“How could this happen in Chattanooga?”, is the question echoing from many of the residents of our city. Chattanooga is mere weeks off from being voted “Best Outdoor City 2015” by Outside Magazine. The Matador Network, the world’s largest independent travel publisher, ranks it 12 in the top 20 towns to visit in the US. Chattanooga was found to be the most Bible-minded city by Time Magazine in January of last year. Our city is in the national news again today, though for much different reasons, a much more tragic reason.
Our community is mourning the loss of four marines who served our country by preserving the freedoms we have as Americans. They would lose their lives not in combat on foreign soil, but in their homeland serving stateside. My heart goes out to the grief-stricken families whose lives were turned upside down. What was supposed to be a routine day at the office turned into a nightmare. Many are asking questions like: “Why did this happen?”, “Where is God?”, and “How should we respond?” The natural tendency is to want to retaliate; it is the way we are wired. But is that the proper response for born-again believers?
Remember: tumultuous times are reminders that this earth is not our home—that the land in which we live is a fallen world riddled with sin and evil. The longer we settle into this foreign land, the easier it becomes to forget that our citizenship is from another world. We are citizens of heaven, but green card holders on earth. Joseph Stowall reminds us, “We think that we are in the land of the living going to the land of the dying, when in reality, we are in the land of the dying headed for the land of the living.”[i] This world is not our home.
While under house arrest in Rome, Paul encouraged the believers at Philippi with these words: “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:17-21). As we wait for Christ’s return, we must understand that our beliefs will garner alienation and estrangement.
Since we have been set apart by God in order to live differently, our actions should mimic those of Jesus Christ. He outlined a pattern for living in the Sermon on the Mount that is contrary to the world’s system. With political zealots in His audience at the time of delivery, Jesus offered a counter-cultural proposition for those who persecute us: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:43-45).
We absolutely need grace in order to extend Christ-like love to those who attack us. Just keep in mind that when we extend this agape affection to our enemies, we reveal our adoption as sons and daughters of God in heaven, as Jesus previously stated.
Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez committed an unthinkable crime. He was a picture of the man next door, the coworker in the cubicle next to you, or the classmate across the aisle from you. He is the person you never imagined would execute such an offense. Like every person born in this world, he was a sinner in need of a Savior. His restless heart would never find rest unless he had found rest in Christ. Only Jesus could offer him peace that is unexplainable. Only Jesus could offer him comfort for his troubled temperament. Only Jesus could dissipate the anger in his hardened heart.
On this side of eternity we will never be free from the effects of sin. However, God, in his kindness, provided a solution to our separation from Him through a relationship with his Son Jesus.
How should we respond?
- Pray for wisdom for Mayor Andy Burke, Governor Bill Haslam, and Senator Bob Corker as they lead.
- Pray for the citizens of Chattanooga who are still making sense of the events that have unfolded yesterday.
- Pray for the families of the four marines who lost their lives. Pray for healing, peace, and comfort in Christ.
- Pray for the family of Muhammad Youssef Abdulazee, who have lost a son and who will be facing terribly difficult times in the days, months, and years ahead.
- Pray for God to revive our nation.
We are confronted with the depravity in our country daily. We find ourselves in a predicament of epic proportions: We cannot purchase, plan, elect, talk, or act our way out of the mess we’re in. The only answer is to call upon the God of the universe in prayer for national revival. We desperately need a fresh touch from heaven. As Ronnie Floyd, President of the SBC, often says, “God can do more in a moment than we can do in a lifetime.” We need watchmen on the walls who will pray for God to blow upon the hearts of his people. We need believers who will believe God for revival in this country. We need Christians who will pray biblical prayers for restoration.
Disciple-maker and longtime Navigator participant Dwight Hill offered a prayer for the injustice in the world years ago that is helpful today: “Lord, I am enraged over the injustices of this past week. Coupled with the rage is a deep sense of grief. My natural instinct is to strike back. Calm my spirit, measure my steps, heal my wounded heart. Endow your peace and healing on the families of our fallen brothers and sisters. Grant our Government the wisdom to respond Biblically to this grave injustice and impending danger. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”[ii]
[i]Joseph M. Stowell, Eternity: Reclaiming a Passion for What Endures (Grand Rapids: Discovery House, 2006), 7.
[ii]Bernie Koerselman, Response to Terrorism—A Christian Perspective. [Internet] http://www.bereanpublishers.com/response-to-terrorism-a-christian-perspective. Accessed 16 July 2015.