Daniel, Government, God and You

Daniel, Government, God and You

The book of Daniel in the Bible contains many examples of how a follower of God should comport himself in the midst of a culture or nation that is at odds with God’s values.  Here are a few lessons we can learn.

Don’t Compromise

Of course there’s the familiar story of the three young Hebrew men, who were also government officials. When they were commanded to bow to a statue of the king, they refused to do so, even though it would result in a fiery furnace, from which they were miraculously rescued. 

Speak Truth Always

And then there’s the story of Daniel who, as one of the highest government officials in the land, was asked to interpret a dream for the king. Recall that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream revealed the king’s haughty and prideful spirit and predicted his downfall. Although there was tremendous risk on the part of Daniel in rebuking the king, Daniel did not falter in speaking truth to power, and Daniel challenged King Nebuchadnezzar to change his ways (which the king ignored).  

God’s Laws Trump Man’s

Several years later, various government officials sought to persecute Daniel, who reported directly to the king. Daniel was equivalent to the Prime Minister of the nation. The only way these scoundrels could achieve Daniel’s demise was to attack his religion directly. Note what they concluded:

“Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the rules of his religion.”  (Daniel 6:5)

And so they made sure that laws were passed that would be in direct violation to the religious values by which they knew Daniel lived. Sound familiar?

So they outlawed prayer, to any god except the king. 

But notice how Daniel responded:

“But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.” Daniel 6:10

Daniel not only ignored the law, but he did so publicly, with his window open so that there would be no doubt about whom Daniel would obey.  You’ll recall that the rest of this story involved a lions den, God’s miraculous deliverance, the defeat and death of Daniel’s adversaries, and a proclamation from the king affirming Daniel’s God as the one true living and eternal God. 

So, you may say, “Yeah, I know all those stories but what do they have to do with me?”

And I say, “A lot!”

The book of Daniel is not just full of a lot of cute bed time stories. Rather it is a book with deep, powerful truths, with principles that apply to the very era in which we a living. 

Anti-Christian Bias

Our culture and government is no longer friendly to Biblical values. In fact, whether it’s a school board, or a city, state or federal government, or agency, the antagonism and animosity towards Christians and the values taught by Jesus are under vicious attack… and it will only grow worse. 

If you are a government official or employee who claims to follow Jesus, you have been or will be called to make a choice, when man’s laws and regulations conflict with God’s laws and values. (Remember Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who refused to issue marriage licenses?)

But most of you are private citizens so you may say, “I’m exempt” from having to make such a choice. But don’t be deceived. Your day is coming… or is already here. 

If you own a business, and attempt to abide by biblical values, there is a bullseye on you and your business.  (Remember the cake maker, photographer and florist who were singled out and attacked for their Biblical beliefs?)

If you’re not a business owner, you have been (or will be) confronted with a myriad of choices, whether it’s your kids’ education, how your tax dollars are used, your selection of political candidates that may not affirm biblical values, and a host of other choices. (Remember the coach who was recently attacked for his decision to pray with his team?)

But first, will you and I even recognize it when we are confronted with these choices?  And secondly, will we cave under pressure, or will we follow the examples from Daniel?

In the final moments of the life of Joshua, we see this great warrior for God and hero of our faith presenting his nation and fellow citizens with this choice:

“But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

Who will you and I choose?  The god of our culture or our government?  Or the God of the Ages, whose values and truths never change?

Your Vote Counts… But Not For the Reasons You Think

Your Vote Counts… But Not For the Reasons You Think

Erdogan, Hussein. Trump, Obama. 

What do all the above men have in common?  They were all elected rulers of their nations. And the citizens of their nations (Turkey, Iraq, USA) all went to the polls to cast their votes for their choice for their highest leader. 

But, there are several deep truths that are often lost when we think about elections for any public office, particularly in America.  So with Election Day around the corner, let’s explore these truths and why your vote counts… but for very different reasons than you think. 

