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So what should we do? We have God who is orchestrating all events, circumstances, and even providence itself to accomplish His own purposes. We have limited knowledge and power to actually address and adequately deal with many of the problems that we see today…often leaving things much worse after we attempt to intervene. So what do we do, that is, if we should do anything at all? Well, I thought of a few ideas.

Chalk it to the wind

The first option is fatalism. In general, we know fatalism is the belief that the future is so fixed and inevitable that we should just accept what comes because we can’t change anything anyway…basically resignation. You simply throw your hands up in the air, say ‘whatever’, and go do whatever it is that you want to do with your life with no thought or regard to anyone else or even God. Personally, I find fatalism so shockingly depressing, but I know I am often tempted to this way of thinking whenever I am going through trials that don’t appear to have an end in sight. So, I completely understand how fatalism is “natural” to any person, whether they believe in God or not.

However, fatalism should never be the fruit (or any part really) of a Christian life. I know some people believe that by believing in the sovereignty of God, you are, in essence, fatalistic. But trusting in God’s sovereignty is much MUCH different than being fatalistic. This has been written on before, and I encourage you to do some research if the topic interests you. But, fatalism is completely devoid of faith in God, and it offers absolutely no assurance or hope of the future. As I’m trying to put this in better words for you, nothing comes across like this hymn to bring home the point:

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

When darkness veils his lovely face, I rest on his unchanging grace; in every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, his covenant, his blood support me in the whelming flood; when all around my soul gives way, he then is all my hope and stay.

When he shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in him be found; dressed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.

Refrain: On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.

Mind your own business

Another option is simply to mind your own business. Now, I’m laughing to myself as I write this because I’m sure it can be interpreted all sorts of ways, but I aim to explain myself here.

When I say “mind your own business” I mean that instead of making the issues and problems of other people your own personal issues and problems, you can believe that God has given you enough in your life personally to occupy your time and attention and handle your own business. This most certainly does NOT mean that you stop being a neighbor to those around you. On the contrary, if there are people in your life who have needs that you can assist them with, you go ahead and assist them.

However, minding your own business (in my opinion) does mean that you have a realistic scope of who you neighbor actually is. The “causes” that are so easy to get caught up in and even the protests that occasionally pop up around the nation should not be occasions for you to just jump in under the banner of “loving my neighbor”. The next name with a trending hashtag on social media is not really your neighbor, unless you personally know that person. Simply put, just because something has happened to someone in some place does not necessitate or warrant your personal involvement in the matter. If it did, then honestly we should all be carrying buckets of water to California, mops and building supplies to Louisiana, hosting fundraisers for everyone who can’t afford their EpiPens, personally housing war refugees while taking care of foster children, taking some vacation time to go and rebuild Italy after their earthquake, burying the hundreds of dead reindeer in Norway, personally consoling those affected by the latest ISIS attacks, and driving drunk people home each night from every single bar everywhere all while finding time to evangelize, pray, study our Bibles, work a job, and raise our own children. …mind you, I got all of that just taking a brief scroll through my Google News earlier this week.

Now that may seem a little extra, but it is truly impossible to respond like a neighbor to everyone everywhere. The word “neighbor” does have a real meaning, and I wholeheartedly encourage you to be neighborly to your neighbors….you know, the people you live next to, the people you meet and interact with in your daily routine, the real people God brings into your life….those neighbors of yours. And you do that while dealing with your own life, dealing with the varying trials and circumstances that the Lord permits to further sanctify you and make your faith more and more genuine and while loving your brothers and sisters in the faith. And furthermore, you handle your own business, love the Church, and love your real life neighbors all with a good conscience because you are being obedient to God’s Word. 1 Thessalonians 4 drives this home:

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another… But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.  vs. 9-12

More prayer

Clearly, this above everything else is the most important task we can give ourselves to. Prayer is paramount to the Christian life, and we are called to be devoted to it and continue in it throughout our days (Colossians 4:2 and 1 Thessalonians 5:17). I know that some people have often questioned the purpose of prayer when you know that God is in control. It’s kind of like “Why waste the time when He has His own plan that He’s doing? My prayer isn’t going to change anything.” And that is a very unfortunate, but also commonplace, sentiment that Christians are prone to feel at times in their lives.

