Saturday, October 27, 2018

After Pittsburgh and Pipe Bombs...What?

Racism, xenophobia, antisemitism: convenient lies that people choose to believe in order to “explain” why things aren’t as they “should be” in their lives. They're the sinful cesspool into which people dip their cups to both slake and feed their resentments, fears, and pretensions.

When these hateful, irrational lies get injected into the mainstream of a culture, sick, deluded people use them to justify violence like shooting up schools, churches, concerts, and synagogues. It becomes thinkable for some to send pipe bombs to people they don’t know, they don't like, and toward whom they harbor bitter feelings. 

I’m sick and disgusted by it all, aren’t you?

We DO need prayers at this time. But they must include more than just petitions for healing for the injured and comfort for the grieving.

We need to pray that all of our leaders of all political persuasions will not add to the stew of resentments, ineffectual policies, and spinelessness before the power of lobbyists waving campaign contributions that have led us to where we are today.

We need to pray that we will become kinder and gentler in our civil discourse. Free speech is and ought to be guaranteed in our country. But when, because of our lack of self-control, violence enters accepted daily speech, we encourage violence.

We need to pray that people will enter authentic relationships with the Prince of Peace and the Author of love, Jesus the Christ. The cheap political moralism "preached” in many Christian pulpits is not of God and not the gospel. The gospel is the good news described by Jesus in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” 

Every human being is a sinner in need of the freedom from sin and death that only Jesus has won for us through His sinless life, His sacrificial death, and His resurrection. 

The gospel tells me that I am no better than my neighbor, that we both are loved and valued passionately by God, that we both need to repent, that we both need to entrust our lives to Jesus for a grace that takes me as I am and leads me to become what God will make of me fully in the resurrection. 

And this Gospel incites me, a sinner saved by God’s charitable love (His grace) and not by my "virtue" or "goodness," to love my neighbor as I love myself. 

Prayer that we will live in authentic relationship with Jesus and that God will help all disciples of Jesus to share His gospel with others is the most practical thing we can do personally to address the lies that lead to so much violence in America.

I agree with those who are tired of hollow, idle, meaningless expressions of "thoughts and prayers." If you're going to pray, mean it. And if you pray in Jesus' name, don't be surprised when God makes it clear that you need to be part of a solution, not just a trafficker in sanctimonious cliches.

In the end, to overcome the sickness of hatred and violence that seems to be part of our everyday lives, it's our souls that must be transformed. And that transformation can only happen through the faith in Jesus Christ and His gospel. 

This is our most desperate need at this hour. 

[I'm the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

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