Thoughts following the murder of Father Jacques Hamel:
This post was sent out and posted as a Something to Think About article. I am posting it here because it is bit more serious, and hopefully far-reaching than some of what I put on STTA. I think it is something worthy of consideration particularly for those of you who share my background, or for others trying to figure us out. This wasn't the first time a Christian leader was martyred, and it won't be the last.
Standing with Those Who Stand for Christ
Ask not for whom the bell tolls:
The Institute on Religion & Democracy calls it Jihad on the church. Father Jacques Hamel, an 86 year old Roman Catholic Priest was leading worship when two Muslim extremists, burst into the church in Normandy France, shouting, "Allah Akbar," and slit the cleric's throat. ISIS issued a statement that two of its soldiers had carried out the attack. The murder took place in a country other than mine, in a church that is different than mine, and it was perpetrated against a pastor whose Theology and practice are not my own. What I, and others like me need to realize is what made Father Jacques Hamel a target of terrorism is something that is absolutely true about me. He died as a representative of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, died in our place, and arose victorious. In no sense was it one of them who died in this cowardly, ugly attack. Father Jacques was/is one of us.
So, how do I react? My branch of Christendom--Evangelicalism, Conservative Evangelicalism, The movement formerly known as Fundamental, Historical Fundamentalists, I don't know what to call my kind--suffers serious division on how to answer this question. At the risk of creating further divide, but in hopes of moving us toward sanity, I make the following suggestions:
My kind has a history of "coming out from among them." I was taught the virtues of separation. Not so much the value of unity. This is a time to link arms, to embrace. We may disagree on the definition of what it means to be a Christian, certainly we have a variety of answers to the question of how we do Christianity, but let us not forget. Father Jacques was not killed because of what he believed about the mass he was performing, or because of his allegiance to the Roman Catholic hierarchy. His throat was cut because he was a follower of Christ, and because he was leading others to follow Christ. He and I are the same. No "buts."
We have to walk spiritually, and chew gum politically at the same time. One of the terrorists who attacked the church in Normandy was a known terrorist. The church was known to be on a hit list. One of the tasks of governments, perhapsTHE task, is to keep order, to keep the citizens of a land, and others within its borders, from killing each other. I need to be disciplined enough to give the same answer when the attack is by "Christians" on a group of Muslim worshipers. My nation, the United States, has a history of protecting freedom of worship. That value seems consistent with the teaching of Scripture. The Bible presents a balance and a tension between a personal response that is characterized by charity and forgiveness, and a governmental policy of security and justice. Having police armed with Glocks is not contradictory with the response of the members of Emmanuel A.M.E. church in forgiving the murderer of their pastor and fellow-church members (here). Christians who emphasize the importance of forgiveness are right. Likewise those who stress law and order are on solid ground. Those who exclude one or the other are wrong.
We need to eliminate from our thinking any notion that this business of standing up and speaking for the Lord is safe. It isn't. That distortion has been perpetuated because we, my kind, have been living in an anomalous time and place. Christians always and everywhere have been called to a Romans 12:1dedication. It's just getting clearer, now. We do not stand for Christ because it is easy or safe. We do so based on this calculation:
We believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. (2 Corinthians 5:14–15, NLT)
The prayer requests that the Apostle Paul offered in the First Century make a great deal of sense in our world. ". . . pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified . . . and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith" (2 Thessalonians 3:1–2). ". . . pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak" (Ephesians 6:19–20). One missions leader, for a period of time, forbid the people in his office from praying for the safety of the personnel they represented. Prayers for safety were taking up all the air in the room. Prayers for boldness and effectiveness need to be offered, as well.
So, I close this STTA with prayer.
Lord, I pray for those who love Father Jacques; May they know your comfort and peace. Grant that they will respond with the grace that is becoming to those of us who bear your name. I ask that the authorities in France, the US, and around the world will act with justice and appropriate firmness. I pray that all--even those whose worship is a lie--will have freedom to worship in safety. As the Lord of the harvest, I ask that You will send forth laborers into the harvest, even the parts of the field that are not safe. I pray that those who represent you in dangerous places will be effective witnesses. As your servant, the Apostle Paul observed, that might be by life, or by death. I pray that Your will be done down here in this messy world, and, Lord, I yield myself, dedicate myself, to that task. I long for Your Kingdom to come. Amen.