In our church fellowship we’ve been working through a series on holiness. In light of what is going on around us today, it is a most appropriate thing for Christians to consider.
What we as Christians find ourselves faced with in our society today is a multifaceted set of challenges. You have people crying out for peace and justice, all the while those who are crying out the loudest are pouring out injustice, and are striving for anything but peace.
Certainly you must be outraged by the actions of the man who murdered George Floyd. He had no respect for Mr. Floyd’s precious life, and he had the audacity to wear a police officer’s uniform. On the other hand you are likely outraged by the lawless and reckless response of some people in so many cities, acting in such despicable ways in the shadow of others who are genuinely angered by the injustice of Mr. Floyd’s murder. They are endangering the lives of good officers and citizens, and tragically some lives have been lost.
The question, for the Christian, is: How do we respond? How do we meet these challenges in a way that deals with the issues, and at the same time honors the Lord our God? It may not seem like it, but the answer is: By being holy.
You may wonder how “being holy” has anything to do with confronting the civil and criminal unrest of our time; but the truth is it has everything to do with it — for the Christian.
The question is: What would Jesus do? I ask that because Jesus always and only acted in holiness. The problem is, so you think, that you don’t know what Jesus would do; but the truth is He tells us what the real enemies are, and what He would do.
First of all, regardless of what you see on Fox News or CNN, we need to remember that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV).
I know what you’re thinking: those are people rioting and looting; those are people who are hurling rocks and bricks at our faithful law enforcement women and men. I know that, and God knows it better than we do, and yet He tells us that they are not the real enemy. But the enemy wants us to think they are so that we will not respond properly.
OK, so how do we respond? How do we act in holiness as we are faced by so many “enemies”? By pleading with God Almighty. About 850 years before Jesus was born, King Jehoshaphat of Israel was threatened by three kings who had joined forces in order to destroy Israel. Their combined forces were overwhelming, and the fall of Israel seemed a foregone conclusion. So what did Jehoshaphat do? He acted holy. He sought the Lord, and he proclaimed a time of prayer and fasting throughout the land.
Hmm, so he was faced with a ruthless attack and looting, and he decided to pray? How does that help us in our time of need, in the current condition of our nation? The answer is found in what God did. God told Jehoshaphat to trust Him. Then the Lord told him to go out to face the enemy, but that it would not be Jehoshaphat who would fight against these overwhelming forces; it would be the Lord. Jehoshaphat was to confront the enemies, but Israel would not have to fight; just watch as the Lord took care of those too strong for the people. Jehoshaphat obeyed, and was so confident in the promise of the Lord that he put the choir in front of the army as they marched out.
How did the Lord bring about the defeat of those who threatened the land? He caused the enemies who had conspired to overrun the land to turn on each other. When Israel arrived on the scene all of the soldiers of the three armies were dead. They had killed each other.
We are surrounded by many challenges. During the pandemic churches have experienced unprecedented discrimination. In recent years we have experienced state sponsored attacks on believers simply living out their faith in Christ. It should not be overlooked that churches that have been on the forefront of fighting for equal justice have themselves been vandalized and burned during these riots.
In other words, we are facing overwhelming forces in our nation. How must we respond; not how do you “feel like responding,” but how MUST we respond? Like Jehoshaphat we must seek the Lord and pray. We either trust our Sovereign Lord, or we do not. We either find our strength and direction in the Rock of our Refuge, or we do not.
You may feel led to stand in the public square with others in a cry for justice and peace, but as you do so, pray. Pray and act as Jesus would act in the face of evil.
To paraphrase Joshua: “Choose this day how you will face the enemies that surround us, but as for me and my house, we will seek the face of the Lord. We will trust in the One who raised up this nation in the first place. He may lead us to act in some way, but we will seek Him first and always” (see Joshua 24:15).
I pray you choose to rely on His care and direction as well.
Jon McCartney is pastor of First Baptist Church of Tooele.