Such was the case on Friday, Nov 13th 2015.
Yes, it was 'Friday the 13th, which has a bad reputation to begin with, but no one was expecting the horror that would unfold on the streets of our beloved Paris, the city of lights and love. Quickly the internet swarmed with a buzzy catch phrase and hashtag #PrayforParis which Christians, non-Christian and Atheists alike were posting at rapid speed. I couldn't help but think if people were stopping, for even a moment, to actually pray for Paris. Many people posting the hashtag would claim to not even believe in God if asked moments before the news broke. But I couldn't help but consider that in times of crisis, it was our very own psyche that draws us to the knowledge, understanding and belief that a Mighty God truly DOES exist. And perhaps it is just when folks are comfortable in their lives that they are allowed to consider the 'greatness' of mankind, the ever changing 'truth' of Science (don't get me wrong, I love many elements of Science) and the strength of their own ability that they can boldly proclaim "There is no God". But when brought between life and death... God is the one thing everyone clings to and prayer is the first thing on everyone's lips.
It was a quick and rapid descension from peace and love talk to fear and terror whispers in the following days. Until the Politicians in a claw fight for Media attention began to make bold statements and declarations about refugees, borders and protecting 'our people' that opened up what we were all thinking.
To be completely honest, I was a person who quickly stated 'It's a Trojan Horse!' when the refugees began pouring into Europe seeking asylum months ago. It just seemed like such an obvious ploy for the terrorists to find their way in, like seeping water through a crack in a dam. Yes, it was a terrible situation but it just seemed like such an obvious mistake these countries were making allowing hundreds of thousands of strangers into their land and into their homes. And then, like the telling of a perfect adventure storybook, everyone's fear was confirmed when one of the terrorists in Paris was confirmed to have traveled into Europe, on a boat, with the refugees. It was truth many people couldn't stomach, our worst fears confirmed.
Many conversations followed, Biblical examples from the Old Testament on treatment of 'non-believers', and fear talk continued to grow as the debate raged on in Washington on what exactly could and should be done about letting the Syrian refugees into our great land - The United States of America. The truth is everyone was, and is, fearful of another 'Paris' happening down the street or worse, on your street! Everyone just wants to protect their family and loved ones above all else.
It was easy to have these conversations, it's easy to allow fear to control the mind, to think of the 'worst case scenario' when our natural instinct is to 'protect and defend' that which we love. Honestly, it's the 'norm'. But.... as a Christian. What does God teach us, what is His advice? What does the Bible - our guidebook for life - say about this situation?
I began digging through the obvious stories in the Old Testament where God called upon His people to destroy the non-believers, man, women, child. And it would be easy to say 'SEE!!' but I knew that contradicted what God taught in the New Testament, and if there's one thing a Bible student knows, it's that the Bible NEVER contradicts itself. It simply means the reader is not digging deep enough to get the whole truth. It was at this same time that I was studying the story, and the history, of Israel during the prophet Jeremiah. Somehow as I read of the pending doom that was to fall upon God's chosen people and how during this time, knowing they were marching toward captivity and ruin, the true Christians in the situation, the ones who still believed and honored God, had to make a choice to continue to love, obey and honor God even though this punishment was inevitable. I thought "How difficult, how impossible, would it be to know what was about to happen, and STILL choose to love God. This would take extreme humility of heart and obedience to God's will above our own". The truth is God protects, guides and directs us, but when we make poor choices, even after repentance, God does not remove the consequences of our actions. We have to live with our consequences, and God lives through it WITH us. I continued to have certain verses spotlight into my mind such as Matthew 7:1 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged." and Matthew 5:44 "Love your enemies and bless those that curse you." Romans 12:19 "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." and of course Matthew 25:35 "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in..." I began to see clearly, once again, that we human beings, God's people, God's creation, God's sons and daughters, His representatives are put on this earth for ONE SINGLE SOLITARY DUTY and that duty.... is to love. Unconditionally, without holding back, without deciding who, how and when. We don't get to choose, we don't get to decide. Our only purpose is to love! And if that love brings us into danger we are to have faith and trust in God, for He is our protector, He is our commander.
If the Lord saw a group of terrorists walking by our home, the home of God's child, it would be our duty to go and offer them food, water and shelter. It would be God who would protect us. Because without our love, we make no difference in this world. Without God's love within us we change nothing and no one. Our light does not shine.
God says in Isaiah 55:8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways." and He is right! Nothing He commands is what our instinct or this world around us tells us we should think or act. The Lord says 'Do the opposite of what is expected, allow me to work Miracles so that my Name is glorified". And fear has no part to play.
When I think of the Old Testament I think ahead to the end, to the time of Judgement. There is only one who is called to Judge and He is God the Father. Yes, a time will come when all will be judged on this earth and it will be too late to repent. But in judgement the hearts that have not repented would never have repented, even if given a thousand chances (which the Lord gave throughout their lifetime). Jesus has made a way, dying for ALL that ALL might be saved and the way is easy.
When I concluded reading the history of the prophet Jeremiah, the end of his story was like a fresh dew falling upon my heart. The words of the head commander of the rebel army taking away the people into captivity read (and I paraphrase) "Your God is punishing these people for disobeying Him. But you Jeremiah, you were faithful. And because of your faithfulness... you can choose to stay in your land if you want. I won't take you as a captive to Babylon. You are free." I realized that God made a way for his faithful servant. Many were left behind and not taken captive and I believe those left were the true believers who continued to love God even though they were facing imminent doom. They were the ones who said "against every bone in my body that wants to turn against You Lord for what is about to happen to me... I won't, I cannot, stop loving you God" and the Lord delivered them. And He will do the same for you and I.
A great relief fell upon me, any tension of fear of the unknown in what mistakes or errors might occur in Foreign Affairs vanished. I was free and at peace once again. Because no matter what happens, no matter how good or bad things get, I only have one job, one duty, one calling in this life... and that is to love. To love the ones I don't understand, to love the ones that want to hurt me, to love the ones who go against everything I believe and to love those I so badly want to hate. Because in doing so, I am allowing God to work miracles, to work change and convert the hearts of those I don't understand through His love in me. Because if we, as the body of Christ, united around the world and chose to love in this way, we would be a force stronger than any army the Nations could offer. We would be impenetrable. We would be the Israel God had hoped for. The one that stood strong, protected and blessed above all others, with no earthly King but God Himself ruling. For He is the King that rules our hearts. He is the King that protects us, He is the God who allows us each breathe that we breath. So against all odds, I choose love. Because I know I have a great God who will always defend, protect and be with me. No matter what.