Terrorism, it’s ever growing in the world and is seen in America. How should a Christian respond to this ever growing hostile world? Should we love and forgive, or should we fight?
Terrorism has happened in America. With the shootings in Orlando, the news is bringing the horrors of that night to the living rooms, computers and mobile devices of the citizens of this shocked nation. With this latest incident of terrorism, the usual conversations start to come about. Topics such as gun control, homophobia, radical Islam and other such conversations seem to permeate our newsfeed on our particular social networks, not to mention the discussions in real life. Everyone has an opinion and a plan on how things should be done or what they would do.
The question for the Christian comes down to a simple one; should I love and forgive, or should I hate and fight? As believers, we are confronted with what seems to be two different Gods, the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. Both, we are told, are the same (Hebrews 13:8) but we struggle with the contrasting tone of a God that ordered the destruction of individuals to a God that loved the world so much that He gave us His Son. The confusion of a contrasting God is made worse when we mix the messages and intent of God,..in a nutshell, we are blending the Testaments together in a bitter confexion. Let’s break it down and add a bit of clarity to God, the Bible and our place in it.
The Old Testament
Let’s go over the Old Testament in whirlwind fashion. Here are the main points which cover the entirety of the “theme”:
- God created man and woman and gave them everything
- Man and woman screwed up and introduced sin
- Humanity was left to do what it would do for approximately 1600 years until Noah
- God wiped out the Earth, but saved Noah and his family with the animals
- Humanity started repopulating the Earth
- The plan for a Savior was started (Earthly plan) with Abraham and his seed
- Abraham and his seed became a nation called Israel
- Israel kept screwing up, so God sent prophets to warn them of His wrath and encourage them that a Savior was coming
- Jesus comes into this world
- Jesus preaches, performs miracles, fulfilled prophecy.
- Jesus is crucified
- Jesus is resurrected
- Believers have their freedom and are reconciled to God through His Son, Jesus Christ
In a nutshell, this is the outline of the Old Testament as well as leading up to the New Testament. While the plan of Jesus was laid out long before the Earthly manifestation (Abraham), the course had to be set with the formation of a nation. God loved us so much that he didn’t want anything to interfere with His plan to reconcile us to Him, so God was a very stern Father to the tribe of Israel. We read about his resolve in the commands and commandments to the children of Israel, which is what many think is the “vengeful God of the Old Testament” voice that so many of us, as believers, are uncomfortable in hearing. God had to be stern with his children as they needed to survive and grow strong. God needed them to survive so that Jesus would come about to pay the price of our screwing up ourselves and the planet / universe.
The New Testament
Now that we are sons and daughters of God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the plan, at least for us having Grace, has been accomplished. We read the New Testament and we hear a much different God, to which we can now call Father. This is because God is not speaking to us as a nation, but as individuals. The voice seems different, but it’s coming from the same God. We can see the evidence of this love in the Psalms (Old Testament), but we can also read about his wrath (Revelation, New Testament). Still the same God, but speaking from a different position, going from “speaking to the nation” to “speaking to the individual”. This may sound confusing, but we see this in everyday life. If we meet a cop while in uniform and on duty and he tells us to do something, he is speaking as an authority of the town, city, state or nation and his tone is different than when he / she is out of uniform. We shouldn’t refuse the commands of someone who is on duty (Romans 13) but we can refuse the requests of an officer off duty. Still the same person, but the voice is different depending upon the role he / she is acting.
We must not mix the perspectives of what God is saying to a nation and what God is saying to the individual; this is where we, as Christians, are getting confused. The nation is the sword and should act accordingly within the laws set down by that nation, but we, as individuals are not to take on that role. We are to love and forgive; not only that, but we are to live an abundant life, because Jesus came to do that for us (John 10:10).
But how can we do that? How can we love an enemy that wants our destruction in the most cruelest fashion imaginable? The answer is found in the fruits of the Spirit, which every saved man and woman have within them.
Galatians 5:22-23New American Standard Bible (NASB)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
All of the fruits mentioned above are within every saved person. Jesus said “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5). The “fruits” He was talking about is in the Galatians passage. When we “partake” in the fruits of the Spirit, we can accomplish things that our flesh won’t and can’t do. I, Robert Wimer, the man of flesh CAN’T forgive a person who would do harm to me BUT the Spirit that dwells within me can. In a nutshell, where you, the fleshly being, stop at love, forgiveness, patience, etc is where the Spirit starts.
Ok, I’ve got the power, but how do I “activate” it?
Many would say that you should pray for forgiveness to enter into your heart, but that would be like asking for something you didn’t already have. Look at it this way, if you asked your earthly father for $20.00 and he said “yes” and gave you the money, would you, with money in hand, ask him again? The answer is “no”, and so it is with the fruits that your Heavenly Father has already given you. You have the fruits of the Spirit already within you, because you have the vine growing inside you. Jesus is living on the inside and, if you let Him, will cultivate your heart so that the fruits will grow.
Now that you understand that you don’t have to pray for something that you already have, how do we “partake” in the fruits to help us become more like Jesus?
Have you ever watched a newborn learn to walk? The steps are intentional and deliberate. The little guy / gal will fall many times, but we know that the end result will be successful first steps. In the beginning, walking is a deliberate act. As times goes on, the effort is replaced with ease as our legs automatically move us to locations we desire. The same goes for the fruits of the Spirit. If we have not called upon them, if we have not partaken of the fruits, those “muscles” are weak and uncoordinated, so we must be intentional in the beginning, like the first steps of a newborn baby. We must say ALOUD to ourselves “I have the fruit of love, patience, peace and joy within me because of Jesus and the Holy Spirit that is within me. God, help me partake in these, and all the other fruits.” I will tell you that He will IMMEDIATELY answer your prayer because you already have what you need and you are wanting something that is very much within His Will, to become conformed to the image of Jesus ( Romans 8:28-30). We also know that if we pray, according to His Will, that He (God) hears us and that His answer is “YES” ( 1 John 5:13-15). It takes a deliberate act in the beginning, but if you are resolute and consistent, you will begin to live in the fruits of the Spirit on a day-to-day existence and that is what Jesus meant by having an abundant life.
Jesus, while being nailed to the cross, asked His Father to forgive them. Jesus showed his fruits and we have that power, if we are truly saved, within us all. We need to let go and understand that the body, the flesh, cannot love and forgive in such evil that this world is in today, but where the flesh can’t, the Spirit can, and will start so we can have that abundant life He promised. When we live in the fruits of the Spirit, we become the “light on the stand” and the lost will be drawn to us,..but not us,…to the Son THROUGH us.