A Christian Response to Violence

Some thoughts on dealing with the violence that plagues our society.

Matthew writes Jesus saying, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. ”

Paul writes in Romans, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ Now, ‘if you enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil; but overcome evil with good.”

I bring these two passages to your mind as I write this the day after the high school shooting in Parkland, FL where 17 people have lost their lives. A 19 year old former student pulled a fire alarm and began shooting people as they exited the building. Another senseless tragedy potentially evoking from us the same kind of rage that drove this person to pull the trigger multiple times to the tragic end of many.

A person on Facebook asked, “What can we do?” Her question echoed the forlorning in my spirit and frustration in my mind.

What can we do? What do Christ-followers do in the face of that which cannot be fully understood? We begin by turning to the One who fully understands. We go to God to express our outrage, our concern, our frustration, our helplessness, our pain, and our vulnerability. God listens to us. God shares our outraged, concern, frustration, helplessness, pain, and vulnerability. When we have cried our eyes out and our shuddering of our sobbing bodies has ceased, God begins to whisper in the quiet.

God tells us He with us. God reminds us He was with those the gunmen shot down. God reminds us he loves us, the victims, and even the victimizer. God says to you and me, “I love you. I love those who lost their lives. I even love the young man that was twisted into the shape that made for this violence. I love…and I will redeem.”

I will redeem. This is a part of my faith that I often forget. We trust God for a lot in our lives, but do we trust that ultimately God will redeem—that God will make things right? Often I want to take justice into my own hands and deliver it in a fashion that “matches the crime”—whatever that means. But God asks us to drop our “rights” for revenge and trust Him to set things straight.

But God, ever looking to move us forward and growing in faith asks us to go one step farther. The above passages do not call us to pacifism. They call us to creative resistance. When Jesus says, “Do not resist an evildoer,” he is saying do not resist an evil doer with violence. He is saying, as his examples show, exercise creative resistance. As Paul says, this creative resistance overcomes evil with good.

What good can we do in light of evil? What light can we bear into this darkness? How is God moving you to respond in a way that brings healing, peace, life, and hope for everyone involved? Who do you need to reach out and touch with the love of God in Christ Jesus?

God bless you as you move into deeper discipleship and a closer walk with our Lord,

Pastor Bill

Giving Up Indifference for Lent and for Life

Ash Wednesday I asked you to join me in giving up something really important for the church season of Lent.  Lent is normally a time of fasting in ways that draw us closer in our relationship with Jesus.  This season, I’m asking you to give up something that has the potential to draw you not only closer to Jesus but closer to other people.

Will you join me in giving up indifference?  Give up indifference and the many forms it takes: apathy, unconcern, ignorance, turning a blind eye, disinterest, prejudice, inequality, carelessness, cynicism, maintaining status quo, and having an I-cannot-make-a-difference attitude.

In the sermon, I outlined some simple steps to get started on this special Lenten journey. (We will try to add a link here to see the worship and sermon.)

  1. Identify one area of indifference in your life.  Truth be told, we could probably think of many people types and situations we ignore, choose not to care about, and cast aside for whatever reason.  We are not looking to overhaul our entire lives, but take small steps to improve our relationship with Jesus and others until we are ready to take larger steps.  Besides, making significant change is hard.  So just choose one area.

Some questions you might ask yourself to help identify your area of indifference:

Who/what situation would make me want to cross on the other side of the street to avoid confrontation?

Who/what situation makes my stomach turn when I think about it?

Who/what situation do I feel I should be concerned about don’t?

Who/what situation causes me to make excuses for my behavior toward them?

Yes this is hard work.  But this kind of honest reflection is worthy work because of the relational impact.

2. Focus on 1 to 3 ways you will address you indifference.  Good intentions without a plan are wishes that don’t come true.  So plan how you will draw close to those people or those situations toward which you are usually indifferent.

Prioritize.  Make time every day to work on the ways you will address your indifference.  Do not let a day pass without working on your area of indifference.  There was a famous preacher who after retiring to bed might think he shared the gospel with no one.  Immediately he’d spring out of bed and wander the streets of England to find someone with whom to share Jesus.  Be that diligent.

4. Share your idea with another person you trust so you keep yourself accountable, especially in the beginning.

Dare to give up indifference and see how God rewards your secret doing.

3 Ways to Pray for the Mission of Your Church

Every church has a mission spoken or unspoken, written or unwritten.  Every church defines a purpose for which it exists and then lives fulfilling that purpose.  Regardless of the clarity of your church’s mission, your church needs your prayers for it’s mission.  Here at Friedens our mission is Reaching out to touch those who God has placed among us.  This means wherever we are, whoever we are with, whenever we are with them, our work is to embody the kingdom of God and bring them a little closer to Jesus.  We accomplish that mission by providing opportunities for people to

  1. experience Jesus,
  2. help others become disciples,
  3. change the world one heart at a time.

Here are some ways you can pray for the mission of our church or the church you are part of:

  1. Ask God to ever more fully reveal the mission to you: what it means, your place in making it succeed, and boldness when the time comes to work on the mission.  If you have questions, call, text, or email someone who can explain it to you or who is willing to walk with you as you discern answers to this pray.
  2. Talk with God about the initiatives that you see moving the church forward in its mission.  Talk with church leaders about those initiatives if you have time and attention to give toward its success.  Avoid conversation that will only impede ministry like gossip, and “bless their heart” moments.
  3. Pray for your leaders-pastor(s), music leaders, your council/board/vestry, committee/ministry/small group leaders that they might all be of the same mind in Christ Jesus.  Let those leaders know you prayed for them and the mission by text, email, or phone call.  If they see the mission is important to you, they will be renewed.

What are some ways you would add to praying for the mission of our church?

Pastor Bill Zima