Words for Times Like These

How should Christians respond to this cultural moment of multifaceted anger, fear, and outrage? There is no lack of words right now in answer to that question. Surely you’ve already encountered countless articles, social media posts, and video commentaries full of statements and suggestions.

I don’t pretend to have groundbreaking words to add. But I am a pastor, and pastors shouldn’t be silent in moments like this. We need to shepherd our congregations through difficult and complex seasons.

Here are five words I shared with my congregation recently.

1. Grieve

What we are witnessing should break our hearts. Injustice, hatred, vitriol, rage, rampage, revenge, brutality, destruction, oppression—all happening to God’s image-bearers. All done by God’s image-bearers. How can we not grieve over the reality of our rebellion against God displayed in such tragic, destructive ways? It is too easy to lead with anger, which rarely accomplishes the righteousness of God (James 1:20). We need to grieve as God grieves, calling not only for justice but also for mercy. If we do not first weep for our own sin, we will not have the perspective to work for reconciliation. 

2. Resist

Resist the urge to take a side. Everywhere we look we are presented with false dichotomies: black vs. white, the police vs. the people, rich vs. poor, us vs. them. Resist every demand to submit to a false choice. Isaiah reminds us that all of us are on the wrong side. We all have gone astray—every one of us—turned to his own way (Isa. 53:6). I’m reminded of Joshua’s question to God’s angel: “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” The angel replied, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD” (Josh. 5:13–14). It’s not about which human side you are on. In the end, what matters is that you are on God’s. Resist any external pressure, or internal urge, to take any side but his.

It’s not about which human side you are on. In the end, what matters is that you are on God’s.

3. Listen

In a world with such complex and systemic problems, and with so many competing voices with proposed solutions, we desperately need wisdom beyond our own. So listen to those who have proven to be sources of wise counsel. Listen to those who have different experiences than you. Listen to a variety of voices and perspectives. In the social-media age, everyone wants to speak. As a Christian, be countercultural and listen. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19).

4. Learn

Learn to inhabit the tension of the “now and not yet.” If you are a Christian, you are not a citizen of this world. You are a citizen of a “better country” yet to come (Heb. 11:16; Phil. 3:20). We are sojourners, strangers, and exiles here (1 Pet. 2:11). This means we are ambassadors of this other kingdom (2 Cor. 5:20) and we ought to live “now” with the reality of the age to come (Gal. 5:22–23; Titus 2:11–12), even as things are “not yet” what they will one day be (Titus 2:13). Help your church be the eschatological hope of humanity. The local church is the place where all of us expats (a person who lives outside their native country) gather—regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, education, or political persuasion—to bear witness that only in Christ can the “two men become one” (Eph 2:11–14; Rev 7:9–10). The church is the hope of humanity because we acknowledge, and grieve, our rebellion against God. In the church we abandon “our side” and plead to be on God’s. In the church we listen to the wisdom from above (James 3:17) and the living Word (Matt. 17:5), and we implore all humanity, “Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). 

In the social-media age, everyone wants to speak. As a Christian, be countercultural and listen.

5. Trust 

In the midst of the chaos, confusion, hurt, pain, and anger of this season, God is working. I don’t know exactly how, or what the outcome will ultimately be. I don’t need to. God does not owe me this answer any more than he owes me anything. God does not ask us to understand his ways (Isa 55:9)—he merely asks us to trust him, because he is merciful and full of compassion (Ex. 34:6; Deut. 29:29; John 6:67–69). No matter what happens around me or perhaps one day to me, the truth of Psalm 16:11 (my favorite verse in the Bible) will not change: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Don’t trust in man, family, or church. Don’t trust in circumstances. Don’t trust in the temporary. Trust ultimately in God.

Ric Rodeheaver

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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