Terrorists have struck again. Gunmen opened fire yesterday morning at the office of a Paris-based newspaper in what France’s president has called a “terrorist operation.” We are shocked, and yet there are elements of this attack that should not surprise us. (For more, see Nick Pitts’s article, Dark day in Paris: where is the light?.) Tragically, such attacks have become more commonplace than ever before, raising fear to unprecedented levels.
According to surveys, 71 percent of Americans suspect there could soon be a major terrorist attack in the U.S.; 57 percent of us worry about being killed in a mass shooting. Terrorism is not our only fear: 69 percent of us worry that cybercriminals will steal our credit card information. Sixty percent of Americans believe our country is in a “state of decline.”
But there is good news in the bad news. The annual Consumer Electronics Show opened Tuesday with the announcement that light bulbs, thermostats, coffee makers, refrigerators and door locks will soon be connected to the Internet and controllable by cell phones. You’ll be able to wear a ring that controls your television, lights, and phone. In other news, technology will soon connect us to our doctors so they can manage our health more effectively. Stem cells may cure type 1 diabetes and improve recovery for stroke victims. The quality of life continues to improve, even as life itself is threatened.
How can Christians make a difference in such a chaotic culture?
Francis of Assisi is often quoted as saying, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” However, no biography written within 200 years of his life contains the quote, making it less likely that he actually said it. And he preached the gospel verbally wherever he could, often five times a day, denouncing sin as he encouraged sinners. He lived his message, but he spoke it as well.
So we must speak the gospel in words. Our culture deserves to know the truth of God’s word for the issues we face. But the converse is also true: we must be the message we seek to share. Consider this statement: “Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:10). Ezra was a priest and scholar whose leadership brought spiritual renewal to his entire nation. How? Note the order: he studied God’s word, obeyed it, and then taught it. It is tempting to study and then to teach, but obedience must come before communication.
Why? First, Ezra knew the Scriptures more practically for having obeyed them, and could teach them in a more relevant way. Second, his life then became the lesson he taught. People don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care. We must be the change we wish to create. When people see that we love Jesus personally, they will be attracted to the One their souls were created to know.
Be encouraged: Scripture always accomplishes God’s purpose for it (Isaiah 55:11). God’s Spirit is advancing God’s Kingdom today, using the fears and tragedies of our time to draw people to the One who sustains us in every hardship. He will use every one who will be used.
As Oswald Chambers reminds us, a river touches shores its source never sees.