Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Praying like your life depends upon it



My very dear friend and sister in Christ stands in harm's way today, and I have to admit that I am terrified for her. I have often quoted that verse first penned by the Apostle Paul to his young protégée Timothy two thousand years ago. 

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. 
 2 Timothy 1:7

This time, It is hard to find a way past my fear. I trust God totally. It's my fellow man I'm not so sure about. My friend lives in St. Louis, MO and her city is full of unrest as they, the citizens of Ferguson, and the entire country await the decision of the grand jury in the Michael Brown shooting. Protests are already planned. The KKK stands at the ready for whatever horror they want to spread. Gun sales are at record levels, as are concealed carry permits. Tensions are high. 

A family grieves for their son and, if I could restore him to them, I would. No matter what I desire, no matter what I wish to do, no matter what the grand jury decides, the past cannot be undone. What, you may ask, about justice? We all want justice when we are wronged, myself included, don't we? 

What we often forget is that there is only One who has the authority to dispense justice. The psalmist tells us that righteousness and justice are the foundation of God's throne. Did you get that? The foundation of His rule, His authority is both righteousness and justice. Who among us dares to claim the same? Who among us dares to claim the right to execute justice? 

On the other hand, when I am wrong, when I have harmed someone (whether intentionally or unintentionally) what I want is not justice but mercy. I suspect mercy is what you want in those times, as well. You will not be surprised to know that the Bible also has something to say about mercy. 

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:8 KJV)

This was my mother's favorite verse and I must had heard it hundreds of times during her life, always in this version. "Ah hah!" you might said, "There is all the reason we need to take justice into our own hands. God says to 'do justly.'" Do not deceive yourselves. This verse does not say to administer justice in God's place. What it says is do "mishpat", or what is right. 

Perhaps the words of Jesus will clarify this a little further. "Treat others the same way you want them to treat you." (Luke 6:31 NASB) Is that clear? In case it's not, let's look at how the Good News Translation says it. "Do for others just what you want them to do for you." (Luke 6:31 GNTD) 

know you understand this, but just in case, let me reiterate. We have neither the right nor the authority to take matters of justice into our own hands. Our Lord has given us clear direction to treat others as we want to be treated. No matter how they treat you, treat them back in the way you want to be treated. Our behavior is not dependent on what other people do or fail to do. 

This "doing right" is what people should do. It is what should happen in Ferguson and in St. Louis in the coming days. Will it? I pray so. If tensions erupt into violence, the temptation to share in their anger and chaos will be pressing, the risk to spread chaos across our nation will be both real and high, but I pray we do not embrace the hate, the fear, the violence. Nothing good can come of it. 

Are you wondering why I am so passionate about this situation? It is because I know the solution, and His name is Jesus. 

Dear ones, healing our land begins only when the people of God humble themselves, pray, and repent of their sin. Undoubtedly, healing is needed in this situation. Catastrophe threatens without it. This is a call to action. Let each of us get on our knees, humble ourselves, and repent of the sin to which we have clung. 

Oh, dear ones, pray for mercy, pray that peace will reign, pray that the flames of hatred will be smothered by the love of Christ, and that further needless, pointless death will be avoided. 

Pray for my precious friend. Though her skin is a little darker than mine, our hearts are just alike and we both belong to Jesus. So it is in Ferguson and St. Louis. 

Hit your knees and raise your hands in prayer. 

Pray as if the entire world were riding on those prayers. It just may be that our nation depends upon the faithfulness of God's people to do what only we can do. Repent and pray. 

Body of Christ, a nation depends upon your faithfulness. Don't fail Him now.