A Greater Kingdom
2017-10-03
I woke up yesterday to the same news as the rest of the world - "50 plus people dead, 400 plus people injured in Las Vegas massacre...worst massacre in U.S. modern history." There are so many shocking pieces of information in that one sentence. What is to follow and what is already underway (even this post) is predictable - it is common place and cultural to have our voices heard, our opinions espoused, and our anger unleashed. 

In 2001, when terrorists attacked the United States, there was only one rhetoric in the immediate days to follow, "Who is responsible and how will they be punished?" That was before social networking was mainstream and before each of us were able to spout off our own opinions from our electronic pulpits where we had been self-ordained to speak about such matters by the church of self-importance. I have noticed (unscientifically) that as each new tragedy unfolds, memes, political rhetoric and social commentary have been produced faster and faster on the heels of tragedy. The barrage reminds me of a conversation where two people are talking as fast as possible because they are afraid to hear the other speak. Following these tragedies there is a competitive drive to be heard when really, what our human race needs to do is listen - I'll be back to that point in a moment if you stick with me. 

Events now unfold in this way - we hear the news. We read the news. We share the news. We formulate an opinion based on strongly held political and social beliefs. We see a meme we like or we create our own. And we post. And we post. And we post. Eventually, one of our friends will post a somewhat thought provoking status to which we will comment in agreement, disagreement or passive aggressiveness where we will not only state our own opinion, but we will state someone else's opinion and put words in their mouths. Then, as the echo chamber begins to fill with our friend's like-minded comments, our one or two friends who have a different persuasion will disagree with our status - then the real war of words begins. Everyone talks about it until there is nothing left to say, no one changes their mind and we wait for the next tragedy where hopefully, we won't be the victim. 

We are so busy typing and trying to figure out "why?" and "how?" when we need to start listening. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is, "Be still, and know that I am God." It's a verse that indicates a quiet posture before God, that we might hear his voice through his word. isn't quiet something that we might quite enjoy right now in history? What if the world were to be still and quiet before God?

But what intrigues me about this verse today are the verses and context around it. Listen to the whole context for a moment:

"Come, behold the works of the Lord
How he has brought desolations on the earth.

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; 
he burns the chariots with fire.

"BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!"
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

A couple of things stick out to us in this Psalm. First, God is sovereign over even the evil acts of humankind. He has allowed the desolations on the earth. Before we get angry with God we have to realize that God is not making these things happen, but rather he is allowing humankind to give into the desires of their heart. There is evil in the world because we freely commit acts of evil - in other words, when there is great evil it is a portrait of a world without the restraint of God. There is great evil in the world because we aren't capable of anything else on our own for very long. 

But there is hope. God ends the destruction, the wars, and the evil powers through his omnipotent power. "He makes wars cease." The bottom line is that whether great or small, these tragedies are their own wars. These wars all have various causes - extremism, greed, hatred, jealousy, rage - all of the things that God detests. So we are comforted that God is not only sovereign over evil, but that he also will end evil. But how will he do it? 

Here is the plan.  God says, "Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations and in the earth!" This is an Old Testament declaration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. After Jesus was crucified and resurrected from the dead he tells his disciples, "Go and make disciples of all nations...teaching them everything I have taught you." Jesus did not teach his disciples about gun control or freedom to bear arms. He did not teach them about legislative halls and court systems. Jesus did not teach his disciples about the psychology of sexual identity. Jesus did not teach his disciples 12 steps to break addiction from porn, drugs, alcohol or other addictive behaviors. Jesus taught his disciples about a new Kingdom, a better Kingdom with a greater law. This news of a better kingdom with a greater law is how God's name would be exalted by all nations and in all the earth. Jesus tells his disciples to go tell the world about this new kingdom by sharing with the world the things he taught them. 

So what did he teach them? He taught them that the greatest law is to love God and the second is like it - to love others. He also taught that following this law in specific ways is impossible when we try to do it on our own. We can only pursue this law and become better at it, but never perfect. But we are promised that as we pursue the teachings and person of Jesus Christ that we will overcome the evils in this world. 

And every time we overcome the evils in this world we are establishing a better Kingdom on earth. Jesus showed us little glimpses of that Kingdom every time he healed someone. When Jesus healed a blind or crippled person it was to tell us, "This is not the way the world is supposed to be. Let me show you how the new Kingdom will work." Every time Jesus shocked his disciples by carrying on with sinners, prostitutes and people of different races he was showing the world, "This is how you love others in the new and better Kingdom." 

My point is that maybe it's time to stop with our clever memes, our dagger-like comments, our emoji's and fake news accusations - and instead listen for something that is greater. Is it possible that the cycle of bad news is because humankind as a whole is stuck in a cycle of self-belief and self-righteousness and that we need someone to rescue us from ourselves? 

Psalm 46 is so clear, so concise, and full of hope. God sees the desolation in Vegas, in social discord, in unjust wars, in terrorism, and in our personal lives. But he is going to end it, should we stop for a moment and listen to the incredible news of the Gospel. The Gospel news is what makes wars cease and ends evil. The Gospel is the real gun control. The Gospel is the real end of racism. The Gospel is the real solution for all of our social ills. The Gospel is the real solution for peace on earth. Maybe, just maybe, our stillness before God and the exaltation of who he is above anyone else would help bring some peace to this broken world. 

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