A Message from Pastor Hale
When 9/11 happened it was a shock. Our country no longer seemed impervious and impenetrable. The U.S. was humbled. The recent coordinated terrorist attacks on Paris are France's version of our 9/11. We can identify with the helplessness, fear, and anger they are feeling.
What should our reaction be to violent acts perpetuated by man against others? First, Christ is not a political ruler. He did not come to set up physical borders to protect only certain, special people. He rules by His Spirit and Word, which always go together to forgive all and create faith. Jesus brings people into His kingdom by the holy Gospel. Only by forgiving people in the name of Christ are people changed in the heart. All real change is effected by the Lord Himself, not swords or guns or governments.
So first off, we are still secure in Christ's Word. God is our refuge, even if our country were to fall. No one can snatch faith away from us by force, though there are many temptations within and without to give it up. We fight a different sort of battle, a spiritual one. The pure Word of God must be our main concern, as it always should be. God will do the work of saving, even when it looks grim.
Christ is still reigning over all things. We have the victory in His death. His kingdom is spiritual and we submit to His Word as we live by the Spirit. Holy Scripture is our guide, for in it Christ is speaking to us. And it does tell us that evil things must happen—“wars and rumors of wars.” But the world always overreacts and makes everything political, as if this world is all that matters. “Terror” cannot be eradicated any more than hate. There is no bomb to prevent persecution and bloodshed, for the evil of sin is within all of us. God lets all of us exist for a short time, and will not destroy us in a total flood or war, for the sake of the Gospel. Why? So that some may be saved. Nothing will prevail against Christ's church. So the answer is ultimately not to improve our world or punish evil-doers. Christ has already saved this world from sin.
Terrorists and the religion of Islam operates by the sword. But only the government has that power rightfully from God. Our answer as Christians is one of repentance. The worst terror is not found in dying by a suicide bomber or being gunned down in a cafe. It is hell itself. Jesus warns us not to fear terrorists, but the punishment our sins deserve in Luke 13:1-5: There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the otherswho lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Jesus did not say to get even with Pilate or overthrow his rule. We fight not against flesh and blood, but Satan and his rule with the Gospel. No, the problem is us, not others. We are sinners who deserve nothing but the eternal flame. This death is not quick, but lasts forever. We should fear and mourn our sins, not think that because we are Americans, we deserve peace and a good life. No, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. The worst terrorist attack is a small thing, because none of us are innocent before the holy God. We all deserve worse.
Repentance is acknowledging your sins before God, not blaming someone else. We answer only to Him and there are no excuses before the holy God. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I Jn. 1:9). Christ is greater than our sin. Men can only kill the body, so it is right to fear God most. But He put away your sin in the death of Jesus. It is no more. Let no sin or attack or person bother you. Your God has spoken for you and redeemed you with His own blood. You are His now.
So fear and revenge are inappropriate reactions to bad news. True repentance—humbling ourselves before the Lord—is always good and holy. We are woken up by evil deeds in this world from the comfortable slumber of our sins. We do not try to fix this world, we look forward to a new world, a perfect and pure world centered only around Christ the Lord Himself. Christ saved us already, but He is coming again to bring us out of this evil age. We look forward to the new age, an age where there is no evil, no sin, no anger or hatred or mourning. Death will be outlawed, because only life comes from Jesus. This we possess now when we believe it.
We await the coming of Christ and the end of sin, even in our unclean flesh. These are indeed the last days. We are not promised it will be easy or that things will improve. We see more evil and less faith every day, it seems. Yet Christ is still the promised Messiah who is coming for us. Our own sins are great indeed, but God's love is greater. He committed what some could label the most unfair act of vengeance and terror—killing His own Son, a truly innocent man. But through the cross we know God the Father as only love. Our sins were killed, so we are free in Christ. We are innocent and as white as snow before Him. This word is our only weapon against the evil of this world. It is the only Gospel which actually makes people righteous in heaven.
Christ did not fight the injustice against Him. He submitted in meekness to the evil perpetrated by the Jewish leaders and Pilate. As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8). Even if we do die by the hand of terrorists, they cannot kill our soul redeemed by Christ. There is still hope in the life to come. And how we long for that paradise, when we see the atrocities around us!
May evil around us cause us to be moved by God's Holy Spirit to repent of the evil within us. This world is indeed passing away, but we are not. We are in Christ by faith, living by the promise of life everlasting, where “terror” will be an unknown word. Amen.