I shamefully admit that I do not keep up with the news. Honestly, a hurricane could totally catch me unprepared and I would just be chillin’ in my house without power for two weeks, like circa 2004 (the year of 4 hurricanes in Florida). The news depresses the heck out of me and makes me worry why God doesn’t rain fire and brimstone on us. I have a very stressful job (which I do actually love–the job, not the stress) that includes me talking to the families of people who just lost a loved one, or to someone who just caused someone else’s death by accident. Sometimes, I talk to some really mean people who just have no empathy for anyone and just make demands on me. Often that is all the bad stuff I can handle, so I pet my dog instead of flipping on channel 9 when I get home.
When I have watched the news the past few weeks, or went on MSN, I have been more than sad. My old preacher used to predict the end of the world was coming because things were getting worse and worse, and would preach the Book of Revelation at us so that I had nightmares about winged-horned creatures devouring us all and would wake up in a cold sweat. When I watch the news I get that feeling all over again. The little things up to the horrendously awful just add up and weigh on my soul. Everything just gets overwhelming and I think there is nothing I can do outside my own little bubble.
I was thinking just that yesterday when I got brave enough to read about the poor Coptic Christian martyrs. How can I make anything better? The evil just keeps coming and coming and it gets so overwhelming. Men are born to trouble as surely as the sparks fly upward.
But God always has an answer, my friend. He does not always answer us WHY particular things happen, but He always gives us an answer on HOW to make things better. Actually, it is the same answer He has repeated to us for thousands of years and then demonstrated with His own incarnate flesh and blood 2,000 years ago: love.
I realize I sound like a hippie and I realize this is a tired old mantra for some, covered very well by J.K. Rowling and better by St. Paul, but hear me out. It is very easy to get angry or feel hatred and want vengeance; but it doesn’t bring the person, thing or idea lost back to life and it does not make anyone safer or happier to further exacerbate and perpetuate an already horrendous situation. It is very easy to build higher walls and taller towers around our hearts (or countries), but this does not make anyone really feel better, either. Who wants to live life looking over their shoulder or through a peephole in a door? An armed truce is not peace, either. The only way to make things better–the ONLY end-all, be-all cure is the love of Christ.
That is not to say that we should not protect ourselves or that we should not stand up for ourselves. Absolutely, we must show the world what is right and protect ourselves by truly trusting in God and using Him as our armor. We go into the trenches as Mother Theresa did, as Christ Himself did, by bringing love to everyone instead of waiting for them to come to us. They may never know love until we first show it. Christ did not bid us to forgive literally seventy times seven times, but as many times as it takes until the person is repentant, be it more or less. Time and time again Jesus told parables about searching for lost items or people (sheep, coins, prodigal sons) to express the joy it brings God to recover a lost soul, and admonished people that he came for the sinners, not the righteous. He commands us to love our neighbor, and in so doing, our love for God becomes manifest.
It is very hard to love mean neighbors, let alone evil ones. And the world seems over-populated with them sometimes. I cannot even imagine the trust it must take to live in a country where your very life is in danger. I hope and pray I am never in a position where I have to forgive someone who has taken a loved one from me.
The thing is, though, people who trust in God and His promises have a way of overcoming overwhelming odds. Sometimes overcoming those odds happens on this side of Heaven, sometimes not. In the Bible, there are epic stories of people facing seemingly insurmountable situations and great evil and harm, but God sees them through when they place unfaltering trust in Him: Noah, Moses, Joshua at Jericho, Gideon, Job, Johnathan fighting the Philistines, David versus Goliath, Shammah defending his hill of beans, Daniel in the lion’s den…the list really does go on. There are other Bible stories of those that put all their faith and trust in God to overcome the odds on the other side: Lazarus (the poor man with the dogs), or my favorite, the mother and her seven sons of 2 Maccabees 7. Some may think they are fables, and maybe some of them are, who knows…but even if you don’t believe the old tales, the spirit of them lives on in real life people, every day. People fighting disease, poverty, oppression. It resided in the abolitionists, Rosa Parks, Helen Keller, Nelson Mandela, Joan of Arc, Malala Yousafzai, and countless others that are not famous.
I feel certain that the souls of the martyred Coptic Christians have the reward of Heaven, overcoming the evilness of this world that would seek to destroy their bodies. I feel sorrow for their families and loved ones, I feel pain that we live in a world where barbaric acts like this happen the same as they have in millennium past (will we NEVER learn?), but I rejoice in the fact that they were so brave and so faithful. My wrath is rebuked by the words of Bishop Angaelos and my heart clings to the unity described by Pope Francis just days before this heinous act.
If we, as Christians, put our faith and trust in God’s message and show the love of Christ in our every action, as intended, we can overcome the overwhelming odds and defeat evil. Nothing will ever be perfect until the return of Christ or until we are called home, but we can turn the tide.
This is where I (and you) come in: not with a Care Bear stare, but with our individual and collective prayers, our individual and collective acts of kindness…not only to those that deserve it, but to those that need it. Paying it forward and loving past the pain. Choosing to live the life God intended for us by using our talents and gifts to their full potential. Being about His business until His return (Luke 19:11-27). Being the Good Samaritans by going out of our way to help the people we are not inclined to. It is something I struggle with, but the biggest thing I pray to change for myself. It is a much greater and better lesson that God is teaching me daily during this Lenten season (and beyond) than the sacrifice I chose for myself.
I thank God Almighty that I AM in a nicer part of the world and that my troubles are few and paltry. I hope and pray it is always so, even as I also pray to be closer to Him, which I know involves suffering. I pray that God gives me the strength and courage to use my good position to help those in need and to show love in spite of my human sense for vengeance, scorn or derision. I pray that price paid in blood by the martyrs of this incessant war of evil against humanity is not in vain and that I do not help perpetuate wickedness with indifference.
Pray for our brethren taken horrifically from this world and their grieving families. Pray also, and probably more so, that God turns the heart of wicked into good so that they may repent of their acts and stop this heinous violence. Pray most of all that we live our faith through our works, in ways big and small, so we can turn the tide against evil.