There is no one who is able to set themself outside of our current historical events and view them with absolute objectivity. As we are watching these unprecedented events unfold, we do so with personal perspectives shaped by our life experiences. Having said that, ALL OF US should be able to say that violence and attacks on persons and property are never a proper response. I would suggest that if we can’t denounce violence, anarchy, and murder without adding a single qualifier—anything that in anyway, shape, or form provides a rationalization for them--then we have already lost objectivity and will lose credibility.
As a nation, we are experiencing an increased polarization and calcification that has destroyed any remaining lines of communication that existed between factions. We have also experienced a series of events that have increasingly desensitized us. It has become so common that we dismiss it as normal. We lose our sense of outrage and righteous indignation. Some of us simply “tune out.” The net result is demoralized and defeated people watching as warring factions escalate their response to one another.
But humanity has been down this road before. Genesis 6:5-7 speaks to a time much like ours is rapidly becoming.
“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them."'
If you were to stop at verse seven and not know the rest of the story, you would become despondent. However, verse eight says, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” God provided light and hope through the obedience of a single man.
After Joshua led the nation of Israel into the Promised Land, and he and his generation passed away, a four hundred year period of time passed that Biblical scholars call the Period of the Judges. For four centuries the “People of God” experienced a cyclical life that moved from obedience and blessing to disobedience and social decay. Judges 2:17-19 describes it this way:
“They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked, in obeying the commandments of the Lord; they did not do so. And when the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them. And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers, by following other gods, to serve them and bow down to them. They did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way.”
God provided light and hope through the faithful obedience of various men, and at least one woman named Deborah.
The prophet Isaiah lived in a time of national despair. Assyria had conquered and destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel and almost did the same thing to the southern kingdom of Judah. The first seventeen verses of the book of Isaiah picture Judah as a nation that had turned its back on God. After sowing seeds of sinful rebellion they were now reaping the harvest of cultural decay and national decline. But God gave Isaiah a word of hope to share with the nation:
“‘Come now, and let us reason together,’” Says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land; But if you refuse and rebel, You shall be devoured by the sword’; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 1:18-20
God offered the nation hope in the midst of darkness by declaring, “If you are willing and obedient you will eat the good of the land.”
These are but a few of the many examples we have in scripture. In the darkest of times, God has always set before us the possibility of a future full of hope and blessings. However, it is always a conditional promise that requires repentance, faith, and obedience on our part.
It is interesting to note that in times of cultural distress we most often quote a promise from God that was not one given during a season of difficulty, but at the pinnacle of Israel’s global prominence—the dedication of the first temple during Solomon’s reign. It was God’s response to Solomon’s dedication prayer that is recorded in II Chronicles 6. In his prayer, over and over again he beseeched God to listen when people cried out to Him in times of trouble—troubles that will often be caused by their own sinful actions. You will note that Solomon did not pray “If trouble comes” but “When it comes.” God’s answer was:
“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” II Chronicles 7:14
Because we have personal perspectives shaped by our life experiences, we will respond differently to current events. Those various responses will be packed with emotions and driven by our basic human instincts for survival. As I struggle and seek to rise above emotions and human instinct by listening to the indwelling Holy Spirit, let me encourage you to do the same. Let us come together with ears to hear one another’s pain AND to raise our prayers of confession and intercession to God. In the days ahead, Heartland Church Network will be scheduling specific times for pastors to come together, to share with one another, to pray for one another, and to lift our unified voices to God in prayer.
Retiring in April 2022, Mark R. Elliott served as a Director of Missions (Associational Mission Strategist) in Western Iowa and Eastern Nebraska for almost three decades. He is a strong advocate for obedience and Biblically based disciple making. As such, he knows that making healthy disciples requires Christian leaders to be constantly pursuing spiritual maturity—be lifelong learners. Because of the time constraints of ministry, most pastors focus their reading list on resources that assist them in teaching and preaching the Word of God. As such, books focusing on church health, leadership development, and church growth tend to find their way to the bottom of the stack. With that reality in mind, Mark has written discussion summaries on several books that have helped him to personally grow in Christ and that tend to find themselves on the bottom of most pastor’s stack. Many pastors have found them helpful as they are able to more quickly process great insights from other pastors and authors.