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Letter About Jan. 6 Events


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The events of yesterday, January 6, have cast away any illusion that 2021 is going to be an easy year. Knowing the brokenness of our world, in John 16:33, our Lord said:

In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.

 

No matter who incites it or carries it out, or the motives behind it, violence (especially politically motivated violence), undermines the witness of the church and scandalizes the efforts and good for which we toil. The apostle Peter said

 

12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. 13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. – 1 Peter 2:12–16 (ESV)

 

Integrity demands that we rebuke the rioting of the last six months, including the events of yesterday. That rebuke must be clear and unequivocal.

Wisdom also requires that we acknowledge the inciting power of toxic words shouted in anger. Words matter. This is why the apostle James wrote,

 

5 How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.  – James 3:5–10 (ESV)

 

Using the name of God for ungodly purposes is both blasphemous and dangerous, and I beg people to have more care and more humility in using the name of Jesus for political endorsement. Those who invoke or display the name of Jesus to justify such acts cross the Third Commandment (You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain. Exodus 20:7).

The martyrs of the early church refused to worship the Roman emperor as a god and gave their lives in witness to the gospel. Our Scottish Presbyterian ancestors gave their lives to stand up for the truth that Jesus Christ, not the king of England or Scotland, is the head of the church. From Dietrich Bonhoeffer to underground believers in Beijing, Christians have stood and died upon the principle that no person, party, oath or government supersedes our devotion, loyalty and obedience to Christ.

Beloved, our identity is not defined by the record of our past, our accomplishments, our party affiliation or any other metric on earth. Our identity rests in Jesus Christ. He is the Prince of Peace and He is the one who will bring justice to the nations and hope to the discouraged.

 

We must all ask ourselves how that explicit command applies to each one of us—in the way we speak, in the way we act, and even the way we think. It should also make us examine ourselves and ask, “who are my enemies, and why do I consider them so?” The apostle Paul begged us to remember who our true enemy is:

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  – Ephesians 6:12

Jesus said,

 

43  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.  – Matthew 5:43–45 (ESV)

 

For my own part, in this time of division I have decided to listen better, say less and pray more. I and other downtown pastors have also committed to work for peace in the city by calling for Kingdom unity over partisan toxicity.

In a famous story, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin what kind of government the new constitutional convention had produced. Franklin answered “a republic madam, if you can keep it.”

Jesus Christ has given us a mission: to make disciples who love Jesus Christ (love the Lord our God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength); who love one another (you shall love one another as I have loved you); and, who love the city (you shall love your neighbor as you love yourself).

The people of God, the disciples of Jesus Christ, were made for a moment such as this. He has given us a mission, if we can keep it.

 

Grace and Peace,

Dr. Bob Fuller, Pastor