Tensions are mounting in our society.
The chant goes up, “Black lives matter!”
The reply is heard, “So white lives don’t?”
Angry mobs take to the streets chanting “Where is justice?” And along with the fiery words come fiery bottles, hurled at storefronts and police cars. There is fire and smoke in the streets of large cities. And flying bullets.
Racial tensions have been building for the past few years.
And now the shooting of the police officers in Dallas, TX, killing five. A retaliation, declared the shooter, for the black persons shot down by this nation’s police over the past number of years and for their exoneration in the courts of law again and again. Equality and justice for all?! Maybe if you are white folk. Not for the minorities, that’s for sure, it is said.
The tensions, the resentments, the suppressed anger along racial lines continue to build like pressure along the San Andreas fault. When will it break loose and rock the whole country? Surely, it is only a matter of time.
The deep divide that exists in this nation’s citizenry over a host of social issues is only amplified by this year’s political race—two candidates whose vocal supporters simply detest each other, seemingly ready to settle their differences in physical assaults and clashes if not restrained by threats of law.
It seems, at times, that we are living in a country ready to come apart at the seams. More and more citizens ready to take the law into their own hands. “Vengeance is ours,” says a frustrated and angry citizenry. Who can trust the courts of law? Circuit Courts of Appeal? The Supreme Court? Basically controlled by liberals, one and all. And it is only going to get worse.
So the question: What is the solution if our increasingly polarized society is going to be kept from a ‘great fall’ into civil strife bordering on anarchy? Or, what hope is there that this Humpty-Dumpty society of ours can be put back together again?
United States of America, indeed!
Anger, frustration, and hatred showing itself more and more in violent, murderous ways.
Not that things are any better on the international scene. The recent spate of terrorist attacks in Europe are well documented, and what ISIS is doing to large communities, young and old, male and female, in the Near East and Africa almost defies comprehension. Can men really be such cold-blooded beasts? What is human nature incapable of doing?
That said, the murderous assault on the law enforcement officers in Dallas has simply served to underscore where things are in this country, and will continue to go if the deep fractures that run through our society are not addressed and, somehow, resolved.
Which brings us to the point of this editorial.
Our readers may recollect that it was the shocking news of five police officers gunned down, coinciding with news of another black man shot to death by police—this time near Minneapolis, MN—that led the national news media to ask the question, What can be done to bring this nation back together again before civil strife breaks out nationwide? The specter of the civil unrest and race riots of the late 1960’s raised its ugly head again.
News reporter after news reporter shoved microphones under citizens’ noses and asked, “And you, sir (or ma’am), what do you think is the solution to all this hatred and violence that we are witnessing of late?” And answer after answer came back, “Well, we have to learn to get along with each other and respect each other’s differences. We have to learn what it means to love one another, that’s all.”
You may be sure that that Sunday morning, July 10, pulpit after pulpit proclaimed the need to love our fellow man, and that we as Christians had to be the shining examples of how this was done. Only if the leaven of that love could permeate society could we, as Americans, live in peace and respect each other as we should. The Christian community had to lead the way, reaching out to its communities in love, assuring the neighborhoods (especially of the inner cities) that we as Christians were as nonjudgmental and accepting of others as persons can be. “We just want to befriend others any way we can.”
Here in West Michigan, the news media has made a point of showing various churches of white suburbia joining together with churches of the inner city for worship and cookouts, proving how we can all, in love, learn to get along.
And the clergy of the various congregations are making sure they get their air time to indicate how Christianity has enabled their congregations to love their neighbors as themselves, promoting unity, not division and strife.
Now the question: If after the shocking developments in Dallas, a reporter had shoved a microphone under your nose asking you not only what your reaction was to the tragic events that occurred in Dallas, but what you thought the solution might be to all the recent violence and deep-seated division in our society, how would you (or I) have answered?
Would you, would we as Protestant Reformed, be prepared to give a good, biblically based answer?
Our society, in the face of recent events, has been forced to acknowledge that people are deeply divided over all kinds of social issues, and that growing segments of society seem ready to arm themselves and turn to violence to express their growing hatred of each other.
What can be done to keep the fractures and fissures from getting worse and spawning more and worse violence down the road?
“And now (it is asked us) you Christian communities and churches, what are you going to do to help us heal? What solution do you propose? Justify your existence in our midst!”
“Are you going to be part of the solution, or add to the problem of division, suspicion, and denunciation of each other?”
We raise this, because, we are convinced, this is going to be the question that is put to us as Christians and as Protestant Reformed believers in the future.
And according to our answer we are going to be judged by society.
Answer after answer from the Christian community has been, “We will be part of the solution.”
They assure society that they will preach love—love for the neighbor as the Good Book teaches. And loving each other means reaching out to help each other regardless of race, color, or creed, or political affiliation. “We must, as Christ Jesus taught us, love even our enemies, those who have done us wrong, returning good for evil. We as Christian churches must preach and practice that. And only if that takes root will there be resolution to and hope for this deeply divided society of ours. We will take the lead.”
