First, let me say I DO NOT condone the rioting and violence that is occurring across our nation, following the murder of George Floyd at the knee of white police officer Derek Chauvin. As someone who values that Jesus taught us to “turn the other cheek” I believe there are other ways we must respond, even in the face of gross injustice. But I also understand that not everyone embraces Jesus’ teachings or His example in this regard, and even if we do, we can all become overwhelmed at gross injustice and feel like our only responses to such are protests and/or violence.
Last night I broke a long standing rule I placed in effect several years ago, and I watched the news for a couple hours, viewing the rioting and protests Live as they were happening. In the two cities I watched, Washington DC and NYC, the vast majority of the protesters/agitators were WHITE, not black.
As I watched the rioting, one announcer made the point that our nation’s founding flowed out of the violent responses of its citizens to unjust laws by its government. Most white Americans celebrate and applaud our nation’s founding fathers who rejected authority, and fought back, violently, to protest and overthrow an unjust government. The Boston Tea Party was one such rebellion. I should note that the organization I founded eleven years ago in Chattanooga, took its name from that act of rebellion and violence.
When I led the Chattanooga Tea Party for nearly a decade (which I no longer do, and I no longer consider the Tea Party movement to represent me), I and other leaders often took solace in these words that were integral to our nation’s founding:
“…whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends (Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness), it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it… But when a long train of abuses and usurpations…reduces them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government…”
While our organization, and none of the other liberty movements I was associated with, ever took up arms, or resorted to violence, I can assure you that there were many in the movement who were more than prepared to resort to violence had the government stepped across an imaginary line. If you doubt this, then explain why it was that gun purchases were skyrocketing during those years? The consistent interpretation that conservatives held was that the 2nd Amendment was not for hunting or sporting but was to protect oneself from a wayward and unjust government. Let’s also not ignore the fact that even now in 2020, white men armed with assault rifles and other threatening armament have recently been marching into state capitols around our nation.
But back to violence in our protests. Let me reiterate that I do not condone or agree with the violence we are seeing erupt across our nation. As a Christian, I believe we are called to love, peace, and humility, and when others persecute us, our response should be identical to that of Jesus, and the twelve apostles. None of us will ever be as violently persecuted as the Founding Fathers of Christianity (where all but one were martyred for their faith; that is the most extreme form of prejudice one can imagine). And yet, not one of them responded violently. This is the model every follower of Jesus should strive to emulate in our lives. It’s a high bar, which I struggle with personally, in the face of injustices.
As we watch and condemn what is going on, what would we have said if we were viewing the protests at the Boston Tea Party? While there are significant differences between the two, there are also many similarities, including injustices by those in authority and with power. So ask yourself, “What would I have done or said, if I was alive on December 16, 1773, viewing the violence of the Boston Tea Party? Would I have condemned it or embraced it? Would I have participated in it?” Today, most Americans praise this act of violence and rebellion, that destroyed a million dollars worth of property.
My intent for sharing these thoughts is not to provoke anger or incite emotions. Rather, it is to challenge us to stop and think; to put ourselves in the shoes of others.
When we judge a person simply by their external actions, we either condemn them or we embrace them, based on the cause they are fighting for. If their protests and even violence affirm our worldview, then we gladly applaud them. However, if their protests and violence are at odds with anything we’ve ever experienced, then it’s likely we will condemn them and find cause to belittle and hold them in contempt.
If we are white Americans, it’s likely we’ve never felt that our life was hanging in the balance when we were pulled over in our cars by a police officer. But many of my African American brothers and sisters have always carried such fear with them. But not only is that fear for themselves, but for their children and grandchildren also. Thankfully, I’ve never known that fear personally, or for my children. But it grieves me to realize that millions of our citizens do, primarily because of their skin color.
Think about that. Then consider that there have been a “long train of abuses” in the eyes and experiences of our black brothers and sisters. Their life is not ours. So until we can figuratively place ourselves in their shoes, we cannot fully comprehend the struggle, the outrage, and the deep rooted hurts they feel each time another man with black skin dies, whether at the hands of someone in uniform, or by a white man in the back of a pickup truck, or a false accusation is called in to 9-1-1.
So what are the solutions to this existential threat to not only the future of our nation, but more importantly to the relationships we should seek to grow with those who are different than us?
