Friday, December 14, 2012

Do Not Be Afraid

I've heard it said that the command, "Do not be afraid," is the most repeated one in the Bible.  I can believe it is true.  But it is a hard one to obey, at least for me.  I've had a closer brush with terrorism this week than ever before in my life, and I hope never to be as close again.  On Tuesday at 3:29 PM, a young man armed with assault rifle and wearing a hockey mask barged into the crowded Clackamas Town Center mall near our house and fired off many shots.  I believe there are three deaths, four if you count his.  Allen and the kids were at the Clackamas Town Center that day for several hours and left only about twenty five minutes before the shooting began.  They left so they would be on time to get me; and I'm so thankful that he always leaves plenty of time for coming to get me.  He could have left at about 3:20 and still gotten me on time.
And now there's a new tragedy on an even larger scale: the shooting of teachers, kindergarteners, and other elementary school kids in Connecticut.  As a parent, it's enough to make me want to keep my kids out of school...but I know it is only a matter of time before there's a shooting at a library, a grocery store, a church, a doctor's office, a gas station, an airport (all places we have been or will be this week).  This year already we've heard about shootings in a movie theater, a Sikh temple, and now in the past week we can add mall and school to the list.  You can't just stay cooped up in your home. Where can you turn in times like this?
I know many will turn to the government.  New gun laws! Old gun laws, but better enforced!  Give everyone a gun to defend themselves!  Don't let them take away your guns!  Mental health background check requirements!  Take weapons from veterans so they can't be stolen!  Outlaw violent video games! The talk shows and news pundits will be foaming at the mouth with ideas of how to solve this problem.  Yes, there may be good work to be done by those who create and carry out our laws about this whole issue, but it is not a sure source of protection.
Perhaps we will try to shake it off, ignore it, bury ourselves deeper into our favorite holiday merriment: food, drink, shopping, travelling, etc.  Crank that Xmas Muzak a little louder and sing along, "Fa-la-la-la-la, I can't hear you."  We all know that can't last.
Or maybe we'll try to counteract the evil with good deeds. Stuff a twenty dollar bill in every Salvation Army kettle you see, buy extra food to give to the food bank, give to the Red Cross or whatever charity you see fit.  That produces some fine results, but can we in our own strength outdo the evil?
I think not.  I think all we can do is to sing out, "O come, o come, Emmanuel/and ransom captive Israel/that mourns in lonely exile here/until the Son of God appear." I think the words of the psalmist are still true today, even if the weaponry is different.

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Security of the One Who Trusts in the Lord.

91 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!”
For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
And from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;
Of the pestilence that [a]stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.
A thousand may fall at your side
And ten thousand at your right hand,
But it shall not approach you.
You will only look on with your eyes
And see the recompense of the wicked.
[b]For you have made the Lordmy refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place.
10 No evil will befall you,
Nor will any plague come near your [c]tent.
11 For He will give His angels charge concerning you,
To guard you in all your ways.
12 They will bear you up in their hands,
That you do not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread upon the lion and cobra,
The young lion and the [d]serpent you will trample down.
14 Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him securely on high, because he hasknown My name.
15 “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in [e]trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 “With [f]long life I will satisfy him
And [g]let him see My salvation.”

A final thought: on FB I saw many people decrying the horrible violence that happened today, and rightly so.  I was interested to see that many people who otherwise claim to be agnostic said things like, "There's a special place in hell reserved for people who kill little kids like that" or "Hell isn't hot enough for the likes of the shooter."  Why is it that tragedy brings out the religious in the irreligious? Why is everyone liking and plus one-ing their statuses instead of being appalled at such judgmental statements?  What happened to, "Judge not, lest ye be judged?"  That's everyone's favorite Bible verse until terrorism happens.  Then you can judge away, apparently.  Listen, don't get me wrong: it's a damnable thing to murder.  Jesus also said it's just as bad to secretly hate someone in your heart, and He's the one whose judgment is just.  Vengeance is His, and He will repay...and that should give us all pause.

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