“We are the ones we have been waiting for.”
Barack Obama, February 2008
“This is what the LORD says: ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD.’”
Like many of you I am saddened and frustrated by the events from the early morning of this past Sunday, June 12. I am grieved to live in a world where hate is so pervasive, and I am bothered that in times of crisis there are those who turn to men and the institutions of men for guidance.
To be fair the words above of then-candidate Obama could have been spoken by any political leader of the modern era, Republican or Democrat. Nevertheless they encapsulate practically everything that is wrong with our society today. As Rick Warren stated at the beginning of Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not about you.” If we are the ones we have been waiting for then we are surely lost forever.
“Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.” – Psalm 146:3
“It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in humans.” – Psalm 118:8
“Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?” – Isaiah 2:22
This is not to say that we should trust no man, or that to trust someone is foolish. The question is where do you ultimately place your faith? If your hope is in mankind you will be disappointed – quickly and often. If you are waiting for dear leader to rescue you from turmoil and strife you will be long waiting. I firmly believe that the sort of fundamentalist hatred that killed those beautiful children of God will never be solved by any law or series of laws.
Civil rights did not begin in 1964, they began when the hearts of Americans changed over time and began to accept black people as equals. And that work is not complete.
Equally so hatred will not end because of any legislation. It will end when we all learn to love one another.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” – John 13:34
So now comes the hard part: what can you do? Have you prayed for those who would terrorize us? Have you asked for God to show them mercy and truth? The words of Jesus cannot be improved:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” – Mathew 5:43-47
He was given the opportunity to model this behavior for us, when on the cross He said of His executioners, “Father, forgive them.”
When I lived in Texas the LCMS church we attended had a wonderful Sr. Pastor, and he shared a story with me once. Shortly after 9-11 a child asked him why we don’t pray for our enemies the way Jesus asked. He had no good answer. So in the weekly prayers we would say a quick prayer for Osama Bin Laden, something to the effect of hoping he would seek redemption and learn the truth. It lasted about a week. Our Pastor immediately fell under so much pressure from the congregation that he relented and dropped that prayer. I don’t blame Pastor Steve. At least he had the courage to try.
I blame myself. Not once have I earnestly prayed that God would show the truth to those who would seek to terrorize us. Not once have I asked for God to forgive them for their atrocities, and to purify their heart. Has God been asked to surround would-be terrorists with compassionate people who can show them love and possibly alter their lives before they lash out? Not by me He hasn’t.
Instead I want my pound of flesh. I want swift vengeance. I want some sort of military action with enormous explosions and devastating consequences. Smart bombs, drone strikes, marines and Special Forces. I want action and I demand justice of a purely earthly nature. And I want all of this knowing full well that it will fix nothing. Who is the fool?
So today I don’t ask our leaders to fix this problem. They can’t. Despite their promises they are as impotent and foolish as I am. Instead, today I am going to pray for my enemies. There is tremendous power in prayer. More power than anything I can imagine. I believe that. Now I am going to act it out. Won’t you join me?