Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Tragedy in Arizona
What Can Believers Learn?

And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.

he God of the Old Testament was many times violent and many times directed Israel in acts of violence. I will openly confess that those narratives are a mystery to me, but we must receive their validity by faith. But we also must remember that there are things, more things than we know, that are God’s alone and not applicable to man. God’s ways are not ours, and the story of redemption that began in Eden’s Garden is filled with twists and turns that confound the wise.
God uses a Babylonian called Abram to father His people. God uses a whore to be in His Son’s lineage. God calls Himself the “son of David” who was an adulterous murderer. And there are many imperfect men and women who God used, some mightily, in His journey to redemption. It would be safe to say that we would not have used those people. It probably would also be safe to say that we would not use us if we were God. I often feel God made a poor choice in me, however He is God and I am not.
There is divine justice, and the Scriptures make it clear that there is an eternal place of justice for those who die outside of Christ’s redemption. God is holy and just, and we are not. By grace through faith we have been made things that we were never in the natural, but they were never in our fallen nature. But love, and its outward expression of redemption, are God’s motivating attributes. God is longsuffering before He resorts to violence, and Jesus, God in the flesh, revealed great restraint while on this earth. And in fact Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified when He could have destroyed the entire world. Violence was never a part of the incarnate God.
We as believers are called to mirror Jesus and His ways, not the ways of the Old Testament revelations. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the “express image” of the person of God. It is that image we are to strive to reflect and imitate. We as believers should shun violence both in word and in deed. The wars of men, regardless of American machinations, do not have God as a willing participant. Does God use and incorporate everything into the fabric of His eternal will? Of course, but that does mean that God directs and organizes everything, and that does not mean that God is on anyone’s side, especially any fallen nation. How God can use the rape of a child is a colossal mystery, but He does. But that surely does not mean God ordered or condoned such actions.
I believe the New Testament teaches a life of pacifism as it pertains to violence. But I want to address violence of a different nature, the violence of words. There was a tragedy in Arizona when a gunmen murdered and wounded many people including a United States congresswoman. Now all the facts have not yet been revealed, but it seems that this deranged young man was influenced by politics, as was John Wilkes Booth, Timothy McVeigh, Lee Harvey Oswald, and even the 9/11 terrorists as well as others. We underestimate the impact of unguarded and reckless rhetoric.
We live in a fallen culture that considers itself an example of human ingenuity and intellectual prowess. This culture cherishes itself and will resort to all kinds of violence to protect it and in fact was birthed by violence, the Revolutionary War. The first president was elected because he was a great general and was able to kill more Englishmen than his peers. So this present culture has violence woven throughout its formation. But having arrived at this present day model verbal violence continues unabated.
The airwaves are filled with repugnant rhetoric and verbal assaults upon any and all political enemies. People are addressed with all sorts of demeaning castigations and attacked as something less than legitimate. President Obama, probably not a born again believer, is assailed daily and attacked personally. People even hate him due in large part because of the violent verbiage spewed consistently through all media outlets. And sometimes people are moved to acts of violence through the influence of verbal violence.
But we must be different than the culture. Hatred does not belong in God’s kingdom. We must not stoop to words of disrespect and personal invectives. We are to correct in love within the church, but outside the church we are to preach the gospel and be in intercessory prayer. I have found this axiom to be true: We cannot accuse and intercede simultaneously. So when I hear believers castigating someone I immediately know they are not interceding for that person, or that their lips intercede while their hearts accuse. Again, we cannot accuse and intercede simultaneously. I know the heart of God is grieved when He sees those that claim His name supporting those who exhibit self righteousness and judgment and national idolatry.
So what can we learn from a tragedy such as the one in Arizona? Before I get to that let me address another tragedy. What can we learn from the tragedy of 9/11 as believers? A missionary in an Arab country related this observation. He said that American Christian television was broadcast in that Arab country and many Arabs tuned in. He said that often they showed an American church service which showed an American flag flying in the sanctuary. And many times they would hear the pastor pray that God would bless and protect the American troops.
Think about that for a moment. Muslims, who we supposedly desire to reach for Jesus, are hearing Americans ask God to help them kill other Muslims. How much fodder does that provide the evil one with? We are supposed to be wise as serpents but harmless as doves. But when believers support violence and even pray God would help them then we are neither wise nor harmless. And the terrorists on 9/11 prayed to their God that he would help them as well. Oh, you say, but they were praying to a false god. I agree. But how many times are we projecting a falsehood upon Jesus and thereby creating a caricature which is false?
Arizona should once again make believers examine their own verbiage and allegiances. I grieve for the carnage, both physical and verbal, that rain down upon this culture every single day. I used to be involved in that fallen jungle that so misrepresents the Person of Christ and His kingdom. But there is freedom when we come out from among them and become a peculiar people. I do not say that in self righteousness since I am still significantly and observable flawed, but I say it to the glory of God’s grace. If you still are confused about violence and political allegiances, I exhort you to fast and pray and seek God’s face about the matter. I believe you will, as did I, reach the heart of God. And just what is the heart of God?