I believe first and foremost the solution is Spiritual. The center of this struggle is not in the streets of Minneapolis or other cities, but rather in the center of our beings: Our Heart. God says in Jeremiah 17:9 that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?”
Even now, it’s possible that your response to my meager thoughts is one of outrage or rejection or condemnation. If so, I believe its possible your heart is deceiving you. Within each of us lies the potential to deceive ourselves into believing the problem is “the other guy; it’s not me.” If that’s my response, I am deceived.
Jesus said in John 8:7 “let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” He also said in Matthew 7:5 “First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”
The point is, introspection is needed, first and foremost. What part have I played, overtly or covertly, in contributing to injustices in our community or nation? If you say none, then I applaud you and I would suggest you write a book so we can all learn from you. And there is no need to read further. But if you feel any need to continue to examine yourself, here’s what I would suggest is next.
Because the heart, the inner core of our being, is deceitful and wicked, we must regularly cleanse it. This cannot be done overnight but requires a continuous effort to transform what is natural (those responses that are wrong) to the unnatural (those responses that are Christ-like). The only way to do this is through a consistent time in God’s Word. We read this in Romans 12:2:
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
As we begin to transfuse our minds with the healing power of God’s Word, our values, thoughts and behavior will be transformed. Recently I read a short Bible Plan in the Bible app entitled “How to Love People You Disagree With” and it included these thoughts:
… we exhibited patience?
… chose not to be offended?
… we quit taking everything so personally?
… we changed the degrading way we talk to others?
… we focused on what we did have in common?
… we chose the big picture?
And I’ll add, what if we “loved our neighbor as ourselves?” which Jesus reminded us is the second greatest commandment. These are a few of the fundamental behavior changes we must pursue.
Nearly a year ago, God led my path to cross with someone I had known for years, but never developed a close relationship with. Ternae Jordan is an African American pastor in Chattanooga whom God intentionally brought me to, so that God could begin to incorporate the above principles in my life. As we’ve spent dozens and dozens of hours together since last summer, my heart has softened as I’ve been able to, in a small way, “walk in his shoes.” Beginning to realize and better understand the dreams, hopes, fears, and frustrations that my brother and his family and friends experience, has softened my heart, and changed my thoughts. I’m eternally grateful for Ternae, and as I think of what God has begun in our lives, I’m reminded of this verse:
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6
In closing, while the solutions are not that complicated, they are also not that easy. Cleansing our heart (seeking forgiveness and transforming what we think and believe), changing how we habitually behave and respond, and walking in someone else’s shoes, none of these are natural. But the history of our nation reveals that what is natural is not working. So perhaps if followers of Jesus across this land began to pursue supernatural answers to the age old scourge of racism and prejudice, we might begin to see a mighty work of God in our midst. And as we do, I’m hopeful that God will bring about healing and unity, to what has been hurt and division for more than 200 years.
Addendum: Verses to consider as we seek to “Love our neighbor as ourselves:”
“My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” James 2:1
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35
“Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15
“Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.” Romans 12:14
“Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18
“Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.” Romans 12:19
“Love does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.” 1 Corinthians 13:6
“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” Romans 12:9-10
“Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Philippians 2:4
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” Galatians 5:22-23
I hesitated to write this article, particularly in this day and time. It seems that anything one writes or posits in this current era, invariably results in arguments, dissension, and sore feelings. I do not wish to cause any of the sort. However, neither do I believe that what I share is beyond scrutiny. So, where we might diverge in our views, I would hope that we could do so respectfully and without resorting to inflammatory remarks, or disparaging attacks. But since I do believe that iron can sharpen iron, I welcome additional thoughts and perspectives.
That said, I must affirm that my source of Truth is the Bible. You may have a different source, and if so, I’m ok with that. I don’t intend to twist your arm to believe that my source is THE source. But it stands to reason, that only one source can be accurate, when various sources disagree as to Truth itself. As I’ve tested and ingested the Bible over many years now, I am 100% convinced that it is Truth, because it was authored by God Himself, through the inspiration and guidance of mortal men. And it consistently convicts, instructs, and directs my life.
So, with that as a background, I wanted to address something that has been quietly at work within me since the beginning of the Coronavirus crisis. First, let me say that I am not one to dabble in conspiracy theories… at least not lately. There was a time in my life when I regularly focused on all sorts of conspiracies, normally those dealing with government and power, which invariably included wealth. And wow did that take up an inordinate amount of my time and focus.