Your Vote Does NOT Ultimately Decide the Election

Sometimes a negative example can help us illustrate a positive truth. So let me try to do so. 

Saddam Hussein, the former President of Iraq, seemed to always win, regardless of his devious nature and evil pursuits. His citizens voted, but their vote did not ultimately decide the election.  Saddam Hussein always determined the outcome. This same reality could be said for many evil dictators. 

While there is no comparing Saddam Hussein with God, there is a lesson to learn here. God allows you and me to vote freely, but ultimately it is His sovereign, just, and perfect will that determines the outcome.  This truth is affirmed throughout Scripture, but here is just one verse that teaches this truth:

“He (God) removes kings and sets up other kings…” (Daniel 2:21)

So if you’ve thought your vote for or against a particular candidate was the reason he or she won or lost, think again… unless you think you can outvote God. 

Voting is Your Obligation

So if God choses our rulers, is there really any reason to vote?  If His will is going to prevail, what’s the use in my even going to the polls?

We have been given not only a right to vote in America, but more importantly an obligation has been entrusted to us by God. So when it comes to voting, I’m reminded of the verse, “To whom much is given, much is required.”  (Luke 12:48)

In Matthew 25, there is a story told by Jesus about three servants to whom their master gave varying resources to manage. They were each rewarded, or punished, based on how they stewarded the resources they were given.  Likewise, God has granted to us the obligation to select those who would seek to rule over us.  Failing to vote is shirking an obligation that God has provided to you.  Just as the servants received a reward or punishment based on their choices, likewise our vote will carry with it a similar response from God.

Do You Pass the Test?

So far we have established that 1) God, for His own particular reasons, has already determined the outcome of each election, and 2) We should still vote to fulfill our obligation. So if these are both true, does it matter who I vote for?

Absolutely. And here’s why. 

Each time you cast a vote for anyone, you are revealing what is in your heart. Your vote for a politician is just like a politician’s vote for a piece of legislation. His vote and yours, reveal what you both value and prioritize. 

When we vote, we have the opportunity to affirm good and reject or expose evil as we see in Ephesians 5:10-11:

“Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.”

If a would be elected official is known by his “worthless deeds of evil or darkness,” then our vote will either reject or affirm such.

So every time we vote, we are actually being tested by God Himself.  We either pass or fail, and there’s no grading on a curve.

When we enter the voting booth, we reveal our priorities.  But are our priorities God’s priorities?  Are our values His values?  Do we honestly seek to align what we are prioritizing with what Scripture instructs us to affirm or reject?  

I can personally attest to the fact that as one spends more and more time seeking God’s instruction and direction, many of the issues that seemed to be priorities, as a Republican, Independent, Conservative, or even Liberal, will begin to crumble under the scrutiny of Scripture. 

Voting for the “Lesser of Two Evils”

Over the years, I, and many others, sadly defaulted to voting for a candidate we had serious issues with, simply because we disliked his opponent even more. So we succumb to selecting the “lesser of two evils.” But when we do so, we invariably reveal that we do not believe God when He said that “He removes kings and raises up kings.”  Or we question God when He affirms that,

“The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; He guides it wherever He pleases.”  (Proverbs 21:1)

Invariably, when we vote for the “lesser of two evils” we sacrifice values that we claim are important to us. In so doing we attempt to play “god” with our “lesser evil” choice, even though such candidate likely has positions or values that are at odds with God’s values. 

Such approach demonstrates a lack of trust in God, in His ability to elevate, or put down a king, and direct the heart of the ruler. But a vote for a “lesser evil” also reveals that we are willing to prefer the temporal (winning an election to advance some political agenda) over the eternal of affirming God’s principles. 

