The response in the New York Daily News, to the tragic shootings recently in San Bernardino, Cal., seems almost blasphemes. The headlines declared “God isn’t fixing this.” What arrogance and presumption. They gave a round-up of responses from the various candidates and then gave this assessment: “Prayers aren’t working.” What spiritual blindness. That prompted a new social media debate called “prayer shaming.” Emma Green of the Atlantic saw it as: “Anger about the shooting was turned not toward the perpetrator or perpetrators…..but at those who offered prayers.” She offers this chilling commentary: “There’s a clear claim being made here, and one with an edge: Democrats care about doing something and taking action while Republicans waste time offering meaningless prayers. These two reactions, policy-making and praying, are portrayed as mutually exclusive, coming from totally contrasting worldviews.”
When a writer at the New York Times twits: “Dear ‘thought and prayers’ people: Please shut up and slink away. You are the problem, and everyone know it,” it seems to me that we have come a cultural moment, when the voices wanting to silence the public witness of a biblical faith will become more vocal. Men, we need to stand together in this cultural moment. “Stand united, singular in vision, contending ….not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition. Your courage and unity will show them what they’re up against” (Phil 1:27-8 – The message). Here are a few reflections.
First, before you do or say anything, submit to Jesus and his kingdom. Before any political or cultural allegiance, be a humble follower of Jesus. In Rev. 5:10 we read: “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” We are reassured in Col 1:17 that, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Then pray as Jesus taught us to pray:, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Be deeply grateful to be part of Jesus’ kingdom reign is this world since Jesus has declared, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt 28:18). Men, submit yourself under the reign of King Jesus.
Secondly, act and speak with conviction and compassion, but first be a man of prayer. Don’t minimize your prayers as a follower of Jesus. Cry out for God to be merciful. The Psalms are full of such prayers, as the psalmist call out to Almighty God. “I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble (Ps 142:1-2). Turn to the Lord and pray, “Restore us, O Lord God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved” (Ps 80:19).
Thirdly, pray that God will give you a heart that is loving, yet firm in conviction (tough and tender). Refuse to be a victim. Anticipate darker days, but be determined to “walk in the light of the Lord ( Isaiah 2:5). The cultural conflict will only get worse – be prepared but not alarmed.. As David French observed, the attack on “thoughts and prayers” is a convergence of anti-Christian bigotry and the impulse to shame and silence a Christian witness. Pray to be strong hearted as you take the arrows of accusation that will come. Embrace the words of Jesus in Luke 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way the persecuted the prophets who were before you.”