I have no intention of getting political here, but let me point out that there are a lot of, well, stupid rhetoric and actions flying around the country right now, and no political party is immune from this. Let me ask some questions:
- In what world does it make sense to protest hatred with more hate?
- Why is it OK to combat racism with more racism?
- Who in the world thinks that trying to end violence with violence of your own makes any sense?
My point in asking these questions is not to stir up political debate, but rather to say that the things going on in America right now make me think of 1 Peter 6:8: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” One of Satan’s most insidious and dangerous skills is his ability to get people–even (or especially) followers of Christ–to take him lightly or (worse) to disregard him altogether. I think this is why Peter starts his grave warning by telling us to be alert and think clearly. If anyone doesn’t see Satan prowling around in the insanity that is sweeping across our country, WAKE UP! He wants us to ignore him, which must make it the wrong thing to do!
So what are we supposed to do?
Although the Bible doesn’t necessarily instruct us all in what to do specifically every day, Peter gives us some ideas in the subsequent verses, and I’ll also add some thoughts from Paul and Jesus.
Turning first to Peter, in verse 9, he tells us to “Resist him, standing firm in the faith…” I think we mostly know what that means so I won’t go into that much, except to say that if you’re not sure, a couple winning strategies are prayer and immersing yourself in God’s love letter to us, the Bible. In His Word, he gives us many ways to stand firm in our faith, and numerous reasons why we should. In verse 10, Peter give us mostly good news, with a little bit of character-building bad news mixed in: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
Next. what does Paul have to say? Well, a lot, of course, since he wrote most of the New Testament. One bit of background about Paul that’s interesting here is that before he became the guy we know as Paul, he was called Saul and he was part of the roaring lion, looking for people to devour. If he were around today, maybe he would have been one of the people behaving in ways that are causing the more sensible people to be scratching their heads. But after he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he totally changed directions and wrote many encouraging exhortations. One such passage is Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Granted that some really dumb things have been done in the name of God throughout history, but it seems to me that if we really honestly ask ourselves whether that thing we are about to do is something that God would want us to do in His name, it will likely help keep everything we do consistent with Biblical principles.
Finally, I’ll close with some words of wisdom from Jesus, God in the flesh Himself, from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, verses 43 through 47. He tells us how to avoid getting sucked into the ever-widening vortex of hate: love our enemies. While His words are simple, that doesn’t mean they’re easy to put into action…
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even the pagans do that?”