But several years ago I began an intentional time of study of God’s Word, that continues to this day, and I came across this passage that specifically addresses conspiracies:
“Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble.” Isaiah 8:12-13
Conspiracies, at their heart, typically involve emotions: Fear, Dread, Anger, Resentment, Anxiety, etc. Too often when emotions come into play, we frequently leave logic and faith behind. The Bible speaks of fear many times and from numerous vantage points. But one thing is certain, the fear that is associated with conspiracies is not of God. In fact, the verse above in Isaiah specifically instructs us not to fear or dread what the general population does, and 2 Timothy 1:7 asserts specifically that fear does not come from God:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
But there is One whom we should fear, and it’s God Himself. Jesus told us the reason we should fear His Father:
“Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that. But I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell. Yes, he’s the one to fear.” Luke 12:4-5
So if conspiracies evoke fear, or anger, and many other negative emotions, which are not from God, and the Bible speaks specifically against overindulging in conspiracies, why would I want to go down those rabbit holes, for which there are often no absolute certainty as to their accuracy?
Since the Bible warns about fear and conspiracies, I have greatly resisted the temptation to begin chasing the many theories about COVID-19 that are regularly promoted by our culture. Social media is one of the great platforms that promotes all sorts of conspiracies… #fakenews as it’s commonly referred to these days.
But one man’s #fakenews is another man’s gospel truth.
So what do we believe? And what deserves our undivided attention? This seem to be the real struggle these days with most of what we read, watch, or consume mentally.
So as the Coronavirus pandemic has continued to extend, and wreak such havoc and devastation locally, nationally, and globally, I believe it would be foolish to not at least consider other alternative explanations for what is causing such calamity to so many.
Since my source of Truth is the Bible, then I think it bears mentioning that this ancient Book identifies who it is that is invested in wreaking havoc, confusion and dissension. In fact, Jesus had this to say about the one I am referring to:
“He (the devil) is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44
Additionally, we read this about Satan the deceiver, in the final book of the Bible:
“This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels.” Revelation 12:9
While God is at work here on our globe, so is Satan. His lies and deception are ever present throughout all the ages. His primary objective is to deceive mankind, individually and collectively, and to lead us away from God. Given the fact that Satan is the master deceiver, it can only be concluded that many of us could easily fall for his slick lies. And he can package them in the most credible arguments that millions, if not billions could embrace. The term #fakenews is a recent term in our culture, but Satan has been packaging fake news since the first moments of man’s existence on the earth.
So what does all this have with COVID-19? Well, in our lifetimes, and perhaps in the history of the world, there has never been a moment in time like the one in which we are living. The entire world, including hundreds of nations, collectively agreed on a common response to a worldwide phenomena. That in and of itself is unprecedented. Think about that. Within weeks, if not days, all of the civilized world closed down. And with this closure, literally billions of people were dramatically impacted. In America alone, tens of millions of our fellow Americans lost their paychecks. Overnight. With no warning. More people are unemployed than in the Great Depression.
But I believe God is sovereign. So nothing happens here on this globe, or in your life, that God has not either caused, or allowed. But as true as this reality is, there is another Truth to consider during this crisis. Satan, while not sovereign, has been given broad discretion to operate deceptively amongst us, with a diabolical scheme to destroy all that is good. Remember, Satan is called “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” (Ephesians 2:2) And we are also told that he “walks around as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 1:8)
So if COVID-19 has wreaked havoc, death, and destruction, and the loudest voices across the entire globe are trumpeting a synonymous message, is it possible their message is one that is deceptive, whether purposeful or ignorantly? I think the answer must be “Yes it is possible” — at least it is for me.
So, if the above is true, that the solutions and conclusions that are being promoted by our leaders could be false, or incorrect, then what is True? Sadly, I cannot personally say. Nor can I yet decipher from the other conflicting voices and messages. But is it worth listening to them, in moderation, in order to derive truth, so that we can respond correctly?
Again, I think the answer is Yes, at least for me.
But here is where I am responding differently today than I might have five or ten years ago. Then, I would have gone all in on investigating and researching, to the extreme, the alternative responses to COVID-19. I would have become obsessed with viewing and reading the unlimited options available to overdose on “conspiracy-mania.” This is how we get sucked in to an unhealthy, and I believe unscriptural, response to this crisis. So I would ask you to consider that there is nothing that you might discover, even if it were the conclusive “smoking gun” behind this crisis, that will change the world, or Washington DC, or your state, or your community. Nothing.
