I am scared. And my fear is accompanied by anger and sorrow. I weep as I read about a two-year-old girl sexually assaulted and then murdered by her mom’s boyfriend. I’m angry that this past week, husbands and fathers were apparently murdered at the hands of those who wield authority. And all of this is fresh on the blood-soaked heels of a terrorist attack that left over fifty dead in Orlando. In our country, the freedoms of speech and religion appear to be crumbling. And two incredibly dishonest and corrupt individuals are the main competitors for the job of our president. When I look at my two children, I am afraid to think about the world that they will inherit.
Like our parents and our parents’ parents, we live in chaotic times. On that, I think most people agree. The cause(s) and the solution(s) for the chaos are where the disagreements fester. As I write this, less than twenty-four hours after the tragic murders of five Dallas police officers, my Facebook newsfeed is filled with divisive rhetoric. Many are using competing statistics as rhetorical bludgeons against their friends. Charges of “racist” and “thug” and even “cop-killer” have overtaken pictures of vacations as the dominant theme on Facebook’s midsummer newsfeed. Although our world is no more broken and sick than it was last year, it appears that we are moving farther away from a cure.
So, yes, I am scared. But, my fear is a symptom of the problem, a product of the brokenness. Thankfully, I have already received the cure. Recently, I was mercifully reminded of the glorious reality of that cure.
Last Saturday, I attended an event for Ramadan at a local mosque. My pastor, who invited me, spoke at the event. The topic was “The Rights of Neighbors.” Along with my Baptist pastor, the panel included a Jewish scholar, a liberal Roman Catholic priest, a Muslim community activist, and the mosque’s imam.
My pastor spoke first, and his talk was centered on the story of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10. Allowed only ten minutes, he quickly made a beeline from Luke 10 all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Emphasizing that all humans are made in the image of God, my pastor made the claim that everyone has worth and value and deserves to have their rights protected. But, as he explained to the growing crowd in the mosque, there’s a problem. Our parents, the first humans, introduced sin into God’s good creation. Because of sin, the relationship was severed between humans and a holy and just God. Along with the broken relationship between God and His image bearers, humans now suffer the effects of sin on their relationships with each other. We violate each other’s rights because we are sinners. The problem determines the cure – sin must be dealt with.
Graciously, God has stepped in and provided the cure for the problem that humans created. Sending His son into the world to take on the frailty of human flesh was the apex of God’s plan to save His people from their sins. Completely fulfilling God’s law and living the perfect life that none of us can, Jesus Christ then mounted the cross and died for the punishment of the sins of His people. Three days later, Jesus came out of the grave, signaling that He had won the battle over sin and death. Those who repent of their sins and place their faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and submit to God’s rule are placed in the family of God. One day, King Jesus will return to bring to completion the salvation of His people from their sins and usher them into His physical presence in the new Garden and the new City. After the return of Jesus, no one’s rights will ever again be violated.
That was the crux of my pastor’s talk at the mosque, and it stood in stark contrast to the other speakers’ words.
As each panelist got up and delivered his or her address to the crowd, I was continuously struck with how franticly desperate they were to find a solution that would protect the rights of neighbors. The Jewish scholar and very liberal Catholic priest went so far as to scold the Muslims in attendance for not coming to the inter-faith discussion groups designed by liberals to rebuild broken relationships. They were both quick to frequently and patronizingly add, “Most Muslims aren’t terrorists.”
One after another, the panelists confessed to feeling at a loss for how to solve the problem of broken relationships that result in the violation of rights. The Muslim community activist encouraged us to attempt to bridge the gap of broken relationship by finding common objectives. But even her talk was characterized by a sense of desperation tinged with hopelessness.
Throughout the evening, I was struck by the complex and grasping nature of their proposed ways forward. I wanted to stand up and cry out, “You’ve already heard the solution!” I was also struck by the simplicity and universality of that solution that’s found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As our world seemingly burns around us, as violence continues to mar our communities and our lives, it’s vital for Christians to boldly declare the gospel. While my pastor spoke, I praised God for his courage to bravely stand and deliver the gospel message to a politely hostile audience. Without wavering from the truth, he spoke winsomely and held out the real solution.
Because of the salvation offered in Jesus, I have no need to be scared. My fear is a holdover from the time when humanity’s parents rebelled against God. My fear reveals that my faith is not full and my salvation is not complete. Thankfully, King Jesus will return one day to finish the salvation of His people and judge those who have rejected Him and declared that they are more valuable than their neighbors.
As our nation reels from hurt, confusion, and fear, let’s recognize that the solution will not be found in competing statistics, snarky memes, and social media arguments. Instead, let’s hold out the true hope and salvation found in Jesus Christ.