A call to Christ in the midst of national turmoil
By Rob Waldo, Samaritan Ministries Vice President of Member Services · Jan 25, 2021
As we consider the events of the past month and year, it can be difficult to find words to process and express the far-reaching emotions and thoughts we all have. We do not recall a time in recent history where anger and anxieties have been so inflamed, not only within society but within the Church. Partisan passions are high, racial wounds are raw, and trust is low. It seems as if each month brings us a new challenge. Calming voices of reason and reconciliation are drowned out amidst the shouting.
Scripture reminds us that there is divine purpose in difficult times. You are not living in this hour of history by accident (Acts 17:26-28)! We are called to faithfully live for Jesus Christ during “such a time as this,” not shrinking back in fear but holding steadfast in faith, hope, and love (Esther 4:14; Hebrews 10:38-39; 1 Corinthians 13:13).
So how do we remain in love in such trying times? We begin by reminding ourselves of our Savior and His Gospel. Rightly placed faith sets us on the path to love (2 Peter 1:3-11).
A call to Christ and the Gospel
More than ever, the Church needs to offer the redeeming, healing, reconciling power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a nation facing ever-increasing turmoil. However, we can only offer to others what we ourselves have received. Hope for the world begins with the Church looking first and continually to Christ and the Gospel before political and social solutions.
We also must recognize where we have misplaced our hope, whether in individuals, political solutions, or idealized expectations of human justice. One sign that we’ve placed undue hope in something is whether it feels as though our world is coming apart when events unfold in ways that counter our expectations, leading to unusually strong discouragement, loss, or disillusionment. Those emotions are often directed somewhere — toward political leaders and parties, religious leaders and organizations, our friends, our co-workers, our spouse, even ourselves.
Grief is often behind such discouragement. We’re processing the loss of something we’ve held closely. But can there sometimes be more involved? The human heart is prone to idolatry, and sometimes our deep-seated loss and grief can be an expression of an idol letting us down, whether that idol is an individual, group, or ourselves.
It is here that the Gospel speaks so clearly, reminding us that everyone and everything apart from Jesus Christ will ultimately fail to meet deep-seated, God-designed human longings. Nothing and no one other than Jesus Christ can carry the burden of being Savior. All else will ultimately crumble under that pressure.
The Gospel calls us to transfer our hope from the temporary to the eternal, from created beings and human institutions to the uncreated God and His divine kingdom. First Peter 1:13 commands us to “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
In these hyper-political days, it is increasingly important that the Church recognizes that its hope is not in a political party or even in this wonderful nation of America, where we have experienced profound blessings. Our greater citizenship is in the “holy nation” of the Church (1 Peter 2:9), and our allegiance is first and foremost to our sovereign King, Jesus Christ.
Our faith is in Him.
A call to seek societal transformation
Biblical hope increases our commitment to seek societal transformation.
As a prophetic witness to the future of Israel, God told Jeremiah to buy a field in Israel despite the impending Babylonian invasion (Jeremiah 32:6-15). Though the fullness of God’s promises would tarry, Jeremiah’s purchase was a witness that there was a future for Israel.
Similarly, we “buy a field” when we labor for societal change. In our case it’s not humans who invade the “field,” it is sin. Sin will try to destroy everything good, leaving suffering and loss in its wake. In our efforts to redeem and restore, the Church becomes a prophetic witness of God’s promise of a new heaven and new earth—a promise of a day with no more tears and suffering in this land. Sin will be fully and completely removed. Christ will rule.
We join Christ, who “bought the field” of this world through His death on the cross. As the darkness of society vividly reminds us every day, Jesus has yet to receive the fullness of His purchase. “Every rule and every authority and power” is not yet subjected to Christ (1 Corinthians 15:24-25; Hebrews 10:12-13).
But it will be. And, by demonstrating Christ’s character and willingness to speak truth in sacrificial love, we join His work.
Indeed, we have a divinely given responsibility to advance God’s purposes in every sphere of society. We are called to “do justice” while we “walk humbly” with our God (Micah 6:8), discipling nations in the ways of Jesus’ Kingdom (Matthew 28:16-20).
