I don’t know how many of you lived in the mid- to late 1960s, during the summers of rioting in large (and sometimes small) cities in America, but this week I have had the same feeling I had then, at age 10-12. It seemed as if our very civilization was threatened, even if it wasn’t. it was a haunting feeling. I can remember sitting in church and “daydreaming” about what it would be like if some sort of either radicals or communists suddenly burst into the sanctuary and pointed guns at us. I watched the rioting on TV—the same time as the Vietnam coverage, and the war protests. Such were the imaginings of a young boy.
Today as I reflect on what has occurred in the last week or month, even though I have that same feeling, I also have a different perspective. As a Christian, and as one who has studied the temporal movement of history, I know now that it is in the complete sovereign providence of the God of the universe. That doesn’t mean I am not disturbed by what has occurred. To the extent the individual police officers were at fault in the shootings in Minnesota and Baton Rouge, my fervent hope is that justice will be served—though in situations like that, it will undoubtedly be difficult to sort out the events properly. And the shootings of the police officers in Dallas is an evil that I pray will not be repeated. Unfortunately, it may well be repeated in weeks to come. The “environment” is too toxic I fear. But back to my main point. Though I am no quietist, believing nothing can or should be done (I am in other words, not passive), as I said, I now know and am persuaded of what I did not know and was not persuaded of then, at a young age. All evil, as well as all good, is in the sovereign hand of God, who moves history and individuals as He pleases for His glory and kingdom. That fact—and it is a fact, if one but reads his Bible well—ought to comfort any of us who believe our nation is in moral trouble. I can continue to live each day in the expectation that can make even a small difference for the kingdom.
At the same time, as my colleagues at Bereans have said in blogs and comments, we should not shrink from thinking about and advocating solutions, the chief of which is the proclamation of the Gospel wherever it is allowed and even where it is not. We cannot become that timid that we would fear telling the most important truth for any and all spiritual and social ills. Yes, the church has failed to a degree difficult to measure or even to identify. But I can see churches going to urban communities and establishing “beachheads” for the Gospel that involve not just “commando” raids of preaching, but people living in those areas and becoming part of those communities, with the purpose of also putting ourselves out of business, as it were, as people in those communities themselves take on the task. That is the hopeful message.
But, on the more pessimistic side, we must also be prepared to see our nation eventually collapse under the weight of anarchy brought about by a breakdown of the rule of law and especially by a general rejection of not only the Christian faith itself but even of its vestiges (Christian morality and ethics). Let’s not deceive ourselves. It could happen, as it has happened to every civilization on the Earth. We are not God’s chosen people any more than any other nation—though He has been especially merciful and gracious to this nation. That too will be God’s providential will and we can accept it as such. Even calls for national repentance, even actual revivals do not guarantee that we will escape our national destiny. We need not and should not lose faith in God. He is never the one to blame, but humans in their inescapable human condition are to be blamed. But God is the one who ultimately controls it all.
We live by faith, not by sight. Pray for those affected directly and indirectly. Pray for justice, yes. But pray that God will condescend to sinners and draw them to Himself, though they, like Saul, may act in every way contrary to Him. By all means, if the calling and opportunity converge, become one who can help effect genuine change, spiritual primarily, but also institutional.
“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”