8 May they be like a slug that melts away as it moves along, like a stillborn child that never sees the sun. 9 Before your pots can feel the heat of the thorns—whether they be green or dry—the wicked will be swept away. 10 The righteous will be glad when they are avenged, when they dip their feet in the blood of the wicked. 11 Then people will say, “Surely the righteous still are rewarded; surely there is a God who judges the earth.”These feelings of anger and vengeance that we feel so deeply as we struggle to come to grips with the stories of atrocities committed by extremist, fanatics are very real, and completely natural. These feelings are also deeply rooted in our own doubts and fears.
What we need to realize, however, is that although Psalm 58 is filled with violent and angry thoughts, heated emotion and some pretty horrible language, not once does David say to God, "Just give me a chance, let me be the one to shoot the arrow, give me the opportunity to inflict this vengeance..." Sure, he's angry, hurt, wounded, fearful and a host of other things, but he leaves the ultimate justice up to God.
I read a story yesterday about how a bunch of people in Texas armed themselves with various weapons (they have the legal right there to carry them in the open), and staged a protest outside a mosque. The reason why I read this story is because it was re-posted by several of my Christian Facebook friends, including one who is a pastor. And they were posting it because they thought it was awesome.
I get it. I feel those same feelings of anger and fear. But is brandishing weapons outside a mosque in a Texas suburb the answer? Do we think that God isn't watching all of this, including our own responses? I believe so strongly what Martin Luther King, Jr once said. "The moral arc of the universe" might be long, "but it bends toward justice."
I believe that Evil doesn't get to win. I believe that because of the Resurrection of Jesus, the world is filled with a new sense of purpose and a goal that will one day be realized--a new world, a new Creation devoid of all this violence and hate. As Christians we are called to lean into this hope, despite the waves of fear and anger that wash over us.
May you lean into the hope of the Risen Christ on this day--despite the fears, and even anger that you might feel at those who do evil in the world. May you guard your heart against become too hardened to the gentleness of the Holy Spirit. May you live today knowing that the God of justice and righteousness will one day set all things to rights in his time, and for his glory. Amen.