Congressional Shootings, a High-Rise Fire, and the Kingdom of God
Our great nation has endured many tragic events in its history. Many more will come along. We don’t completely wonder why because God’s people know from Scripture that the world is broken or fallen and will remain so until we are fully reconciled with God and one another in Christ. That’s what the Catechism teaches us, too. On earth as it is in heaven is what we pray for, and we pray those words daily with longing and glorious expectation of the triumphal return of our Lord Jesus Christ. No matter what we endure, we are steeled knowing that Jesus has already won, and for reasons of love and grace alone He has chosen to give that victory to us.
God’s creation is beautiful and wonderful despite all the darkness and evil that try to spoil it. We find we are not left as orphans amidst trouble and calamities, but rather that Jesus has brought His Kingdom near to us and the Father has sent the Holy Spirit to comfort and protect us. The Kingdom of God is truly within us, taking residence in each heart that will have Him and it. We are truly and divinely a Kingdom people, individually, and a Kingdom Church, together.
On Wednesday, the media overwhelmed us with the news that a United States Congressman, Steve Scalise, and four others were shot by a hate filled assailant. The assailant wanted Congressman Scalise dead and his own purposes glorified. Ironically, the assailant is ingloriously dead and the Congressman will be honored for what he endured. He remains in critical condition at this instant.
Thanks be to God that Matt Mika, a lobbyist, and Zack Barth, a House staffer, are expected to fully recover from their wounds, though they too continue to fight for their health. We need to continue to pray – because prayer is our ultimate weapon. We must believe that.
To be honored most of all are the two courageous Capitol Police officers, Crystal Griner and David Bailey, who exemplified Jesus’ words, “greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Though they thankfully did not die from the bullet wounds they endured, Crystal and David were surely willing to do so to save others. Love and glory are found in sacrifice – the great lesson of the Cross and the heart of what Jesus meant when He said, “you are to love others as I have loved you.”
On that same day, television screens were filled with even more devastating and horrific images of a residential high-rise fire in London. So many people seemed to be in peril, and the death count of 17 is mounting as I write. Heroic rescue workers risked their lives and did all they could to save as many as they could. Yet even more noble souls who were willing to lay down their lives for others. May God bless them all and relieve their suffering in the days to come.
We are God’s children. We are His Kingdom people. While society around us reacts in fearful or angry human ways, we are called to react in Christ, because whether realized or not, the remedy of Christ is the aching desire of every soul. All too often people speak and teach of Jesus without including His powerful and primary emphasis on the Kingdom of God. The message of the Kingdom is what people are aching for, not in some lofty theological sense, but in practical ways of daily living and facing the difficult challenges of life. This is especially true in times of crisis. Our faith in Jesus is not a philosophy or strategy among others, it is God’s answer to our questions and exists over and above every futile human explanation or definition of the meaning of life. We have been given the ultimate insight by the Ultimate Person. While we grieve and are hurt as much as anyone by these shootings and the London fire, we bring to them the love of Jesus, hearts of prayer, grace and peace, sacrifice and service, and a wisdom from above. As Scripture teaches, Jesus’ disciples do not mourn without hope as the world mourns.
When we say, “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” we are not merely expressing some vague, pie in the sky, end of times hope. We are instead joining in heart and the Spirit to live out our lives in love, sacrifice, mission, and service to the end that others might witness the glory of God and the Good News of forgiveness and love in Jesus. While the world and even some culturally minded churches use these occasions as opportunities to make political, social, and other agenda-driven statements, Kingdom people apply love, service, generosity, prayer, and sacrifice. These are the true, genuine, and Spirit blessed responses.
What we are to offer comes from God, and is far beyond and above human thinking and strategies. The Word of God teaches us to trust the Lord with all our hearts and to not rely on our own understanding. This is true even when applications of love, prayer, service, and sacrifice are counterintuitive to our human minds. For many, politics and social and justice issues are their religion, the courts their spirit, and the Constitution their Bible, especially after tragic shootings and other violence. People and churches of the cultural and political right often propose remedies of force and the right to carry guns as a means of diminishing such dangers. No doubt that might save some lives in the right circumstances. People and churches of the cultural and political left often propose remedies of gun control as a means of diminishing such dangers. No doubt that might save some lives in the right circumstances.
Jesus did not take up political positions. He did not come to bring a political or cultural revolution. He came to bring a spiritual revolution. He came to bring His Kingdom, by which He sought to change hearts not laws. He knew that, even if some government got something right in January, it would get it wrong in February. That is because governments do not bow the knee to the Lord. Our hope is not in government, though we should do our best to help governments be more gentle and helpful, especially to those who suffer. In the end, we need to recognize that a Kingdom church, and each of us as Kingdom citizens, is to be about the mission of changing hearts. By Jesus’ teachings and example, it would not matter if there are guns or not if the hearts of the people are of Him and His ways. Go ahead and give every human being a gun to protect themselves and there still will be tragedies – people will out maneuver one another. Go ahead and take away every gun from every human being and there will still be tragedies – people will find many other ways to kill one another. These are not the answers. The only authentic answers come through the Gospel and the changing of the hearts of a nation. Impossible you say? Not for God, and He has instructed us to dedicate our lives to His ways.
Jesus knew all of this. It is why He called us to not live as the world lives, but to live as children of God loving and witnessing to all. Let the world bang heads about the pros and cons of human methods to end evil. The Kingdom message comes directly from the Lord and the Holy Scriptures. His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. And I trust Him. This is especially true in times of unspeakable violence and calamity.
We waste our time and witness when we do anything other than live out and speak about the Good News of God to the world.
God has a plan to end violence, murder, racism, war, terrorism, and all other evils. The plan is Jesus, plainly and simply. The plan is for our transformation into His likeness by the working of the Holy Spirit. As a brilliant and faithful parishioner recently wrote to me, God is acting “on the scale of eternity, not the ephemeral notions which bedevil us at the moment. [Verb chosen deliberately.]” Jesus made clear that we will never cure the world of its ills before He returns and fully institutes the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. I’m okay with that because I trust Him. It doesn’t all have to be my way or for my comfort, and I can wait.
In the meantime, we can be His Kingdom emissaries as we act in His Name to provide for people burned out of their homes, reach out to national leaders with messages of love, call upon national leaders to behave as God would have them do, and listen to countless inspirations of how the Lord might like us to speak for Him as salt and light to a world that is hurting and lost.
May God today bless the people of our country and our brothers and sisters in the City of London.