So at the end of the day, it’s critical that you vote. But hopefully you’ve been challenged to reconsider why, how, and for whom you vote. The ultimate Judge is keeping score. You and I can pass the test if we seek His ways versus our own.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

When a Movement Fails to Mature, it Doesn’t Have Long to Live

When a Movement Fails to Mature, it Doesn’t Have Long to Live

“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”   I Corinthians 13:11

If you have a child you can clearly identify childish behavior.  It’s not pretty.  But you understand and tolerate such behavior because you know that as that child matures, and he learns from instruction, his tantrums, pettiness, selfishness, and other childish behavior will become less and less prominent.  And as he grows into adulthood, he will likely become well adjusted.  He will respect others.  He will learn that to achieve his goals, he must often help others achieve theirs.  And ultimately, he puts away childish behavior.  

I was present at the inception of the tea party movement, having founded the Chattanooga Tea Party in April 2009.  It wasn’t my first rodeo, but the challenge of organizing and leading a grassroots movement was new.  So I came of age so to speak with this movement.  And I met a lot of wonderful people.  Many of those people are dear friends today.  Those who joined the movement were ordinary Americans who simply loved their communities and nation, and were worried that their future was gray and bleak.  And the facts and stats affirmed their concerns.

The tea party movement accomplished a lot in its early years, when enthusiasm was high and strategy was limited.  But as the years wore on, it became obvious that strategy and thoughtful deliberation would become more important.  No longer could the movement sustain itself on raw emotion, anger, or passion.  Rather, to succeed, it would require that we learn from our mistakes and failures.  Sadly though, nearly ten years later, the movement continues to struggle with the same blunders. 

As is the case with most elections, there are often several candidates who could be split into various tiers.  The first tier is the “perfect” candidate who might have a near unblemished track record, and his/her fidelity to tea party values is unquestioned.  

The second tier includes candidates who, while their voting record may not align perfectly with tea party values, and there may be other “complaints” some in the movement will lodge, they do have redeeming qualities.  Ultimately, if elected, they would advance many values the movement supports.  

Then there are the third tier candidates.  These are the ones who are so offensive or wrong in their policies, affiliations or track records, that most tea party members would likely never support them.  What we find though is that the candidates in Tier 1 are typically underfunded and thus not electable, while Tier 2 & 3 often have sufficient funds to mount a credible campaign.  

These three tiers expose one of the greatest flaws of the tea party movement: its unwillingness to coalesce together.  Independent elements, personalities, and egos are rampant in the movement, and unwillingness to tolerate the slightest variance from “perfection” is the norm.

Sadly, many tea party members are unwilling to consider anyone outside of Tier 1.  Because of this reality, what invariably happens is that other credible and acceptable candidates in Tier 2 are maligned and rejected.  Additionally, because Tier 3 candidates not only have sufficient funds, but they typically garner the establishment Republican voters, Tier 1 & 2 voters split all the other remaining votes.  Consequently the Tier 3 candidate often wins.  In every case this has been the worst case scenario for the movement, our state and nation.  We saw it with Romney in 2012.  And in Tennessee, we saw it with Governor Bill Haslam.  And Lamar Alexander.  And Bob Corker.  And others. 

Now again in 2017-18, tea party members in Tennessee are repeating the same old mistake.  The fidelity by many to their “perfect” but unelectable candidate is blinding them from the reality that there may be another “acceptable” candidate who is both credible and electable.  

Let me digress for a moment to state that there are times when one may not, for conscience sake, be able to vote for anyone in Tier 2 or Tier 3.  If that is the case, I would never attempt to judge someone else’s conscience.  At that point, it’s a deeply personal decision and no one should ever question someone’s deep rooted beliefs when they enter the voting booth.  

But in the absence of a moral reservation, the movement is missing another opportunity to help influence, and ultimately select, the next Governor in Tennessee.  It may require some to select what they consider to be a Tier 2 candidate.  But if they do, they will be selecting a candidate who can actually win, and they would be revealing a maturity that heretofore has been missing in the movement. 

Growing up requires that we oftentimes sacrifice perfection for good.  Maturity understands that we don’t always get what we want.  Honesty enables us to look into the future and predict what will likely occur and use our best efforts to influence that future.  Conversely, dishonesty keeps us glued to our own narrow-mindedness, trapped in our own little echo-chambers.  