As much as I would like to offer you the most prolific and profound rebuttal on that matter, I think that Tim Keller did an excellent job addressing this point in his book entitled Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. I read this book earlier this year, and it truly opened my eyes more on the discipline of prayer and helped me to see the true delight that regular prayer can bring to my soul.

This quote is taken from Chapter 14 “Struggle: Asking His Help”:

Obviously, in the ultimate sense, God is in charge of everything that occurs – our prayers could not possibly wrest control of any part of the universe away from God. However, it is part of God’s goodness and appointment that he allows the world to be susceptible to our prayers. How he does this – how he maintains control of history and yet still makes human prayer and action responsible within history – is one of the most practical mysteries of the Bible. In Nehemiah 4, the Jews were rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem when they learned that they were going to be attacked by their enemies. What did they do? “We prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet the threat” (Neh 4:9). In Isaiah 38, King Hezekiah was dying and the prophet Isaiah told him so. Then Hezekiah prayed and the Lord replied, “I have heard your prayer…I will add fifteen years to your life” (Is 38:5). And yet, when Isaiah brings this message to the king, he also tells him to prepare a hot dressing and apply it to the infection in order to recover (Is 38:21).

Why call this a “practical” mystery? The teaching is that our prayers matter-“we have not because we ask not”- and yet God’s wise plan is sovereign and infallible. These two facts are true at once, and how that is possible is a mystery to us. We feel that if God is completely in control then our actions don’t matter – or vice versa. But think how practical this is. If we believed that God was in charge and our actions meant nothing, it would lead to discouraged passivity. If on the other hand we really believed that our actions changed God’s plan – it would lead to paralyzing fear. If both are true, however, we have the greatest incentive for diligent effort, and yet we can always sense God’s everlasting arms under us. In the end, we can’t frustrate God’s good plans for us (cf. Jer 29:11).

Reflecting on these words, I hope that regardless of any situation that arises, whether that be civil unrest or the personal distress of trying to make ends meet on a day to day, that you will turn immediately to the Lord in sincere prayer, pouring out your all to Him, knowing that He truly cares for you. I also recommend you get that book too!

Keep on thinking and conversing…

The last thing that you can do is just to keep on mulling over these kinds of topics. Engage yourself in conversation with people from different backgrounds. Read a whole lot more….seriously, you will probably need to read more than anything. But overall, just continue to think critically when various issues arise.

Now, if you want a jumpstart on the process, you will find a bullet list below of conversation topics that my husband and I have had over the past few months. He has a much deeper theological background than I have, but he is also a scientist and has a latent passion for libertarians. In addition, because I’ve been working on this blog for about 3 weeks now, I’ve come across links to videos, blogs, and more that have also spurred my thoughts further. So I’m including those below too.

Our conversation topics:

