Shock. Anger. Sadness. Compassion. Anxiety. Bitterness. Hatred.
These are some of the feelings I’m sure many of us have had watching the news over the past year, whether we’re hearing about terrorism in Paris or Palmyra, shootings in Sydney or St Louis, violence motivated by religion or racism, warmongering, the plight of refugees, or the inhumane treatment of the marginalised, disadvantaged, women and children all over the world.
Of course, the fashion for sensationalism in our media ensures that the news we watch or read is often an indistinguishable web of truth, cleverly spun half-truth and outright fabricated propaganda. We are left confused over what to believe, and perhaps more importantly for followers of Jesus, what to do and think about these things.
We shouldn’t be surprised that these kinds of things are happening, however. They are the unavoidable results of a creation at war with its Creator, and by extension, at war with itself. As we near the end of time, Jesus promised these things would happen (Matthew 24:6–8)
But there is a danger for us, as we see and hear of these things on our TV’s or on our Facebook feeds, that our hearts become hardened and our response sub-Christian. Consider what C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:
“Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, `Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally, we shall insist on seeing everything – God and our friends and ourselves included – as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.”
– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
What’s the alternative?
Well, simply to remember the gospel: that we all alike – ourselves as much as those who perpetrate these atrocities – are sinners, and we all need Jesus to redeem us from sin (Romans 3:22-23).
This isn’t to say we must simply ‘roll over and play dead’ in the face of injustice and wickedness in the world. Especially here in Australia, God has blessed us with a democratic system of government which provides a voice for any citizen to call out wickedness, injustice and threats to freedom, as long as it is done peaceably, respectfully, and is motivated by the gospel. After all, this is exactly what Paul did in Acts 16:35-40.
But that key clause, ‘motivated by the gospel’, is what we need to cultivate in the way we respond. This is simply part of the ongoing battle of being a Christian, where we learn to see the world and its people as God sees them, and not as flawed human beings do.
Only then will verses like Matthew 5:43–45 and Romans 12:14-21 make sense.
Bottom line, while we are still going to respond to injustice and wickedness in the world as normal human beings, it’s what we do with those feelings that counts. And the best thing to do with them is to learn to use them as a motivation to pray – pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44), pray to the God who has compassion on the widows and the fatherless (Psalm 68:5), pray to the holy God who will avenge (Romans 12:19), and pray to the God who will ultimate vanquish Satan and restore all things through Jesus (Revelation 21:1-8).