The United States of America seems to be in such turmoil over so many issues:gun violence and gun control
the poor and marginalized
political leaders who are bickering with each other
international engagement with rogue nations such as North Korea and Iran
a hostile media towards anything considered to be Christian and biblically based
the place of historical statues of American leaders
All of these (and many other issues) cause such serious polarization in our society and even among evangelical Christians in the Church.
Some might ask, “Where is God amidst all of these challenges and issues?” Why does He not engage more directly? How could a loving God let so many innocent people be killed in Las Vegas? These are good questions to ask and we go to the bible, the word of God, to find the answers because in and through the bible, God speaks his word to us.
Where is God when difficulties arise?
He is where He has always been ruling and reigning on the Throne of Grace in heaven. The prophet Habakkuk asked similar questions, when in his day, a powerful force rose up against the People of God. Habakkuk said,” O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? [Hab 1:2-3].
That was quite a thing for Habakkuk to say. He was in effect, charging God with sitting on his hands and doing nothing.
Almighty God replied, “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” [Hab 2:20]. God said that even though Habakkuk though he was doing nothing and that he was silent, He was in fact right where He should be – in his holy temple, ruling and reigning according to his time and his purpose.
To believe this requires faith in the Living God. In fact in Habakkuk’s prophecy God encouraged Habakkuk and us that “The righteous will live by faith.” [Hab 2:4].
The word faith, as a noun, only occurs twice in the whole of the Old Testament. The noun ‘faith’ in the Old Testament always means ‘faithfulness’. It is used of a husband and wife who stay together for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, until they are parted by death. The second time it is used is when Moses is praying and his hands are being held up ‘in faith’ by Aaron and Hur.
In the midst of difficulties and challenges, when God seems silent and remote remember, “The righteous live by keeping faith with God.”
The only faith that saves, is the faith that hangs on and every time this phrase is used in the New Testament it means exactly that (take a look at Romans 1, Galatians 3, Hebrews 10).
Are there other practical things Christians can do in response to the evil and suffering in this world?
Yes…. three practical things that all begin with the letter ‘P”
Christians are taught in the bible to pray for their leaders and those who govern. The liturgies of the Anglican Church have a strong heritage of regular public prayer for those in authority. Here is an historical Anglican prayers which has been adapted for us in the Anglican Church in North America:
Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure conduct. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Sometime we need to partner with other Christian and serve our communities, “with no strings attached” meaning that we take the gospel to our community through humble acts of service. This is happening all across our diocese where congregations are feeding the hungry, ministering to those in prison, caring for those in hospital and helping the vulnerable and marginalized.
The 1799 work “Sermons on Several Occasions” by Reverend John Wesley contained a homily on “The Law Established through Faith” with the following guidance, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Neither is love content with barely working no evil to our neighbour. It continually incites us to do good: as we have time, and opportunity, to do good in every possible kind, and in every possible degree to all men.
Sometimes, some Christians, will be required to petition civic leaders to change policies that are impacting our nation and the world. During the previous administration, I wrote to the president about his administration’s policy of engagement in Syria which was having a direct impact on Christians in the region, many of whom were being killed and others internally displaced. The president disagreed with my position and request, however I believe that I had been given a responsibility to raise this serious matter with him. Not all Christians can petition leaders and we have to be prayerfully strategic over which issues the church engages, however sometimes it is right and important for some Christian ministers to engage in this way.
Let us all remember, no matter where we live, that God speak to us through the bible and tells us that it is righteousness that exalts a nation.
May each of us live faithfully in the will of God, that we are salt to the earth and light to the world.