  • As Christians, are we actually pilgrims and sojourners headed to a heavenly destination or are we trying to build a heavenly city here with our own hands?
    • We thought about this question reflecting on our reading of Pilgrim’s Progress earlier this year. It’s always been such a powerful book, and it made us think about whether or not we (as Christians) are actually traveling to a heavenly destination, or are we getting sidetracked along the way by other things (including matters of “social justice”) that are taking us off of that narrow path and out of that narrow way.
      • Put another way: Where would you picture these social justice issues arising in Christian’s journey in Pilgrim’s Progress? And considering the tenor of the book, what would his response likely be?
      • Augustine wrote “The City of God”, and in it he spoke of men being citizens of two different cities (the city of man and the city of God). My husband and his friend have blogged on this topic starting here and continuing here.
  • People often say that the Church should be at the forefront of dealing with the social justice issues of our day (including poverty, low quality education, police brutality, etc.). What weapons or tools has God actually given the Church to use at its disposal to do the things that people say the Church should do and/or is responsible for?
    • Our pastor constantly emphasizes that the weapons God has given the Church are the ordinary means of grace (prayer, the preaching of the Word, the Lord’s Supper, and baptism) and also Church discipline. Consequently, the Church has authority over its own people within the context (or sphere) of the Church. Does the Church, or SHOULD the Church have responsibility and authority in other spheres (i.e. the home, the State, etc.)?
    • My husband wrote a blog about this topic of “sphere sovereignty”. You should check out his post here.
  • When we talk about loving our neighbors as ourselves, is it proper for Christians to prioritize or place a higher value on the needs of certain populations that live nowhere near us  rather than on the needs of our true neighbors that we meet and see each day, even if those true neighbors look like us?
    • This topic came up because, to our sorrow, we’ve read a lot of commentary from Black Christians on the need for White Christians to be more diligent in loving their “Black” neighbors…even if that meant driving to a completely different town because you didn’t live anywhere near Black people. Our thoughts were, why would you ignore the actual needs of the people living near you, just to try to take care of the needs of people you don’t even know who happen to be Black? Is that right? And if so, why isn’t that exhortation given to Black Christians to do the same for White Christians who may live across town?
  • When the Scriptures speak on submitting to those in authority (government and officials sent by the government), it was written with some sort of monarchy in mind, whether that was an empire or a theocracy. There was no presence of any sort of a representative democracy in Scripture. Knowing that, as Christians, have we given sufficient thought as to whether or not our current form of government tends to lead us to naturally undermine our divine command and call to submit to these earthly authorities? And what would submitting to these earthly authorities look like within a representative democracy?
    • With monarchies, the people were not held responsible for their leaders’ general wickedness or failure to adhere to the law of God because they had no part in electing these leaders. However, with a representative democracy we would definitely bear some sort of responsibility for the leaders that have been elected to office because we are directly involved in the election process. Are we taking our involvement in our political process as seriously as God will hold us accountable for?
    • A second question that is related is: If you are going to be held responsible for who you vote for, is political pragmatism wise or is it unbiblical?
    • And a third related question: In our political process, are you missing the forest for the trees by focusing on the presidential candidates whom you would have the least amount of influence over rather than focusing on your local elected officials that have a direct influence over your day-to-day life?
  • On a funnier side, my husband gave this prediction on July 23rd: “I bet in 50 days people are going to forget they’re oppressed.” I fell out laughing about that, but I wondered if the advent of football season really would quell all of the seemingly nonstop protests, social media rallies, and #BlackLivesMatter stuff. But strangely, both of our social media accounts have been strangely quiet since the NFL preseason started. That made me wonder: Do people become involved in these social justice movements when there’s nothing else better to do or occupy their time with? Is the mass involvement we see each summer just part of our culture’s summer trend? 
    • My husband has a different, albeit downright hilarious, theory on this. Referencing Spike Lee’s movie “Do the Right Thing”, he believes that just being too hot all summer long tends to stir up people’s natural irritations, including racial animus, and it brings back to the surface things that people have long suppressed, overlooked, and forgotten. You may have to watch the movie to get at his point, but it is a pretty interesting thought. Does the summer heat tend to bring out the worst in us?
  • I came across this blog that was a wonderful encouragement for me to respond in a faithful way to the circumstances and people He brings in my path.
  • We listened to this sermon by one of our favorite pastors (Voddie Baucham) on 2 Timothy 4:1-8. He gave this sermon last year soon after the Charleston church shooting, but I think it has direct relevance to the issues that we are still dealing with today. The sermon is a little over an hour, but completely worth listening to.
  • Finally, my husband was watching this ESPN documentary on why so many professional athletes end up broke so quickly. In general, it’s an eye-opening documentary on the amount of money that is earned in the industry, but I found the personal interviews with players to be even more intriguing. Here, these people have worked hard to earn these coveted positions, and they are quickly guilt-tripped, pressed, pestered, and expected to financially take care of their parents, siblings, extended family, friends, and anyone else who can claim to be an acquaintance. Considering how many people believe that you can just give money or better the conditions of poorer people and suddenly their lives can be dramatically better off, I think this film show a stark reality about that claim. And it also reminds us that a heart that goes unchanged by the power of God is just as wicked and sinful whether living in the lap of luxury or living in a crappy apartment in a ghetto.
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