The cross.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, brother.
Wonderful post.
I believe the OT is pointing to Jesus all through it...and when God used Israel to eliminate other peoples - He was foreshadowing Judgment.
As followers of Christ - you are very correct in stating that we are not to use violence in speech or in our acts.

Romans 12:19-21
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written: Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.
Therefore if thy enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing you shall heap coals of fire on his head.
Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Many Christians listen to too many false teachers and don't read their Bibles enough. Scripture is plain. Jesus will judge at His second advent...our job is to point people to Jesus and His loving redemption by our actions and our words. We can't do that with violence.

Thank you for teaching it so well.

Radiance said...

I don't believe political rhetoric was to blame. Rather, mental illness. He was already expressing his supposed discontent with the congresswoman in 2007 before any of the hoopla of 2008 and beyond unfolded.

His strange behavior overall caused officials at the school he attended to advise him to seek psychiatric evaluation.

Not to mention: every shooting is a tragedy (of which there are plenty), not just when congressmen are the victims.

The media is having a heyday with this since someone they consider "one of their own" was the victim. Had the victim been a prominent pro-life activist or a pastor et al. , you would not see the rush to play the "blame game" on rhetoric.

I was watching CNN on Saturday and one of the things a commentator brought up was that the shooter possessed a small Bible. They were desperate to associate this killer with Christianity in some way, but unfortunately the facts are proving he was quite the opposite. (A self-proclaimed "anarcho-atheist-Marixst" with a very obviously troubled mind and soul.)

Radiance said...

"There is nothing new under the sun."

Not only is there nothing new about sociopathic killers, but there is also nothing new about assassinations and attempted assassinations...I'm not trying to say that this makes one happening any less tragic, but it's utterly absurd and dishonest to make it seem as if the event in Arizona marked the advent of some new phenomenon or was the natural result of timely circumstances.

If anything, there have been relatively few acts of political violence committed in recent years as opposed to previous eras of our nation's history and opposed to what's experienced in other countries on a daily basis.

It's clear those in power in D.C. and in the media are readier than ever to exploit this tragedy for gain.

I suppose there's nothing new about that either.

Rick Frueh said...

Rad - You have completely missed the point.

Radiance said...

Hi Rick, maybe I have.

I agree with many of your points (not just on this post, but others) about the misplaced priorities of believers, the idolatry of patriotism and politics, the deeply flawed trajectory of American history, and the un-Christlike rhetoric at the tips of many believers' tounges.

I simply just don't see THIS particular tragedy as the outcome of the aforementioned points. If anything, many of the powers that be attempting to frame it that way are doing so for exploitative purposes.

Rick Frueh said...

This is never about politics or government or media or anything else that tickles the unsaved fancies. This is about how we, juxtaposed against the tongues of the unsaved, are to speak and live. We may well sit back and take in the after tragedy spectacle as the politicians and broadcasters all scurry to take positions and muse about this or that; but my exhortation to believers is to come out from among them and be very different.

Whether the oxygen of political rhetoric provided fuel to the deranged fire burning within this young man cannot be known, but one thing we can and must know is that unguarded and redemption-less tongues are intruments of hell.

My point was that we, as ambassadors of the Most High Redeemer, must have no part in any of it. Our calling are words fitley spoken like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

Steve said...

"...this present culture has violence woven throughout its formation..."

Amen. Let's add "rebellion." And let's note than both originated with Satan.

"But we must be different than the culture."

And amen ! As the Kingdom of God is in complete contrast to the kingdom(s) of this world.

In Jesus, Steve