It may seem to you that our country is coming apart at the seams. Violence has been on the rise. Bigotry is once again raising its ugly head. Our police, those men and women who stand in the gap for us, are coming under fire both literally and in the media. The leadership in our country is severely divided. Our economy has muddled along without any real growth as the industry in our country continues to suffer. There seems to be no hope, right? Wrong.
While all of these things are serious, there is nothing new. In Ecclesiastes 1, Solomon speaks of how things come and go, but nothing is new. Even with all of the seasons of change, there really is nothing new that we face. Sometimes it helps to step back and look at the long history of God’s creation. Since Adam and Eve fell in the garden, humanity has been at odds with God. Because of our separation from God and our focus on self, we have also been at odds with each other. As soon as Adam and Eve’s first two children reached maturity, strife, greed, jealousy, and anger raised their head. Hatred, conceived in the heart of Cain gave birth to murder. Adam and Eve knew the grief of losing a child, Cain knew the shame, horror, and guilt of an act that could never be fixed.
Since that time, humanity has striven against itself. Governments have risen and fallen. Wars were fought. Economies grew and economies imploded. Bigotry has raged against people because of their religion, the color of their skin, the place of their birth, their education level, their economic position, their ideology, and gender. What we are facing today is the same old thing coming back again and again. Sin, humanity’s desire to serve self rather than God, is the root of the problem. As long as there is sin, there will be strife. So, what is our response? How should we live in times like these?
First, we need to repent. Repentance is an admission of our guilt and a turning back to God. Wait a minute, you might say. I’m not the one causing these problems. I didn’t shoot police officers. I’m not bigoted. I just want to be able to raise my family, go to work, and live my life in peace. Why do I need to repent? I can answer that! It’s biblical.
During the Babylonian captivity, Daniel was studying God’s word. To be specific, he was studying Jeremiah’s prophecies. He realized that the time of the Babylonian captivity was coming to an end and he turns to God to pray for himself and Israel. His prayer is one of repentance. This godly man approaches God and begins, “…confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the LORD my God for his holy hill…” (Daniel 9:20). His prayer is so serious that he, “…turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes” (Daniel 9:3). Starting in verse 4, Daniel prays and confesses. He acknowledges that God is righteous while he and his people are covered in shame. He admits that his people and the leadership of his country turned away from God and his laws. He remembers the way that God delivered his people. Then, in verses 18-19, he says, “…We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” Like Daniel, as Christians, we need to acknowledge our own personal sin as well as our sin as a people and nation.
Second, we need to unify. The call of the book of Philippians is one of unity. While reminding us of the humility of Christ in which he gave his life for us, Paul calls us to “…work out our faith with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation…” (Phil 2:12-15). The world may be filled with strife, anger, distrust, gossip, and discord, but the church should not be. We’re different. We have experienced the salvation that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit lives within us, he changes us, and he makes it possible for us to be obedient to him. The salvation that Jesus secured for us and the change he works in us is so amazing that our response should be living faith with fear and trembling? Why? Because we are so awed at what our God has done. Our awe of him and our desire to be like him should drive us to live and serve together in a way that pleases him! Remember, there is one thing that unites us all. Paul says in Galatians 3:26-28, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” What does that mean for us today? In Christ, there is no division based on nationality, occupation, gender, or skin color. In Christ, all believers stand united!
The people of our world live in darkness. It is darkness so severe that nothing of the world can penetrate it. It leaves people helpless, hopeless, and lost. John tells us that in Jesus is the life and that life is the light of men. He is the light that shines in the darkness. Paul tells us that living in Jesus makes us, “shine like the stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life” (Phil. 2:15-16). So, we need to shine. More than ever, we need to shine.
The light we reflect is beautiful, brilliant, and attractive. We reflect it, not just by being followers of Jesus, but by sharing God’s word. It is both a part of us and an action taken by us. Notice that Paul does not stop at saying that we are to shine like the stars in the universe. He says that we are to shine like the stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life!
If we are to shine, then we must engage. Our churches and our people need to leave their sanctuaries and hit the streets. We need to make friends with people who are not like us, to build relationships with people who do not know, and to share our lives, our faith, and God’s Word with others. We need to be a presence at rallies and events, in our neighborhoods, in our schools and jobs, and in our homes. We need to stand united, not for or against political parties, but as members of a kingdom that transcends any of our earthly governments. And, we need to do so humbly and repentantly so that people see and experience the grace and mercy of our God.
This is our calling. This is the command that Jesus has given us. This is our response to the troubles of these time!