It’s been a week since the terrorist group Hamas launched coordinated rocket attacks into Israel, with ground incursion and, ultimately, the murder of civilians. Almost immediately, the state of Israel declared war on Hamas, and to the moment, events on the ground have been, and are, escalating daily at lightning speed.
In addition to prayer, very few can physically do anything in this unfolding terror of events. But we have some choices in how we respond in our small part of the world in the here and now. Some options are unhealthy, while others are exactly what we need. There are many directions and details, but here are five basic emotions we can sit in or paths we can choose.
- Some will choose to live in Anger.
The Bible is clear that anger may not be a sin by itself. Ephesians 4:26a tells us that in our anger, we must not sin. Jesus, the perfect son of God, exhibited righteous anger when he overturned the tables of the crooks in the temple and violently drove out the swindlers who were taking advantage of the poor and profiting off their control of God’s temple.
Honestly, this has been an enormous temptation for me this past week. Anger at Hamas, as it has a history, as long as I can remember, even going back to childhood, of attacking civilians and using its civilians as cover and pawns of death to woo world sympathies. Am I saying that the political state of Israel is innocent in its history with Gaza? No! But this recent heightened savagery against civilians by Hamas warrants serious action. I have been angry at our current US Presidential administration and one in the past for giving billions of dollars to Iran. The Middle Eastern state of Iran has unabashedly declared its priority of eliminating Israel and America. The anger is ultimately at the Evil one who has come to steal, kill, and destroy. Some of the anger is righteous and justified. But will we stay there? Will we live in perpetual anger?
- Some will choose to surrender to Fear.
While this has not dominated my thinking, I know it has for others. In our present world, the potential of radical Islamist terrorists coming into US cities has been elevated due to our present administration’s disregard for border security. Yet, fear has always been a factor since the entrance of sin into our lives. The emotional problem here is not a mere caution but a prevailing fear that keeps us from making decisions or moving forward.
So, we need to know that there is somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 Biblical references where God tells His children not to give in to fear. In thinking of the Biblical history of Israel, the prophet Isaiah echoed the words of God to His people when facing deportation to Babylon: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Indeed, there will be various pain, trauma, and fear levels on this side of eternity, which will cause emotions of fear. The choice is whether we will allow that fear to rule us. So, will you live in perpetual anger, and prevailing fear, or are there other options?
- Some will choose to rise with Faith.
In the intersection of the fear that can destroy us, we can choose to move in the other direction and set our hearts into the hands of God who thunders from his throne, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Earlier, King David begged the question of those opposed to God, “Why do the nations rage?” knowing that ultimately, God will bring justice to those set against Him and vindication to his people. The truth is that God somehow does sit above history. Somehow, there is this mysterious balance between humanity’s free will and God’s sovereignty. Sometimes, we need to encourage each other to remember that God has promised to bring vindication, judgment, and hope for His people. I can choose to be still, pray, trust God, and take him at his word.
Will we begin to move toward God in faith above fear?
- Some will choose to do Good.
During some incredibly evil days of the Roman Empire, that is exactly what the apostle Paul urged in the early church. Specifically, Paul noted in Romans 12:21 that we are “not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.” It’s one thing to talk about doing something or what others should do on the other side of the globe. It’s another to stand for Christ and serve the person standing right next to me now. Maybe that’s where the true rub lies. Evil is real, and there is no debate on the matter. But sometimes, talking about the sins of others on the other side of the globe can be used as an excuse for getting out of what God has called me to do right now with the situation right in front of me.
People are watching not only how Hamas and Israel will respond to each other but also how those who claim the name of Christ walk on this day and all days. They are paying attention, and as Jesus noted, his followers are the salt of the earth and light of the world. So, what will we choose to do today? We may only be able to do something considered negligible on the immense scale of world events that none of the news outlets will show up and interview. But those little things compound for significant changes in the long run just as much as millions of minuscule snowflakes combined will cause an avalanche.
God cares about our little and daily decisions and actions. James notes that “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
- Some will choose to follow Jesus.
At the end of the day, Jesus Christ is the ultimate answer, and our response to Him is the most significant choice of all. Through Jesus Christ, forgiveness and healing are found and found in him alone. From there, it is about the hope of eternal salvation, and living a new life in the here and now. What would Jesus say to everyone who would listen about our choices? In general, probably something along the lines of: “Do to others what you would have them do to you.”
Are there real and logistical decisions that the US Government and other world states must make regarding the present crisis? Of course. But you and I are not in an actual position to direct those affairs. We can, however, choose to surrender to the grace and Lordship of Jesus, trust Him, and then move out by following his example of doing good to others. That is a choice for change and imagine what the world would look like if we all took Christ’s words to heart.
Then maybe our choice will prompt their choice, and hope will flow like a roaring river after a spring thaw.
What good will you do today?