Like many, I suppose, I haven’t really said much publicly since the shootings in Connecticut a week ago. Mostly it’s because it was a heinous and sad atrocity, there are people grieving the loss of their children, and to some degree we all collectively took a punch to the chest that left us breathless. Bonhoeffer once said, marking the passing of his friend, a German pastor, who was executed by Nazis for refusing military service,
Where God tears gaps we should not try to fill them with human words. They should remain open. Our only comfort is the God of the resurrection, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who also was and is his God (Bonhoeffer, 349).
I think it is right, for a time, to sit silent as grief washes over us (Lam 3:28). We weep and mourn and feel sad, and we pray. Not just say that we’ll pray, but I mean we actually do.
But it seems to me that a time is coming when Christians will have to open their mouths and use their voices, and that time is rapidly approaching. There are plenty of dogs circling the carcass of this mad violence, ready to distort, destroy and devour not only what happened but also those who draw near for a closer look.
The President, for one, has already played the opportunist, trying to leverage the situation in favor of stripping the American people of their second amendment rights and of increasing immoral taxation. At a time when he could have lent a truthful hand of comfort to hurting families, he instead gave a political push for gun control, as confirmed by NBC correspondents following the talk.
Others have told us that we need to step up our understanding of mental health or that video games are to blame. They’ve blamed the laws, the guns, the video games and everything else in between, but the media pundits and social dignitaries are really only handing out trivial opinions, at best, and outright lies, at worst.
Then They Will Fast
As God’s people in the world, ours is to be the glowing light of truth in the midst of such darkness (Luke 8:16). But in order that we would be a light, we must first take care how we hear (Luke 8:18). Really any timely things we would have to say—and they must be said—would be derived from God’s word and applied in the power and wisdom of his Spirit.
The need is great. We live in a nation where the church in many ways has failed to speak the truth when she should have, and as a result we are paying the high moral price. We have allowed this to happen. We’ve allowed our tax dollars to fund the 3,000 murders of innocent children everyday. We do it, it happens, and we don’t even so much as blink. We didn’t want to seem out-of-touch or over zealous, so we kept our mouths shut, and still do.
We’ve bemoaned secularism and the schools that catechize by its doctrines, only to turn our kids over to those same institutions that support immoral taxation, societal laziness and sexual promiscuity. We kept quiet.
We must speak, but I think before we do, we need to fast and pray in a spirit of repentance, brokenness and humiliation over what we’ve allowed to happen on our watch. Only when we become children—ready to treat our Father’s will as our daily food, ready to carry our crosses into martyrdom and humiliation and societal uncoolness and scorn, ready to stand for truth come what may—will God display his strength through us: “Out of the mouth of babes and infants you have established strength because of your foes” (Ps 8:2).
And at a personal level, you know what, I’ve passed the buck. ‘What can I do, really? I’m nobody. I can’t stop abortion, so why agonize over it? I can’t rewrite our tax code or end the pro-homosexual agenda in our country.’ So in turn I’ve done nothing.
This is a season of fasting and prayer, for
[fasting] was associated with mourning in that day. It was an expression of brokenheartedness and desperation, usually over sin or over some danger or some deeply longed-for blessing. It was something you did when things were not going the way you wanted them to… fasting is for times of yearning and aching and longing (A Hunger for God, 35-36).
The first and most important kingdom work I can ever do is to repent. God change my heart. I’ve gone about my life like those 3,000 lives a day don’t matter. I’ve paid for their deaths and not so much as prayed for them. I’ve loved being favored in the eyes of my peers rather than speaking up against promiscuity, cohabitation, and blatant immorality when it is celebrated by those around me. I’ve loved stuff and prestige and honor among men more than your righteousness.
In times like these we often say, exasperated, ‘Well, all we can really do now is pray,’ which is the Christianese way of saying that we’ve given up trying. But I think it’s now, when we feel most helpless, most empty, most unable to change anything about this situation, that we actually start where we should: praying. Praying that Jesus would bring his kingdom to fruition in and through us. Praying for the right words, spoken in wise timing and in truth.
After Kristallnacht, the night in Germany when the Nazis ruthlessly slaughtered the Jews in the streets, Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave himself even more vehemently to prayer. His is a lesson we must all as Christians learn—the restless labor of prayer. Of him it was written,
[He was] driven by a great inner restlessness, a holy anger… During those ugly days we learned to understand—not just human revenge, but the prayer of the so-called psalms of vengeance which give over to God alone the case of the innocent, ‘for his name’s sake.’ It was not apathy and passiveness which Dietrich Bonhoeffer derived from them, but for him prayer was the display of the strongest possible activity (Bonhoeffer, 317).