Such is the common answer.
Of course, this is what nominal Christendom has been saying for decades, (for over a century really), what is labeled as the ‘social gospel’— big on Christ’s words “Love one another,” with little to no emphasis on His person, claims, and redemptive work.
Over the years, an increasingly anti-Christian society has paid little to no attention to such words. But now, in a time of crisis, indications are that our society is looking for help, whatever the source. She seems ready to listen. So, this ‘just learning to love one another’ in an unselfish way is the message to bring. It is the Christian solution to the whole business, right?
To which we answer, “No, it is not.”
The common ‘Christian’ answer referred to above, regardless of quoting a few of Christ’s phrases, is wholly inadequate from every biblical perspective.
One can talk about ‘loving the neighbor’ all one wants, loving even those who seem to be your enemy and returning good for evil; but for all that, one has not proposed the biblical solution for ungodly man. Such is not the solution that is going to resolve the enmity that permeates our society.
Because the root of the problem in a society so filled with violence and division and with hatred and abuse of others is not the lack of love for the neighbor; rather, it is rooted in our society’s hatred for God and for God’s good commandments
And when the news media begin to ask us what we think the problem in our society is and what the solution is, before we start talking about people learning to love their neighbors in a more Christian way, we must point the questioners and reporters to God and our society’s relationship to almighty God. We must remind those who interview us that we are living in a society that has turned its back on God, denying any truthfulness in Him—and that in a most public and arrogant way. There is, they say, no God to whom we must answer. So who cares one iota about His laws?
And where that spirit rules and becomes embedded into a nation’s laws, judgments will follow, as a matter of course.
That is the problem—the evil let loose in our society. And our society is reaping a harvest of thorns. When you go to war against God (and have no humility before Him), you will, as a matter of course, go to war against your fellow man.
So it is today.
So then, what is the solution?
Our answer: as things stand now, as our society despises Jehovah God, there is none! At least not along the lines society is looking for, namely, men learning to love their neighbors as themselves and living in unity and peace. There is only one solution in the end, namely, repentance from the sins of despising the things of God, and turning in faith to Christ Jesus. Otherwise, all this call for love, and learning to live in love, is doomed to failure. It is nice talk, but it is not biblical Christianity.
Our answer must be along those lines.
Not that such an answer will make us popular with society, though it might with the news media. They will probably want to hear more on our perspective just so they can air it far and wide. It is bound to stir up controversy and improve their ratings. It will also serve the liberal news media’s desire to label a brand of Christianity as contributing to the problem, not as part of the solution—this Calvinism, this fundamentalism, that has always been so judgmental and devoid of love.
How long is our society supposed to endure this kind of exclusivist Christianity!
Our society has no problem with a Christianity that talks about love as such, love that promotes what they call ‘the neighbor’s happiness and advantage.’
What they want no part of is a Christianity that ties in that love with Jesus of Nazareth and faith in Him, and in Him alone.
What?! As if mankind cannot rid itself of hate and self-centeredness apart from this biblical Christianity? As if there can be no self-denial and true forbearance of others apart from repentance from sin and faith in this Lord Jesus?
A Christianity that promotes itself as only one of the ways in which mankind can learn to live in the way of self-denying, forbearing, neighborly love, is a Christianity society welcomes. But a Christianity that declares that for there to be any true, self-denying love for the neighbor there must first be a love for almighty God (and His Word), a love rooted in a faith in Christ Jesus, is and will continue to be a Christianity that is despised and denounced.
But such is the truth.
For various reasons. But one that looms large is that only when a person has stood before the almighty, holy God, and has the grace to appraise himself in that light, can one really see himself for who he is—small and insignificant in self. Such is absolutely necessary for true humbleness of mind, humbleness after the ‘stature’ of the apostles Paul and Peter.
Apart from that self-knowledge, one that comes only via the knowledge of God, the Phariseeism of Saul of Tarsus and the inherent sense of superiority found in Simon-bar-Jonah will always show itself and prevail. The largeness of “I” (who ‘I am’ as compared to my fellow man) will always rear its ugly head. “Who do you think you are, to treat me like that! I will show you whom you are dealing with! Take that!”
Man, who is so arrogant that he cannot find it within himself to humble himself before almighty God, is going to humble himself when it comes to dealing with his irritating fellow man?! Think again.
You have a dream, you say, of men of every sort living in enduring peace and unity and love, but one in which Christ is conspicuously absent?
Well, dream on. Because that is all it will ever be.
Apart from Christ Jesus, ‘BABEL’ is written over every such endeavor by men.
When selfish people deal with self-centered people, there will not be unity and peace, but division and conflict without end.
And apart from Christ every one of us is self-serving and self-centered.
That might not be a welcomed truth today, but it is truth.
And it falls upon us to give this answer when required. It is the only real, truthful answer there is. To allow our society to think it can save itself from division and conflict and live in unity and true peace apart from the power of the great King is anything but love. Such thinking simply encourages self-deception.
The full gospel is man’s only hope.
We must be ready to present it when the occasion arises.