Sadly though, if a movement never grows up, it ceases to be relevant.  And once it’s no longer relevant, it doesn’t have long to live. 

The tea party movement in Tennessee is at a crossroads.  It can stay on its present course and drive over the cliff, never to influence again.  Or it can take a right turn, and begin to coalesce around principled pragmatism, which is simply recognizing reality and attempting to win as many battles as possible by remaining as true as possible to one’s principles.  

Losing elections never advances one’s principles.  Winning elections with imperfect candidates can advance some of our principles.

So will the tea party movement put away childish attitudes and grow up, or simply fade away?  

Statues, Conflict & WWJD

Statues, Conflict & WWJD

“Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.”  1 John 2:6

As Americans weigh in on the latest race relations battle, I can only imagine how satisfied Satan is, knowing that he has once again fanned the flames of division, racism and hatred in our nation. It seems that these skirmishes continue to flare up, no matter how many years we move away from the scourge of slavery that marked our nation’s past. 

So as iron and stone artifacts are receiving increased focus by newspapers, cable news, and social media, what seems to be lacking, at least for those who claim to be followers of Jesus, is WWJD — as in What Would Jesus Do?

There was a time when this slogan was routinely seen on bumper stickers, wrist bands, and t-shirts. And many continue to pose the question, WWJD, to test their actions and words. But the problem with using WWJD is that too often a person’s subjective evaluation can yield multiple answers, if Scriptures are not abundantly clear.

So I’ve been searching the Bible for answers to how Christ’s followers should respond to the calls for removing statues, flags and monuments. Rather than pragmatic or even patriotic approaches, I’m more interested in what Jesus would actually do were He here physically today. But as I considered the likelihood of a subjective response to this latest American problem, I became more intrigued with WDJS — as in What Did Jesus Say?  

If you grew up never knowing your father, but he left you a book with explicit instructions on what he valued and believed, such a document would be of great value as you encountered life’s struggles. 

You and I never had the privilege that the original twelve disciples had, to not only hear the words of Jesus but to also see Him live those words out day after day. So when Jesus told them, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” and the disciples then witnessed Jesus loving and forgiving those who tortured and crucified Him, they could see that what Jesus said directly impacted what He did. 

So whether it’s Jesus or you and me, our actions are driven by our thoughts and our thoughts spill out in our words. 

If you and I profess to be followers of Jesus, and we routinely ask WWJD, then what Jesus said, and He directed others to say for Him throughout the Bible, should be of supreme importance to us as we deliberate over how to respond to statues and racism, and those who are drawing lines in the sand. 

So let’s look at what the Bible has to say about how a follower of Jesus should respond to this latest racial skirmish. 

Dealing with Anger & Conflict

“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”  Matthew 5:9

“But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.”  Galatians 5:15

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”  Ephesians 4:31-32

“Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.”  2 Timothy 2:23-24

“If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.” 1 John 3:14-15

Looking to the Good of Others

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  Matthew 5:44

“Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.”  1 Corinthians 10:24

“Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.”  Galatians 6:10

“See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.”  1 Thessalonians 5:15

“We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.  Romans 15:1-2

Showing Grace, Forgiveness, Love & Unity

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  Matthew 6:14-15

“Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart.”  Matthew 12:25

“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39

“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”  Ephesians 4:2-3

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”  Colossians 3:13

“So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.”  Romans 14:13

“May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.”  Romans 15: 5-7

The Lawsuit Analogy

“When one of you has a dispute with another believer, how dare you file a lawsuit and ask a secular court to decide the matter instead of taking it to other believers! Don’t you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can’t you decide even these little things among yourselves? Don’t you realize that we will judge angels? So you should surely be able to resolve ordinary disputes in this life. If you have legal disputes about such matters, why go to outside judges who are not respected by the church? I am saying this to shame you. Isn’t there anyone in all the church who is wise enough to decide these issues? But instead, one believer sues another—right in front of unbelievers! Even to have such lawsuits with one another is a defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated? Instead, you yourselves are the ones who do wrong and cheat even your fellow believers.”  1 Corinthians 6:1-8

