I am heartsick, as I’m sure you are, over the state of our country. What happened last week deserves our fervent prayers and attention as a faith community. This has rocked us all. Never mind your political leanings; the witness of that spectacle in Washington, DC on January 6th is in the images we were given:
The image of that confederate flag walking down the hallway of our nation’s Capitol.
The words on the t-shirt worn by one of the rioters: 6MWE (it stands for “6 million wasn’t enough” and refers to the number of Jewish people killed during World War II).
The human feces tracked across the floors of the Capitol.
These images are reprehensible. This is everything I stand against and it has nothing to do with biblical Christianity.
Let me say that again: the people who stormed our nation’s Capitol last Wednesday have nothing to do with biblical Christianity or with justice. We should be unnerved — deeply disturbed by this strain of radical nationalism and we should be on our knees in prayer and repentance for having let our nation get to this place. We as a Church must take a humble posture before God as we consider our complicity in such a dismal scene.
More and more, it seems, Americans tend to filter our opinions through our own information loops. We have our preferred media outlets and our preferred friends on social media platforms. They tell me that the algorithms that govern our online world ensure we get fed opinions that agree with our convictions. That in turn creates the illusion that the whole world agrees with us and more and more those information loops tend to be political and secular in nature. I wonder if you’ve done any soul-searching about how you interact with world news and how that affects your worldview? This is a time for each of us to search our own hearts and habits — to ask ourselves where our allegiances lie and how we’ve come to them — because, friends, if in public spaces we are better known for our political preferences than for our Kingdom values, then something is out of whack.
What is most disturbing about those algorithms is how they feed on negativity and stoke our fears. They create tension in order to keep us coming back. They play on our fears. The Bible talks a lot about fear, mostly warning us against one kind and encouraging another kind. The Greek word for fear is phobos (the word from which we get phobia). This is the kind of fear the angels warn against. “Do not be afraid,” they tell us when they enter our atmosphere to share God’s next big move. This warning from the angels invites us to check our phobias. What in these current circumstances are you afraid of? In what ways are you acting out of fear? How are you letting fear run your imagination and create scenes of destruction and worst case scenarios that simply don’t exist? Where are you breeding or inciting fear through your worry and language? And where are you feeding your own fears through your reading/ watching/ listening choices? Can you acknowledge your unholy fears before God right now? Can you confess it and ask God to heal it? And then can you give yourself to the idea that God is far greater and far more able than we can even imagine to work good out of any circumstance? He deserves our fear, but fear of the Lord is not the same as fear of circumstances.
There is more than one Hebrew word for fear, but the one I particularly like is yirah. This is a kind of fear that feels more like awe. This is the fear of the Lord, the feeling of being overwhelmed by a greater energy or glory or reality we didn’t realize existed. Proper fear of the Lord is almost the opposite of circumstantial fears. When we practice the fear of the Lord, we find ourselves not wearied but energized, not stuck but listening, not feeling inadequate but feeling completed. We recognize our place in the presence of something we can barely comprehend, and we see that His perfection makes us more than we are on our own.
The song “Great I Am,” describes the fear of the Lord:
The mountains shake before You! The demons run and flee at the mention of the name King of Majesty!
When we place ourselves in the presence of that majestic King of the universe and allow ourselves to encounter his presence, the only possible response is humility. Awe. Wonder. Love.
Hallelujah! Holy, Holy! God almighty! The Great I Am who is worthy! None beside thee, God almighty! The Great I Am!
This awesome God of the universe must become our filter for truth, not a political party but the Great I Am. The Kingdom of God must be our highest priority and only allegiance. Let me be clear on this point. This isn’t about patriotism but about priority. We can love this nation, while still claiming the unshakable Kingdom of God is our native land. As citizens of that Kingdom we have power to inform and transform the community and world in which we live, vote, speak, act, and have our being. In this worldview, King Jesus is our undisputed leader, a just and holy God who demands and deserves our absolute allegiance through faith and works. His gospel is our worldview and platform. When that gospel informs our every choice, then the world is getting the best of us.1
If you also claim your primary allegiance to the Kingdom of God and consider yourself a citizen of the Kingdom, I invite you to pray for our country with a posture of humility, in the fear of the Lord. If you’re struggling to find the words, let me offer this prayer as a starting point:
Lord, we are crying out to you this morning with deep grief over the state of our country and our world. We pray for your Holy Spirit to calm the waters, to bring peace to our land and its people, to speak truth and love over us all. We pray for the Spirit of Christ to settle on all people, and for your mercy to cover us. We humbly ask, Father, for the fruit of the Spirit to manifest especially among those who claim the name of Jesus. Fill us all again with your Holy Spirit. We pray together with Jesus for Your kingdom to come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Cultivate in us a hunger for the Kingdom of God, and forgive us for idolizing lesser kingdoms and lesser kings. Renew a right spirit in us and make us a light in this dark world. In Jesus’ name, amen.
- This quote first appeared in Firebrand Magazine. Read the full article here.