Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed,
Or the golden bowl is broken,
Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain,
Or the wheel broken at the well.
Then the dust will return to the earth as it was,
And the spirit will return to God who gave it. (Ecclesiastes 12: 6-7 NKJV)
Tomorrow is the last day of August. It will bring to a close a very turbulent month in the most turbulent summer in recent memory, for me anyway. With September comes the promise of cooler temps and the start of a seasonal change, but will it put an end to the seeming barrage of bad news, anger, and violence that have seemed characterize summer 2015?
Only time will tell.
The photo above is of a makeshift memorial for Alison Parker and her cameraman, Adam Ward, who were murdered by a disgruntled former employee of their TV station on live TV last week. (Photo: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images). The nation was rocked not only by the act itself, but especially by the fact that the coward who pulled the trigger videotaped the whole thing and put in on social media. People all around the country unwittingly watched a cold blooded murder on their Facebook feeds and Twitter timelines as the video propagated throughout the net and autoplayed on many people’s phones and computers.
It seemed like our society had crossed some kind of line. It seems like we had taken a step into something from which we cannot return. Of course, how feeling like that is possible after the Sandy Hook shootings is kind of scary, but many people got a taste of the violence that seems so easy to ignore in our day to day lives.
But that is just the latest thing in a wild and chaotic summer. Earlier in the summer we had the Supreme Court ruling on Marriage Equality, which about half the country immediately took some kind of exception to. Anger continued to flow through the shootings in Charleston, South Carolina. After those shootings, a campaign was finally successful is getting South Carolina to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from the statehouse grounds, and other institutions also began to question their use of the same flag. That made a lot of people mad and angry. Meanwhile, coverage of multiple police shootings sky rocketed across the country and shot to the top of many news shows. It seemed like it was open season on unarmed African American men. Against that backdrop, a number of police officers have been murdered as well. The latest was a deputy sheriff in Houston, Texas, who was shot in the back, executed really, as he was walking back to his vehicle after getting some fuel. It appears that the only reason he was killed was that he was an officer.
Does the killing of officers have anything to do with the anger stirred up in the wake of recent police shootings? Leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement say no. People in law enforcement insist it does. Personally, I have no idea. However, I do know that there’s a lot of anger and a lot of blood.
Then we could dive into our political scene. For some odd reason we’re having debates for an election that is STILL over a year away. Fear, anger, and hate have fed into our political rhetoric like an aggressive cancer. The immigration debate has kindled an especially white-hot flame as certain candidates, some children of immigrants themselves, have proposed all kinds of measures to keep people out and kick people out.
There seems to be no middle ground, no adult conversation going on in any of these aspects of our world. It seems really depressing, especially when you perceive the church as ambivalent at best, and a big part of the problem at worst.
Now the question is: is there hope? Is there anything to be hopeful or encouraged about?
Let me have you cast your eye to Germany. Recently, Germany announced that Syrian refugees who made it there would be allowed to stay. Thousands, if not millions, of people have been flooding out of Syria to escape the civil war there and the hand of ISIS. This, and other ethnic violence in the Middle East and Africa, has created a new migrant crisis as these poor folks try to escape to Europe. People are dying in the sea and crammed up in trucks as they try desperately to escape.
Germany has said: “Welcome!” Today, banners like this one popped up at soccer stadiums all over Germany:
The news website “Middle East Eye” published this article and video about how one German town welcomed Syrian refugees. Pretty cool huh? Here we have an entire country opening their arms to people who are in trouble. Contrast that with the overwhelming response coming from the American political scene right now which tells pretty much anybody and everybody to STAY THE HELL OUT. Pretty shameful, isn’t it?
But back to Germany. How awesome is it to see that bit of humanity reflected to the world in the middle of such overwhelming sadness and despair? What a wonderful example for the rest of us!
In these kind of tough times, the verses above from Ecclesiastes often come to mind. These verses speak of the fragility of our lives and our world, of the shattering of our dreams and expectations. They implore us to turn back to God during these times, before these times.
If we look at the news from around the country and the world, our lives and dreams often seem shattered and in disarray. Things seem hopeless and sad.
But if we turn back to God, if we approach this kind of thing as Christ would, we can have hope. We can try to make things better. I’m not talking about a “hope for a great time in your heavenly mansion” type hope. I’m talking about, as I’ve often stressed on this blog, an actual Kingdom of God response to these and other issues
The Kingdom of God seeking to end needless violence and comfort the victims.
The Kingdom of God seeking to show the basic human worth of our friends and neighbors of different races in the face of discrimination.
The Kingdom of God speaking in love before casting judgments.
The Kingdom of God opening it’s arms to the poor and needy, to the refugee. The Kingdom giving it’s shirt as well when asked for it’s cloak. The Kingdom going the extra mile. The Kingdom mirroring the love of Christ to the most vulnerable among us.
How do we affect these responses? How do we move ourselves and our churches to affect these responses? In my humble opinion, THIS is what we as the Body of Christ should be spending our time figuring out as opposed to squawking about any number of the secondary issues that divide us.
Serve the people that Christ served. Love the people that Christ loved. Follow his example, reflect his image.
If we do that, if we ask for his aid in these matters, then we do indeed have plenty of hope. As Jesus says in John 16:33,
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”