Therefore, we can be grateful for every effort made toward racial reconciliation, God-honoring education, media, and legislation, and effective, accountable government that represents all Americans. Such efforts are a vital part of the “good works” Christians are called to do (Ephesians 2:10).
Jesus Christ cares about these topics and is working toward establishing His government on this earth with justice and righteousness (Isaiah 9:7), and we earnestly pray that more individuals would join His work.
Yet, our expectations need to be moderated.
A call for Kingdom expectations
It was at the cross where sin, death, and evil gave their very worst blow and Christ emerged triumphant (Colossians 2:13-15). Sin, death, and the devil were defeated! However, in the years after that triumph, if you looked at the political and religious power centers throughout the Roman empire and Israel, you would notice … surprisingly little had changed.
While individual lives were being transformed daily, societal and systemic change would take decades and generations. In fact, as the Church’s witness for Christ became more vibrant, the cultural challenges got worse with relentless political and religious persecution, leading to countless martyrs. Jesus taught that God’s Kingdom is likewise unrelenting—and ultimately victorious—but its growth is gradual. It’s like leaven working its way into bread or a mustard seed steadily growing.
There will be moments in which the Church seems unstoppable (Luke 10:17-20) and moments of crushing, apparent defeat. Once we understand God’s eternal perspective, we realize that even the defeats are disguised victories. History’s most heart-wrenching defeat was when Jesus was crucified, yet at that moment He was disarming the rulers and authorities and putting them to open shame (Colossians 2:15)!
While some people may interpret recent U.S. political events as indications of a victory or defeat of the Church or God’s will, we must not. While the Church’s earthly welfare is closely tied to political powers, that has never been the hope the Church has to offer to the world. We have something far better and more enduring (Hebrews 11:16).
We measure “victory” not by circumstances but by faithfulness. God will bring the results He wants in His timing and His way.
A call for Kingdom methods
God’s Kingdom is resisted. Real people cause real suffering for other human beings, with the best example once again being the cross. Even so, Scripture is clear that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood” but “against the spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12).
So how do we respond to humans who cause us pain?
First, we take comfort that God sees us, God is with us, and God will reward our faithfulness when we suffer unjustly (Matthew 5:11-12; 1 Peter 4:14). We are never alone, and God always has the last word.
We also recognize our common sinfulness and our common need for grace. The Gospel humbles every one of us, telling each of us directly: “you … were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” (Colossians 1:21, italics mine). We can only say what the Apostle Paul said: “... by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10). We have no cause to think we’re better than others.
We treat others with respect, regardless of whether they deserve it. Anyone claiming to be “the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone … patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Timothy 2:24-25). Some may say that certain people don’t deserve such gentleness. The Gospel reminds us: Of course they don’t deserve it. None of us do.
Indeed, we are usually misled when we take up the sword—whether that of our tongue in maligning others or that of steel in our hands—against our fellow human being, thinking we can accomplish God’s work. “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).
This in no way means Christians become doormats. It does mean that someone needs to be the mature adult in the conversation. That someone is you. We’re neither passive nor aggressive but rather assertive and courageous, speaking the truth in love.
A call to wisdom from above
Finally, how do we sort through the noise? What is God’s will? What’s the “right side” of history? James 3:13-18 can shed some insight:
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
The Bible is clear: When we see disorder and vile practices, then we can be confident that sin is at work, regardless of anyone’s claims to know or represent God’s will. When we see traits like purity, gentleness, reasonableness, and mercy, then we can be confident that God is at work, even through imperfect human beings.
Ultimately, those indicators of “wisdom from above” will lead to “a harvest of righteousness,” which is a deeper faith and trust in Jesus Christ. If we’re following wisdom from above, our lives will more clearly reflect Jesus and His Word, and we’ll be able to make a more eternal impact in society.
Mordecai told Esther, “who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). Mordecai believed in divine providence through national and ethnic turmoil. So do we.
May God give us grace to faithfully live for Him in this hour of history, laboring for societal change for the Kingdom of God and offering the hope and healing of Jesus Christ and His Gospel.