Monthly Archives: March 2016

A Christian Response to Terror

For many years as a small boy I got my hair cut on an Army base. We lived nearby and when my dad would go to get his haircut he took my brother and I. I remember as a young 7 year old getting to experience the uniquely male environment of an Army barber shop. Manly decorations and reading materials abounded. So there I sat as a 7 year old boy flipping through copies of Soldier of Fortune. I do not advocate that as 7 year old reading material and no doubt if my mother is reading this she is a bit perturbed. I remember seeing the stories of wars and death and the ads for t-shirts with manly slogans. The phrase I remember best is “Kill ‘em All, Let God Sort ‘em Out”. This was available as a bumper sticker or T-shirt.

As I watch the news coverage of the latest wave of terror attacks, this time in Brussels, I am reminded of that phrase. Intertwined with this news coverage are many politicians and pundits telling us how we should respond and often those speaking claim a Christian authority to their chosen plan.  We hear from some that we must love our enemies and from others that we must torture them. The Bible is twisted into poses of logical yoga to justify each position. But what should the Christian response be to terrorism? Allow me to offer three responses.

First, pray. Pray for the victims and their families. Pray for those who must respond to such violence and tragedy. Pray for our leaders to seek the One who can truly guide how to respond. Pray for our enemies. Follow Christ’s words in Matthew 5:44 “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” . That does not mean to pray for their comfort but to pray for them to be stopped, to pray for them to see the light that ends such terror.

Second, remember. Remember that we live in a fallen world, a world where sin has corrupted everyone and everything. We are shocked by such violence and rightly so. But as we are shocked we must remember that violence on a national or international scale is a magnification of the violence and brokenness we experience in our daily lives. As you remember that the world is fallen, remember that Christ has promised a new and whole world beyond this fragile and broken one. Through Christ we have the promise that as the old hymn says “this world is not our home”.

Finally, respond. We as people and as a nation must respond. Pray for those affected and weep for those who are gone but remember that as Ecclesiastes tells us, there is a time for every season under Heaven. When the time for weeping has past we must respond. Christians should be on the front lines of offering humanitarian aid to victims of terror. We should be living examples of the Gospel we preach. But beyond, the natural response of aiding the victims we must choose to respond to terror as a nation and we must be willing to fight evil. In the book, Perelandra, C.S. Lewis tells the tale of a college professor who is transported to another planet to battle an evil lurking there. Professor Ransom begins as any academic would, by arguing and attempting to use logic against his enemy. But there comes a point where Ransom sees how pervasive and destructive the evil is and realizes that logic will not work. Ransom reluctantly takes up arms to fight. I do not believe that Christians are ever right to proclaim the idea of “Kill ‘em All, Let God Sort ‘em Out” but I do believe that there comes a time when we,  like Lewis’ hero, must lay aside academic debates and be willing to fight against those evils that are so destructive and pervasive that they are indiscriminately destroying lives around the world.

We are travelers journeying through a broken landscape and we often differ in our views on politics but as we journey we are never permitted to look on suffering and terror and walk away. If we do we are no better than the Pharisee who was too busy heading to church to stop for a beaten and bloody man on the road to Jericho.  Pray. Remember. Respond.

-Pastor Tom Covington

Why Do You Come to Church?

C. S. Lewis once wrote, “We must picture hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement and where everyone has a grievance.”
That is a frightening line since for many pastors the idea of everyone having a grievance is the reality of Sunday morning. Long before the pastor enters the pulpit he has had to wade through a sea of grievances. Temperature of the building, cleanliness of the parking lot, the presence or absence of some feature or item, or any other of a thousand items can be brought to his attention before he stands in the pulpit to deliver God’s Word. After that if the pastor engages people after the sermon he may hear more honesty than he would like. 
Certainly for many pastors in our day this is not a reality. In many contemporary and certainly larger churches this is a non-issue because the pastor waits in a green room to enter the stage at his appointed time and when done is quickly whisked away. None of the pesky annoyances of dealing with people. (This is not the point of this article but I will insert here that upon finishing the greatest sermon ever preached, Christ walked among the people and laid His hands on a leper.) But for most pastors, the green room is not reality. For most pastors they face the sea of grievances each Sunday morning. Certainly not everyone has a grievance and there are many wonderful people that greet and love the pastor. Unfortunately as in any area of work or service though, the grievances are the loudest.
This fact leads to the question of “Why do you come to church?” Is it primarily to worship God and celebrate the goodness and grace of the Gospel OR is it to come as an auditor of every issue you can find? I remember very clearly the first time I learned that people sometimes come to church because they are unhappy. I remember speaking with a gentleman who shared his displeasure with the church and pastor and other people at the church. He said he kept attending to “see what happened.” I imagined this as the same attitude of sucking air over a toothache – you know it will hurt but do it anyway. To this day I wondered why this man did not find somewhere he could worship with joy. It made me sad and a bit confused.
Let me offer some ideas for this situation. First, if you are absolutely miserable at a church and you are the minority of the church. Leave. Yes, I said that. Leave. Find a church where you can worship with joy. It is likely that your misery at your current church is hurting you more than anyone else. Second, each week prepare your heart for Sunday by being in prayer and in God’s Word so that when Sunday comes you are focused on worship not grievance. Third, some grievances are based on a legitimate issue that does need to be addressed. In these situations ask 2 questions. Number 1, what is the best way to express this issue and who should I express it to? Number 2, what is the best time to express this issue? Often the pastor is not the best person to come to with an issue. It may be better to take an issue to a deacon or trustee or person in your church who handles technical or building issues. If the issue does need to go to the pastor then determine the best time and way to address it. Let me speak for pastors everywhere when I say that Sunday morning is not the best time. Generally pastors are focused on greeting and meeting people and preparing to deliver the sermon. It is often difficult for a pastor to hear a complaint on Sunday. Also determine the best way to address your issue. Maybe a nice e-mail on Tuesday or an invitation to lunch or a scheduled appointment where you express the concern AND why you feel it is important. Very often the way something is delivered goes a long way to the way it is received.
Above all place Christ first and complaints last.
-Pastor Tom