When Evil Lashes Out

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.
(Deuteronomy 31:6 )

Our hearts again break at the news that innocents tragically lost their lives over the weekend. With the intensity and frequency of such violence increasing, a further tragedy threatens: that we become calloused to the horror of evil. That we become desensitized to the point we no longer have tears to shed, but instead shuffle quickly into the public square with angry words.

Make no mistake, there is a time for necessary engagement with policy in our nation. There will be time for anger. But first, let us grieve this hateful savagery. Let us stand together – yes, you read that right, TOGETHER – and mourn yet another demonstration of pure, unadulterated evil in our nation, against our people.

Someone might say, “what’s the point of grieving? My tears never change anything.”

Please pay close attention here, because the answer is the difference between humanity and antipathy, love and hatred. Take time to grieve because you’re a human being and your fellows have been lost. Take time to grieve because pushing down the sorrow and jumping straight to righteous indignation and bitter castigation is no way to honor the ones who have been lost. Take time to grieve because this really is sad.

Cry to the Lord for mercy. Ask Him to walk you through the chaos of a world unhinged. Pray for the families of the lost. Remember the community that will never be the same. Pray for our nation that continues down the primrose path with each subsequent manifestation of wickedness. Trust the Lord remains Lord, even through our collective pain and anger. Hope in the brighter Day when the Lord will finally bring an end to all that torments.

While we await Christ’s return, make change happen. Pace yourself. Know that the first change must occur in our own hearts. That Christ alone must purify us with His love. Martin Luther gives excellent guidance in the Small Catechism. He states we are to love and cherish our parents and other authorities, protect and support our neighbor’s life, marriage, belongings, and reputation – basically to selflessly look out for the interests of others.

Pie in the sky, right? Wrong! Through the blood and merit of Christ, hearts of ice are melted. Take care of your heart. If you find it’s calloused because of hell repeatedly unleashed, bring it before the Lord who will lovingly massage it back to working order.

One final important component is thoughtful public discussion. The time for refusing to hear each other is long past. We are in this together. Casting blame, although momentarily satisfying, solves nothing. There is no magic pill that addresses all aspects of the sickness. Instead, there are people like you and me who love our neighbors and want evil eradicated. So go to it. Debate. State your points and ideas. Pause. Listen. Ask questions. Listen some more. Then reply. This is what “discussion” used to look like. Perhaps it could look that way again.

But for today, we grieve together.

Dear Jesus, our grieving hearts lay bare before you once again in the wake of unnecessary violence. Calm our troubled hearts. Bring hope as only You can to the many who have lost loved ones in Sutherland Springs, TX. Protect your people and watch over us gracious Lord. Amen.

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No Division

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10)

In a culture where even our divisions have divisions, Paul’s words to the Corinthians may appear as impossible to you as it did to those who first heard him. Over the course of time, we’ve divided ourselves into neat boxes; handy categories. Either you’re a Republican or a Democrat. You’re either straight or gay. You’re pro-life or you’re pro-choice. You’re either completely for the president and his policies or you’re completely opposed to them. Nice little convenient divisions, wouldn’t you say? And that’s just our politics!

Now consider the church. The place where Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians should ring through most clearly. Yet they don’t seem to. Often it isn’t the Word of God alone that governs our lives or our theology. We frequently believe ourselves wise enough to add to or take away from His word. Or perhaps we think we can climb into the mind of the Lord and ascertain what He “really means” by what He says.

We are a divided people. And that’s no good. Jesus would have us unified. Is Christ divided? Does He say one thing and do another? Does He categorize everyone into nifty little packages and set us aside until He has use for us? No way! The only division Jesus is okay with is the division between the “sheep” and the “goats”; between the redeemed and those who have rejected Him. You are either for Jesus or you are against Him. This division cuts to the heart of the matter.

Those who are in Christ are united. Christ has banded us together from all time and all places. A rag-tag group of sinners made right by the power of His shed blood. And it’s in that very blood we are given unity. In the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, we become one. Just as Jesus is one with His Father and we are all one with Jesus, so He makes us one together in His name.

Unity is not agreeing to disagree. Unity is Christ bringing us together in His Word and His Sacraments. Unity is not coexistence. Unity is Christ alone forgiving us all our sins for the sake of His sacrifice on the cross. Unity is not quietly holding grudges. Unity is brothers and sisters in Christ shoulder to shoulder at the altar receiving the goods as only Jesus can provide.

That we would strive toward unity in the Truth revealed to us by God’s own words. That all disputes, especially those in the church, would be seen in the light of His Word. That we would submit to the authority of our Lord. That all brokenness and disunity would be healed and restored by Jesus. O, that He would bring about His perfect unity among us!

Even in the midst of a culture that has lost all desire for unity, Christ and His church shine brightly as He creates unity and keeps us unified in Him. May we be of one mind; Christ’s mind!

Lord Jesus, try as we might, we are unable to bring forth true unity. For this we rely on you. Therefore, unify us in your Word and Truth! Amen.