But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
~2 Timothy 3:1-5~
When I hear about people being killed for their beliefs, it always brings up a feeling in my spirit that I can hardly describe. A feeling that is something like fear, but more like confusion. Somewhere on that continuum, I figure out that what I’m feeling is compassion and that even though I don’t necessarily agree with every other person’s beliefs, my love for people comes from my belief that my God loves me. I am a Christian, so I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe in the life, the death and the resurrection of the Savior. I believe it because in all that I have studied about religion and different beliefs, it makes sense to me that our God would, in fact, send down a representative to try and show us a perfect example of the people He created us to be.
There is an old story that they often tell around Christmastime about a man who had encountered some doves on his farm during a snowstorm. Though he tried and tried to coax the birds into the barn to get them out of the storm, his appearance as a man frightened them so that they would not follow his lead. The story goes on to parallel God’s need to send the Savior in human form in order to bring His word and His love to the people in a way that they could accept. Had He presented Himself to us in all of His glory, we would have been frightened or so stunned that we couldn’t accept what He wanted us to know about Him. I love this story because it shows that God desires our love to the point of doing anything to prove His love to us. I always thought it was very sad that so many people in Jesus’s day were okay with having Him die on the cross. Although this was clearly what God intended for Jesus, how must He have felt to see how few truly cared about this man who had gone about the earth teaching love and mercy? How must it have felt to know that so few of His creation possessed the heart that He had intended for them to possess?
I would imagine that when He witnesses things like the recent killings in the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, He must feel the same way. Sikhism teaches love and tolerance for all people. They believe in one God and although they do not believe in Jesus as Messiah, they do appear to believe in the spirit of His teachings of love and mercy and they believe that He existed as a prophet. As a Christian, of course I don’t completely agree with their view of Jesus, but that doesn’t mean that they are evil or that this shooting was in any way justified. This sort of violence is never justified and why anyone would ever do something like this is beyond me. It’s just another case of someone not understanding another person’s beliefs and assuming that because they look a certain way or talk a certain way, they must be dangerous. Oddly, the most dangerous person involved in this thing probably thought he was the most righteous in his beliefs and values. Perhaps, the greatest sin of all.
I have said before that none of us can know exactly what is right in terms of our religious beliefs. We may be very confident in what we believe and we may have complete faith in what we believe within the confines of our own personal religion or denomination, but no one knows God’s heart or what He knows. To us, our beliefs seem very practical and we often cannot or will not try to understand those who don’t believe as we do. I personally don’t feel that God gives any one of us the whole story. If He did that, we would know as much as He does and that’s not ever going to happen. All that I know for sure is that I’m here and God’s word makes sense to me as I read it. I know that I believe in Jesus. I believe He died for my sins. I still don’t completely understand why or what I need to do to justify that sacrifice. I don’t know if there is anything I can do to justify that sacrifice other than to live the kind of life I believe my God wants me to live. To use the gifts He has given me to help others understand Him and each other better. And I don’t know these things because of what I’ve been taught by the people around me as much as I know them because of what I’ve seen God do in my own life. I know that my God wouldn’t want me to hurt someone else to prove who He is and that He wouldn’t approve of my setting myself upon a pedestal as the only person who has the answers. He wants me to know Him, to love Him and to accept Him as my God and Creator. He wants me to acknowledge every day that He is in control, not me. He wants me to understand that not everyone out there gets it and that the more I do to promote my beliefs, the less they will get it. However, the more I do to show what I believe through my actions and through the way I treat others, the more likely others are to follow my lead. Though I am not THE leader, I can lead….as long as what I am leading others to doesn’t end with me.
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
~2 Timothy 4:2~