I am sitting here reading the news reports. While I was in the midst of a conference call, and then later on while I was shopping to pick up some items to deal with an attack of mold on my porch, people were being shot, stabbed, and wounded or killed. While all this was happening, Vice President Biden was visiting at the Peres Peace Center seeking to “smooth over the latest bump in relations between the Obama White House and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu” as Fox news writes so politely.
The words of Jesus regarding the end times come to my mind,
“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man:”
Luke 17:26 HCSB
How WAS it in the days of Noah? Has anyone stopped to think about it lately?
“When the LORD saw that man’s evil was widespread on the earth and that every intent of his mind thought of was nothing but evil all the time,
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.”
Genesis 6:5, 11
Would the headlines back then be any different from the ones I am reading right now?
Jaffa stabbing spree
Jerusalem attacks leave two Border Police officers wounded, two terrorists dead
Pregnant woman wounded in Jaffa stabbing rampage; fetus with heartbeat… (!)
(Unborn lives only seem to matter when they are wanted…)
And the news from other countries is just as bad…
USA: Murder Manhunt….
USA: Suspected Serial Killer…
France: The Dentist of Horror (accused of mutilating more than 100 patients)
Venezuela: 28 Miners Reported Killed by Criminal Gang
The list goes on… it is sickening, soul-destroying, depressing, and leaves a legacy of hatred, bitterness, and anguish.
Superimposed on all this, I am reminded of the story of the man brought to Jesus for healing. The crowds prevented easy access and so they climbed on top of the house where Jesus was teaching, tore apart the roof, and lowered their friend in front of Jesus.
The first thing Jesus does is shocking. He sees the obvious physical need, yet Jesus says to the man, “Have courage, son, your sins are forgiven.” (Matt 9:2, HCSB)
Certainly not the answer we would have expected. Jesus then challenges those around by asking,
“Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He told the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your mat, and go home.””
Matthew 9:5–6 HCSB
What does this have to do with all those terrible headlines and the horrors of this day? Only this. The world is crying out for “healing.” We want peace, seemingly at any cost. We are tearing apart roofs and crying out. We accuse God of inaction because He does not do what we want Him to do. My people reject Yeshua as Messiah because He did not usher in a political kingdom. They, and we, too often want a healing that is only skin deep. But we don’t want our hearts changed.
The lame man picked up his mat and walked home, with the burden of his heart removed, and with feet that could walk home with his beloved friends. But today’s world has rejected the simplicity of that answer. And so the cycle of violence continues. But the problem is not Palestinians versus Israelis, Muslims vs Jews, Republicans vs Democrats, ISIS vs Christians or murderers and evil doers versus the “righteous” (whoever they might be). It is light versus darkness, and humbling ourselves before the Creator of the Universe versus the pride of man. To seek and receive forgiveness implies repentance—change, turning away from our evil, hating our own wickedness, and recognizing that we owe something to someone far greater than ourselves. There may be degrees of evil but at the end of the day, all evil is—evil.
This is the only answer that will change our world. Every single person in this world needs the forgiveness offered in Jesus. The terrorists, the murderers, the thieves, the adulterers, the liars, the addicts, the molesters, the bitter, the wounded, the hard hearted, the proud, the jealous, the disrespectful, and the self-reliant. The big sinners and the little sinners. We all need a righteousness that is not our own.
As it was in the days of Noah…
In a way, the ark was the equivalent of tearing the roof off the house. Noah urged and warned people. He wanted his friends and neighbors to join him in the ark. But they laughed and chose the path of evil and violence. The crippled man accepted the help of his friends. He did not protest when Jesus offered forgiveness. And so he left with a healed heart and body.
As we struggle through the horrifying headlines and evil of our day, may we incline our hearts to forgive as we have been forgiven, pray for hearts to be changed, and allow God to change our hearts as well. It doesn’t matter if we are out of step with the world, or even if friends or family laugh or call us fanatics. If we are not willing to be changed by God, how can we expect the world around us to be willing to turn to Him?