Final Thoughts

This last weekend our nation was reminded of the priority of life, unity and cooperation as Hurricane Harvey bore down on Texas, wreaking death and unimaginable destruction for millions of our fellow Americans.  Interestingly, my blog post last week entitled “Racial Strife: Finding the Antidote to the Enemy Within” dealt directly with such catastrophic events that can bring our nation together and what the two step solution is for this division we are facing. 

While most of us have not been directly impacted by Hurricane Harvey, our hearts, minds and prayers are with those who are struggling to survive.  So as I was communicating with some friends in Texas and viewing the scenes of catastrophic destruction, the following thought suddenly struck me:  Statues No Longer Matter

When an event like a hurricane, a terrorist attack or something similar occurs, our attention is immediately brought to bear on what is ultimately important. Likewise, if we are a follower of Christ, we should understand on an even greater scale that we have opportunities to make an eternal difference in the lives around us when we chose to live as Jesus did.  

As you and I consider the controversies playing out over statues and monuments, may we remember the words of Jesus and the scriptures, focus our attention on eternity, and then adjust our behavior to align with God’s principles. 

If you think others might benefit from this post, please consider forwarding it to them, including your pastor.  And feel free to share your thoughts with me.

 

Racial Strife: Finding the Antidote to the Enemy Within

Racial Strife: Finding the Antidote to the Enemy Within

If you’ve ever watched the movie Independence Day, or one of the many other films that have been made over the years about aliens attacking the world, you know there’s one consistent theme with all of them: There is a common enemy that seeks to annihilate mankind, and this common threat brings together people of every race, background, and even religion to fight the enemy. The myriad of differences of the people no longer matter. Rather, the people become united as one because without such unity they will surely die. 

 

Abraham Lincoln once said:

“American will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

The President who led our nation to battle the evil of racism, which resulted in the deaths of 620,000 Americans, had a front row view of the hatred that nearly destroyed our nation. And he ultimately lost his life because of that hate.  

Since the founding of our great nation, the scourge of racism has pulsated through our communities. If we are honest with ourselves though, racism flows in all directions. It is not limited to a particular race or skin color. 

But racism is not the root of the problem, any more than the spaceships of the aliens were the underlying threat to mankind. Rather, the aliens within the spaceships were driving the threat to annihilate mankind. 

Likewise, racism is merely the vehicle that carries the real threat: Hate.  We hate others because of their skin color, or their socio-economic status, or their geographic location in our nation, or the wealth they possess, or the education they were provided, or the President they voted for, or a host of other reasons. 

Pure and simple, Americans Hate. And the latest stage where we have seen that hate playing out is in the streets of Charlottesville as KKK and other white racist groups battled with BLM and other black racist groups. Sadly, if we’re honest with ourselves, hate is often present in our own hearts and lives. As we view the bloody scenes of men and women clashing in the streets, what wells up in our hearts?  Is it anger or sorrow?  Is it the desire for retribution or forgiveness?  Is it rationalization or condemnation?

Jesus said that we should be willing to forgive our brothers up to seventy times seven, symbolizing an unending flow of forgiveness. Yet, are we willing to do so?

Consider that unforgiveness is a sin that directly severs our relationship with God, as Jesus affirmed:

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  Matthew 6:14-15

Later, when asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied:

“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39

The antidote to the poison of hate is a two step process: forgiveness and love. This process requires a daily commitment on our part to insure that the enemy of mankind, hate, does not well back up in our hearts. Unless we commit ourselves to the discipline of forgiveness and love, the future of the union for which so many bled and died is at stake. But more importantly, the eternal destiny of our own souls hangs in the balance. 

Thank you for reading and if you enjoyed this post, would you mind forwarding it to a few friends?  Thank you.

