“Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusade, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours–and the more ‘religious’ (on those terms) the more securely ours. I could show you a pretty cageful down here.”– C.S. Lewis, writing as the demon Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters
Your prayers will do far more than your social media proclamations.
Much of our anxiety and fear is not helped by plunging ourselves into echo chambers that just amplify the outrage. Reading a thousand comments, memes, and articles (rightfully) decrying the ignominy and shamefulness of yesterday’s actions will not bring about the “peace of God which surpasses understanding,” which “guards your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7). Playing the “what about…” game or blame-shifting or slaying someone in a Facebook comment section won’t actually accomplish anything but grinding the gears of outrage even more. Imbibing a cocktail of conspiracy theories about “what really happened” will not actually affect any change other than souring our souls and clouding our minds, even if it comes with a false-sense of closure and security. None of that actually does anything that will produce a positive change in our society.
What then should a Christian do?
Here is an overview of what Philippians teaches us we are to do:
- Always have your heart and mind so centered on Christ and the undeserved grace we have received, that you never lack a reason to rejoice. (Phil 4:4).
- Because we know that Jesus is returning any minute now, we should remain calm, reasonable, gentle, and measured. Let’s not act like people who believe that our only shot at heaven is erecting it here on earth. Those are anxious people! This should be visibly evident to everyone around us. (Phil 4:5).
- When we feel the rush of anxiety/fear about anything whatsoever, we immediately translate it into prayer, rolling the burdens onto the Lord. Those prayers should be a mixture of asking God for things, and thanking God for what He has given us. (Phil. 4:6).
- When we do that, a heavenly peace that doesn’t make any worldly sense clothes us like a suit of armor that guards both our hearts and our minds because we will be reminded that we are in Christ. (Phil 4:7)
- Therefore, we should train our minds and hearts to only fixate on what we know for certain is…
- Worthy of Praise, (Phil 4:8).
Read through that list slowly and carefully. Do those eight things characterize what your heart and mind naturally gravitate towards? In a society where outrage is a commodity and fear is a fire to be stoked, we cannot assume that we will fall into this pattern of life without intentional resistance to the world’s patterns.
Part of being a Christian is a commitment to telling the truth, advocating for justice, and lamenting godlessness. Those commitments intersect with the events yesterday to produce a right desire to publicly condemn and lament what happened. And I do; it was alarming, embarrassing, and despicable.
And yet, I don’t think we have any shortage of Christians voicing their opinions on this, but I’d wager that there are far fewer Christians who are marked by the joy, reasonableness, peace, and prayer that Philippians describes.
That being said, I’d encourage every Christian reading this to go read Psalm 46 and to reflectively pray through it. Read a verse or two and then pause, reflect, and then pray those truths for your own soul, for your church, for our society. Remember, “you do not have because you do not ask,” James 4:2. If we truly desire to see peace and healing brought about in our society, then we can do nothing of greater consequence than to pray.
- Does my response to this crisis (and the avalanche of other crises) reflect a distinctly Christian response? Or do my words reflect a heart that is just as anxious, angry, fearful, and bitter as the world?
- Am I happy in God? Do I really believe I have reason to rejoice always?
- Is my “reasonableness” evident to all (Phil 4:5)?
- Is my flinch-response to anxiety prayer? Is that prayer marked by both petitions and thanksgiving?
- While it is wise to stay informed, do I overly-saturate my mind with news and stories that are intended to stir up as much fear and anxiety in me as possible? Or do I choose to find content that is characterized by Phil 4:8?
The Church is to be salt and light, a foretaste of the coming kingdom of God here on earth. Which means we are to be beacons in the dark, pointing to the real dilemma, speaking truth, advocating for justice, and demonstrating what the gospel looks like embodied in all those actions. We cannot do that if we simply mimic the world and its desires (or anxieties). And we will not break free from that if we are not a people who are shaped and defined first and foremost by prayer.