So if there is nothing you might discover that will change much of anything about COVID-19, then why try to find out? I think the primary reason to attempt to decipher the truth of this crisis, within moderation, is to better equip yourself, your family, and your community, with a plan to respond to whatever might come next. This is not because we fear what might come next, but rather because the Bible tells us that:
”A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” Proverbs 22:3
Is there danger ahead? I think so. Should we prepare ourselves? Yes, if possible. But should we fear or obsess over it? Absolutely not. God is our refuge. Our tower. Our strength. We have no need to fear since there is no conspiracy that He did not already foreknow. Furthermore, we know that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
But finally, this is the greatest reason to not obsess over conspiracies, or go to herculean efforts to try to discover what likely cannot be known with certainty. If you were to know all there is to know about the origination of the Coronavirus, it would have little, or perhaps no, impact on your soul, or the soul of your neighbors. Remember what Jesus said in the verse above: “don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that. But I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell. Yes, he’s the one to fear.”
In that short statement, Jesus was contrasting the temporal, your physical life, with the eternal, your spiritual life. The loss of a life here on earth is of eternal insignificance when compared with the loss of a spiritual life in the life to come. So why would you and I obsess over conspiracies of the Coronavirus, which are temporal at best, when all around us are souls who are potentially facing a spiritual virus whose curse is eternal?
If Jesus, or any of the Apostles were here today, I can hardly believe that they would set aside their God-ordained purpose, to get caught up in pursuing the cause of a global pandemic. Rather, I believe they would do today, exactly what they did in their time. They would “love God and love their neighbor as themselves.” And that love would propel them to redouble their efforts to share the only news that has the power to overcome conspiracies, COVID-19, and the father of lies. So we should strive to do what John commanded us to do:
For over a decade, my life revolved around politics. I ate, drank and slept all things political. Throughout those years, I often saw the worst of men and women which led me to suspect our government’s involvement in a host conspiracies. And invariably the suspicions that I developed led to fears: Who would win elections? Who would govern? What would the opposition do if they gained control? What about our nation’s future? What about my family’s future?
I found over those years though that I was not alone. In fact millions of Americans shared these same questions which led them to fear these same “what if” scenarios as well.
But as I began to extricate my life from all things political, and to focus my time and attention away from short-term issues, with a hunger instead for the eternal, I began to realize that when I feared something, it meant I had given up trusting God.
But recently, I ran across the following verse, that encapsulates the sentiments I’ve attempted to describe. Note what the prophet Isaiah had to say:
💡 “Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble.” (Isaiah8:12-13)
And it hit me. It’s natural to fear that which we don’t control — particularly when those in control are not honorable people. But a follower of Christ should literally have “No Fear” when it comes to man, and the myriad of institutions that man creates. When we fall under the spell of fearing man-made agencies and ideologies, we are simply affirming our lack of trust in God Almighty. We are failing to realize that the Sovereign God over all, is in control of all. There is nothing that catches Him by surprise.
Isaiah instructed us to fear nothing or no one, except God. And he also advised us to make God holy in our lives. Holiness and fear are closely related, and they are truths I’m still struggling to consistently affirm in my life. But if we can begin to gain a glimpse of God’s holiness, it will lead us to fear Him. And yes, I’m talking about fear, the kind that makes us “tremble” as Isaiah cautioned. Too many in our pulpits interpret the word “fear” as simply respect. But I believe that is an inaccurate or incomplete interpretation of the word, as a thorough reading of the Bible from cover to cover amply affirms.
More often than not, we fear everything but God. Our actions reflect such. We vote out of fear. We fear the same things that unbelievers fear. We dread the stuff that others dread. We see conspiracies in everything. And those conspiracies simply deepen our fears. And the cycle continues.
And while we’re busy fearing all these things, our behavior affirms that we do not fear the One we should fear: the Holy God. We don’t pursue Him. We don’t seek to please Him. We consistently ignore His commands. We seldom open the Book He gave us to teach us what He values. But we have plenty of time for everything else.
So let’s begin to heed Isaiah’s admonition: Have No Fear… except the Fear of God. If we will truly follow this course, our behavior will change, worry will diminish, and peace will consume us.