Chattanooga: A Polluted City

Chattanooga: A Polluted City

I remember first moving to Chattanooga when I was 18.  Excited to move south, I was eager to complete my college education and then launch out into the real world.  

Having grown up in Madrid, Spain, I was accustomed to pollution, given Madrid’s awful track record in the 1960’s and ’70’s.  But despite this, one of the first things I noticed as I settled into my new home city in Tennessee was its own pollution.  It was just a decade earlier when Chattanooga had been declared to have the worst air pollution in America, and there was no avoiding the dirt, filth and smog.

But nearly forty years later, one of Chattanooga’s claim to fame is the way in which it acknowledged its worst standing in America.  As the #1 polluted city, Chattanooga put a plan in place to tackle the scourge for which it had become known.  Government officials, agencies, businesses, and civic leaders all came together to lead in confronting the literal cloud that hung over them.  Today Chattanooga is known for its vibrant and rejuvenated downtown and is now regularly acknowledged for the beautiful city it has become.  

But in spite of the pride Chattanoogans have for the city we all love, there is another pollution that is much more serious than the smog and dirt that permeated our air just a few decades ago.

I was recently reading in the Bible in Numbers 35:33 (in the Old Testament) and I came across this astonishing statement:  “Murder pollutes the land.”  Stop for just a moment and let that statement sink in.  I wonder how many of us have ever truly considered the impact that a murder has on a city, or nation?  

Of course, murders happen everywhere.  But in some places murders happen in more frequency.  Chattanooga is one of those places.  Sadly, in 2016, Chattanooga ranked as the #9 most dangerous cities in America for crime (in the under 200,000 population category).  Much of the reason the city known for conquering its air pollution problem, sank to a #9 ranking in crime, is due to its increasing murder rate.  

If murder pollutes the land, then Chattanooga is being polluted at an ever increasing rate.  But unlike the air pollution of the 60’s and 70’s, the impact of murder is a permanent one.  The loss of a life is perhaps the worst kind of tragedy that one can experience.  The families, friends, neighbors and co-workers of a murder victim are forever changed.  

Americans are known for our interest in cleaning up our environment, protecting our natural resources, and generally tackling problems until we find their solution.  But to date, the pollution of murder in Chattanooga is not seen as a crisis for our city.  And until it is, or until we begin to recognize that murder is polluting our land, I fear we will continue to see this scourge poisoning our lives and that of our fellow citizens.  

I have come to realize this truth over the years: “That on which we focus we excel.”

To date, Chattanooga has offered much lip service to tackling the scourge of murder in our midst, but the focus has been lacking.  And by focus, I mean across the board, from all corners of our community.  The underlying factors that brought us to a #9 rating did not happen overnight, anymore than sinking to the worst air polluted city in America did.  And just like reversing our air pollution took a multi-disciplinary approach, likewise, saving lives by reducing our murders will require the same.  Government officials, agencies, courts, business leaders, churches and individuals must all come together to lead in finding the solutions.  And we must continue to do so until the solutions work. Unless or until we do, the pollution of our city will continue, and likely worsen.

In the second half of the verse in Numbers we read this:  “No sacrifice except the execution of the murderer can purify the land from murder.”  While it may sound insensitive or old fashion to some, the truth is that prompt and commensurate punishment is a strong deterrent to crime.  So when it comes to the taking of life, the way to purify the land from this pollution is to execute the one who took the life.  This is harsh, but this is justice.  And this is God’s remedy.

Finally, I have learned that what we see on the outside flows from what is in the inside.  The murders and other crimes we continue to see proliferated through our city and nation are merely a symptom of what is inside us.  Until we clean up the pollution inside our own lives, we will never clean up the pollution of murder, as hard as we try.

So what about it Chattanoogans?  Or for that matter Americans, since murder happens across this land.  It’s time to step up and tackle the pollution of murder in our midst.

“…for murder pollutes the land.”