Righteous Daniel, minister of kings and faithful servant of the Almighty God, perceiving that the seventy years of his people’s captivity was coming to an end, and knowing that this captivity had been the judgment of God, turned his face to God in prayer and fasting, pleading for mercy and acknowledging, “O Lord, the great and awesome God,… we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules.” (cf. Daniel 9:1-5ff)
Where is the righteous man who prays thus today, acknowledging our sin, and pleading for mercy?
Are we not rather the unrighteous Pharisee, who stands before God, declaring, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men (Luke 18:11).”
The blood of our fellow man is shed in violence and hatred, and we respond with accusations, seeking to blame others. But where do wars and fights and anger come from? Do they not come from our own passions within our body politic? Can we divide and spread disunity and not be held accountable when there is division?
“I hate divorce,” says God, “for it covers your garments with violence (Malachi 2:16).”
Do we think that we can tear ourselves apart, tear our families apart, tear our communities apart, tear our country apart, tear our world apart… with hatred and division and animosity,… and not reap a harvest of violence? A man reaps what he sows, and so does a nation. If we sow to the wind, will we not reap of the storm?
There are behaviors which God identifies as wrong and wicked, things which bring judgment upon the doer. Among these are the haughty eye, the lying tongue, and hands which shed innocent blood. But in addition, He is quite clear that those who sow discord among brethren are abhorrent in His sight (Proverbs 6:16-19). If we sow discord, are we not thus as murderers? If we preach animosity among brethren, have we not become as liars in His sight? The Scriptures say as much.
The disciple of Marx, who longs for revolution, and advises others to “eat the rich,” does he not share in the guilt when one man slays another for his cause? The leader who decries the stranger as an “invader,” and jokes about shooting the same, does he not share in the blood that is shed? Can we doubt an environment of hostility, suspicion and fear will not ultimately produce ever greater acts of violence? If we turn on one another in word and thought will we not finally turn upon one another with tooth and claw?
But we are afraid, and we act upon that fear.
Dare we let fear dictate our behavior? Where is our faith? We say we must defend ourselves, taking up arms because of the dangers of those around us. Do we not do better to trust in the Living God, who is a shield and defender to those who love Him? Those who put their trust in God will never be put to shame. Even in death they shall be more than conquerors (cf Psalm 25:3; Romans 10:11, 8:36-37). Perhaps we are fearful because we have abandoned our faith in God, and if so, we are right to be fearful. If God is for us, who can be against us; but when God is against us, no weapon fashioned by man can save us.
There is no fear in love, for perfect love cast out fear (1 John 4:18a). The wisdom that is from above is pure and full of peace, gentle and reasonable. It is not fearful. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (James 3:17-18). If it is a message of fear and discord which is to be preached, that is not the message of Christ; that is demonic wisdom, born of the devil, who was a liar and a murderer from the beginning, turning brother against brother, so that Cain killed Abel.
The message of Christ is a message of reconciliation. In Christ there is neither Mexican nor American, there is neither rich nor poor, there is not male or female, but all are united together as brothers by their salvation through His blood. As many of us as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ (cf. Galatians 3:26-28). Jesus came and preached peace, even to those who were far off, breaking down the walls that separated, reconciling us each to God, whether we were far or near (cf. Ephesians 2:13-17). Jesus proved the truth that God is not a respecter of nationalities nor wealth, nor ethnicities; rather God, in every nation accepts the man who fears Him and works righteousness (cf. Acts 10:34-35). Dare we reject a man whom God accepts because of our own prejudices and hatreds? Dare we hate another, whom Christ has loved and died for? (cf. John 3:16)
Confronted with violence born of hatred, rather than continuing to look for others to blame, we do better to imitate Daniel in his humility, and confess before God, “We have sinned.”
If you would like to learn about the peace that Christ brings, the church of Christ invites you to worship and study with us, at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise if you have any questions or comments, we invite you to share them with us at chapelhillchurchofchrist.org.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.