As I picked up my girls from the airport this Friday, I was really oblivious to the horror that had unfolded in the streets of Paris. I did not have a chance to read a paper or hear the news until Rachel and the girls stepped off the plane. The girls came around the corner and greeted me with the normal fanfare of hugs, kisses, and shouts. It was in this moment that a terrifying and ghastly thought came to my mind: what if these girls experience a life of struggle, suffering, and persecution. For months now, I have pondered what they will experience when they are my age.
Through reading (blogs, Facebook posts, Twitter feeds, and the like) this weekend I am aware many probably feel the same way I do. Though you may show it differently at times. For some, their coping is to hide behind ammunition and warfare. That is fair. These people who committed such acts should not run rampant in the streets and let justice roll down. Others have decided to go on mouth foaming rants and speak in malicious rhetoric. While I disagree with this tactic, I do understand that emotion. Finally, many have decided to make this a political discourse. It is quite easy to go there and view the world through your own political lens. None of these reactions come as a surprise, but do they do us any good when it comes to our faith? I guess what I am asking or pondering is how do we live a life of faith and grace in a chaotic age where men blow themselves up for sport and reward?
I want you to meditate for a moment on this quote:
So our hearts and our eyes cannot be caught and dismayed by daily events, however closely we follow them. Above them, we seek and find God the Lord, and in reverence look upon God’s works. We seek and find our Lord Jesus Christ and firmly believe in his victory and in the glory of his community. We seek and find God the Holy Spirit, who give God’s word power over us, greater power than the world can ever gain over us. And so we pray that the work of the triune God will soon be consummated.
These words were penned on September 20, 1939 by German pastor and Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer just 19 days after tanks rolled into Poland. The young pastor who would be tried and executed by the Nazis by wars end was urging the church to take the right stand. He believed the church must abide in the word of God and not bow to the will of the state. Many in the church had abandoned their principles and love of God in order to be accepted by the powerful Nazis regime.
In the same letter, Bonhoeffer went on to say, “When fighting and death exercise their wild dominion around us, then we are called to bear witness to God’s love and God’s peace not only by word and thought, but also deeds.” These words bring comfort to me as I try to raise my children in this confusing world.
Our duties as people of faith are to abide in Christ. We are to remain in Him, and despite the chaos, fear, anger, and yes -even in the blood shed- our hope is firmly anchored in Him. We do not let the violent sin of evil men derail us from our mission to preach the Gospel to everyone, to love the helpless, and serve our fellow man.
While I am not wise enough to know what we are to do as a nation nor am I capable to understand the intricacies of national security, I do know that my redeemer lives. He is sovereign and he will never forsake the righteous even in the midst of pain, suffering, and violence. Bonhoeffer was right when he challenged people to live above the problems of war and seek comfort and strength from God. These same people he wrote to would no doubt be wrecked with pain during the power that Hitler’s Germany would exert for the next six years, and those who were lucky enough to survive would have to rebuild a nation that was under constant threat by the Cold War.
The point to all this brings me to this conclusion: no matter the century, the church has survived
in the midst of pain and chaos; even when people are determined to extinguish the flame of God’s people, He is always faithful to preserve His glorious bride. Nero, Hitler, Polpot, Stahlin, and ISIS will not overcome our powerful God. Though pain may befall us and suffering reign in our hearts- He is our hope. Through Him, we are given the grace to live out our faith even in the most complicated societies.
****All quotes used come from: A Testament to Freedom: The Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, edited by Geoffrey B. Kelly and Burton Nelson.