I’ve been doing a great deal of deep thinking about all that’s happening in the world right now. For a while, I avoided this intense reflection, because I was afraid of what I might discover — not really about myself, but about the world itself.
A few experiences and observations prompted me to sit down and in a place of peace and quiet, really contemplate what’s been happening. Of course, any time we engage in deep reflection, it means opening not just our minds, but also our hearts — its only then can we really glean what is truly happening. I mentioned that some observations and experiences prompted this and I want to share those with you.
– I started seeing a lot of posts on social media in which people shared prayers. Most of the prayers were for the pandemic to go away, for an end to violence, for peace in the nation, the world, etc. After reading one such post from a friend, I had a distinct epiphany. This friend, who is a nice person, was praying for God to heal the world, to stop the hate, the division and the violence. And while I thought to myself how wonderful and very much needed these prayers are, I also though “but she is part of the problem.” Admittedly, I felt guilty that I would feel that way about a friend. But after some reflection, I realized that even though this was an uncomfortable thought, it was true. This friend, who happens to be a devout Catholic, is also a staunch Republican — that just happens to be true and is in no way a reflection, per se, on the Republican party. So while the prayers she shares on Facebook are nice, does she actually live by those words? Many of her posts are quite divisive. A good deal of what she posts could be considered a bit harsh. So how does someone who prays for healing and an end to divisiveness and violence, justify behaving in a manner contrary to what she asks God to do for us?
How can we ask God to just make it all better without making the changes we seek within ourselves first? Do we think we can simply pray for peace and healing and that’s the end of it? Are we not supposed to be the very change we seek?
“If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” – 1 John 4:20
“You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” – Matthew 15:7-9
While I care deeply for this friend, I gave serious thought to reaching out to her to talk about this, but, ultimately, I have not done so yet. We are seeing this all across the world — people claiming they want peace, love and happiness, but not willing to help bring that about. They post one nice thing, like a prayer, but then revert right back to being part of the problem they wish to heal. We simply cannot continue on this way.
– Another observation that I know is shared by millions of people, is that we have become so incredibly angry and absolutely obsessed with fighting — we fight about politics, sports, race, religion, gender equality…the list seems endless. When did we become so horrifically petty and bitter? I think the worst of it is the war of wills over politics. Like the friend I mentioned above, it seems that people are combatively choosing sides as if it were a winner-take-all situation. People are quite literally losing their minds over politics and I fear, their very souls. Every post, tweet and conversation, no matter how unrelated to politics, is being made political. Its absolutely insane.
– Everyone is stressed with worry and for good reason. We not only have a pandemic, but we’re experiencing social unrest due to racial inequality, we’re having economic troubles on a global scale, people are refusing to wear masks and having public meltdowns, we have natural disasters, political turmoil…I don’t need to go on, because you all know. I pondered all of this and I felt overwhelmed. I thought “the world is just a complete chaotic mess!”
The Line in the Sand
Are we being tested? Is this all just part of life on this rock we call earth, or is that we are making our own problems? Will it all get better soon? Questions I, like everyone else, continue to ask. But something deep inside of me tells me that in a way, this is a test. That there has been a line drawn in the sand and our thoughts, words and deeds determine which side we’re on.
“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15
Here, Joshua is drawing a line in the sand and committing that he will serve God and affirming his faith and trust in God. All those around him praised God and said they too would serve the one and only true God. But Joshua knows that it can’t just be words — that they have to not just say it, but truly mean it. Joshua tells them that they must throw away their “foreign gods” (false idols). Did they? Or, did they simply say that they would, but then reverted back to their old ways?
“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.” – 1 Pete4 2:1
My friend is a good person, of that I’m sure. But, I worry that we are seeing people begging for help from God, but not willing to make any changes — not willing to give up their worldly obsessions and be the change they beseech the Lord to make. Is it right to pray for peace and harmony and then turn around and cause strife, especially over political ideology? Aren’t many among us making politicians into false gods?
I believe the line is there. I feel it very strongly that we are being tested. We can either be on the side of the line that is good and seeks to bring peace and harmony, or the side that is “of this world” — the side that perpetuates anger, hatred, greed and violence. Ultimately, the choice is ours, whether we realize that or not.
“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” John 15:19
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15
If we want peace, we have to help bring peace. If we want harmony, we have to create it. If we desire more love in this world, we actually have to be willing to give love. I don’t believe we can just wish for it either — I believe we must crave it in our prayers, words and actions.
“His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.” -Psalm 55:21
“Like the glaze covering an earthen vessel are fervent lips with an evil heart. Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbors deceit in his heart; when he speaks graciously, believe him not, for there are seven abominations in his heart; though his hatred be covered with deception, his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.” – Proverbs 26:23-26
In 2 Corinthians 13:5, the Bible tells us to “examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith.” It is telling us that forgiveness comes from repentance. It comes for acknowledging our wrongs and striving to change our ways — our thoughts, words and deeds. God sees what is in our heart and we can never hide our true selves from Him. I think we would all do well to remember that.
“And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” Luke 16:15
“And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” – 1 John 2:15-17
I appreciate my friend’s desire to use prayer to bring about positive change, but I believe deeply that we must embody the change we seek.