Has Campaign 2016 left you feeling like you are about to drown in a barrage of fear and moral corruption? Have you experienced any of these emotions over the last few months? Angst? Anger? Worry? Uncertainty? Nervousness? Fear?
As I’ve engaged in political discourse, I have seen these emotions permeating the discussions. It’s clear that Americans are experiencing an extreme degree of angst. The level of fear that is expressed by conservatives, republicans, independents, and democrats seems to be off the charts.
Our future appears to have been boiled down to the choice that will prevail on November 8th. While there are monumental factors at stake that are driving the choices Americans will make at the ballot box, there have been other seminal moments for our nation.
If you think back over your life, you can no doubt identify times when your future was dire and bleak. Similarly, while our nation’s homeland has faced a relatively tranquil and prosperous series of decades, there have been periods in our history when citizens wondered if the Republic would survive.
I’m reminded of a passage in the gospels where the disciples were fearing for their lives. The story is found in Matthew 8 and highlights one day in the life of Jesus. Throughout that day, Jesus healed a leper, a paralytic child, a feverish lady, cast out a demon, and healed dozens of others. At the end of this “day in the life of Jesus” where the miraculous became almost commonplace, Jesus led his disciples into a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee.
Shortly after Jesus and the disciples embarked on the journey, a violent storm encompassed their boat. The disciples, terrified by the tempest that surrounded them, and the waves that were crashing inside the boat, yelled out in utter hopelessness, to a sleeping Jesus.
“Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
Consider exactly what the disciples were revealing with those chilling words. First, they had completely forgotten what they had just witnessed earlier in the day, when Jesus performed miracle after miracle, reflecting His complete dominion over the physical and spiritual. Second, consider that this supernatural Man had led them directly into the boat. While they were unaware of what lay ahead, Jesus fully understood what that dark night held for them. Finally, while Jesus knew there was a storm directly in their path, He also knew that the storm was not the object of that night. Rather, a lesson that the disciples needed to experience and learn, was precisely what Jesus had in mind.
So Jesus awoke to the disciples’ screams of fear, panic, and hopelessness. He saw it in their eyes, heard it in their voices, and fully understood their emotions. But, He did not immediately deliver them from their greatest fears. Rather, as the waves were swirling around their knees, Jesus questioned:
“Why are you fearful?”
Did the disciples not understand what the purpose of the last twelve hours had been? Did they not remember that Jesus was the Son of God? Did they fail to comprehend that He delivered dozens from physical and spiritual oppression? Did they not realize the most obvious reality, that Jesus was in the boat with them? Could they perish with the Son of God at their side?
Yet they so easily forgot, just as we so often do. But notice Jesus’ next words.
“O you of little faith.”
The disciples had within minutes lost their trust in the very Creator of the universe; the God-man who had called them to follow Him, and told them things about themselves that only God could have know; the Nazarene who they were seeing live a perfect life, who had turned water into wine, healed the sick and lame, brought words to the lips of the mute, opened the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf.
Yet, fear gripped the disciples and they lost their faith. And what was drowned out that night by the storms that swirled around them was not their physical lives, but more importantly their spiritual faith.
But then, despite the fear and lack of faith by the disciples, we read these words:
“Then Jesus arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.”
If Jesus can halt physical storms can He not conquer the storms in your life, and our nation? Of course He can. And although there are clear biblical principles that instruct us to not simply sit back and do nothing, we also learn from Matthew 8 that what we are often lacking is faith.
Faith that believes.
Faith that trusts.
And, as we learn in the book of James, faith that is revealed by our works, for we read that “faith without works is dead.”
Remember that “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.” The same Jesus that saved His disciples from drowning that stormy night, is the same One who is fully aware of the storms in your life, and our nation. But will you and I acknowledge, trust, and follow Him, not just on November 8th, but more importantly on November 9th and forward?
In just a few days our nation will enter a new era. It could be a very stormy and tumultuous period. So we have two choices. Will we turn to the ultimate answer for a stormy future and return to the only One who can guide us through these storms? Or will we trudge on, in fear, disunity and hopelessness?
Politicians, their Parties and ideological movements are not our hope. There is only one Hope: Jesus Christ. Let’s turn to Him as we climb into the boat that will traverse a Clinton or Trump Presidency. It’s going to get rough, but we know that God Himself “will never leave us nor forsake us.“
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”Isaiah 26:3