Tragedy permits the benefit of reflection. Most of the nation has paused in the after-math of the Charleston killings to contemplate the many questions that such horrible events always occasion. Visible people have spoken opinions and ideas to bring understanding and even comfort to a grieving and perplexed population. Several of the victims families put Christ on display when they forgave shooter Dyllan Roof during the initial hearing of the coming legal process. And, everybody will weigh in with their solutions to the many dilemmas of the human condition.
Some of us, even many notable spiritual leaders, will offer easy button answers. Already, even before the victims of Wednesday's killings have reached their final resting places, an avalanche of social commentary has cured the ills of the nation. Humans have a long list of personal biases and prejudices, often disguised as mere preferences, that are activated in the tidal wave of such horror. So, they will use the cameras and lights and streaming as an avenue for their particular bent. Perhaps it's one of those times when we should be quick to listen and slow to speak. In spite of our brilliance, there are no easy answers to the sub-texts of a tragedy like this one.
Suddenly, everyone prescribes government solutions. They are usually the easy button answers that will instantly and momentarily cover our corporate guilt over the deeper ethos of a troubled nation. Passing gun control legislation or lowering the Confederate flag in South Carolina are two of the more obvious easy button answers. That spiritual leaders jump on these bandwagons so soon is truly disappointing because it indicates an abdication of sorts, a shift of responsibility to the state rather than the church. All of the easy button answers are good gestures, noble in fact. But, if there's anything we should know in the history of our nation, good gestures won't fix deep problems. Throwing money at a broken education system is a fresh, vivid example. Or, our many attempts to alleviate poverty. Here deep calls to the deep and we must avoid the temptation to go shallow.
Praying and working that his will be done on earth as it is in heaven is our noble assignment. But, in a broken world there are no easy answers. Jesus promised his disciples they would have trouble in this world. It is so. Hitting the easy button will give us safe passage through the dark night but not give us the endurance needed till he comes again. So, what do we do?
1. Pray. That is, without ceasing. Not grace around the table or the pastoral
prayer at church every Sunday. Paul wrote, "Continue steadfastly in prayer,
being watchful in it with thanksgiving." (Colossians 4:2). Real prayer.
2. Look inside. Peter wrote it clearly, "For it is time for judgment to begin at the
household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those
who do not obey the gospel of God?" (1 Peter 4:17). Hey, church. We know the
answer. If we waver and vascilate about it we're in deeper trouble than any of
us ever imagined.
3. Practice patience. Patience and self-control are fruits of the Spirit (see
Galatians 5:22-23 for a complete listing). They should define spiritual
leadership in times of national crisis. Being first with opinions or solutions
may be the prime temptation of easy button answers. Our responses should
be the character of Christ and not merely expediencies to calm the troubled
waters or ease tensions for the moment.
4. Understand the times. Spiritual truth is eternal and not subject to our time
constraints and boundaries. Just the same, we are commissioned to represent
him in a particular block of time. The times don't alter the mission or the
message. But, it does change the ways that we represent him. We must be very
aware of the times.
5. Speak truth. Love and grace are two of the defining characteristics of our
speaking his truth (see Ephesians 4:15 and Colossians 4:6). Easy button
answers often reflect what itching ears prefer to hear rather than the spiritual
truth he has given us.
Harriet and I wept as we watched Dyllan (his name is spelled several ways in the media) Roof's first court appearance. We were in that very courtroom when the man arrested for our son's murder had his first court appearance. The cast of characters was the same with the exception that prosecutor Scarlett Wilson was not present. We chose not to speak when the judge gave us the opportunity. Our emotions were too near the surface. But, when the accused man's mother came in and sat behind us, we were compelled to turn to her, take her hand, and pray with her. It's wasn't an easy button answer. It was hard. But, there are times when the important matters exceed the urgent matters. And, urgency shouldn't define our responses. No easy answers.
The victims family members who did speak at Dyllan Roof's court appearance resisted the easy button too. They forgave the killer of their loved ones. They showed us the more difficult way.
And resisted the easy button.
Soli deo gloria.