Can We?

~~I’m not sure I know how to capture what’s churning around in my head without sounding preachy, accusatory, and judgmental.  It’s a self-flagellation that I’m afraid will carry over inappropriately. Think of this, then, as a conversation: a series of rhetorical questions that I’m asking myself, and would ask you if you were here at my kitchen table. I fear that together we would find the answers secreted in that deep scary place where we know what we know, but we wouldn’t otherwise admit them to ourselves for fear of being compelled to act in ways that we are too afraid to visualize.

Another journalist was killed by Isis militants yesterday. That set off a firestorm of indignation within me, and an empathy for his parents so deep I cannot even look at them on the evening news for fear of becoming completely un-done.  My soul rages for revenge, retribution – for this to be made right when it absolutely cannot be made right. I do not look at these militants and think that they are lost and in need of the love and grace of Christ. I look at them and want them dead, and cast into the deepest corner of hell to endure unmentionable terror for all of eternity. That is truth. God help me.

I have learned in so many ways just not to care; to turn off the emotion; out of helpless frustration to disengage for the sake of my own sanity. I know the end of the story. I know things get real bad before they get better. Evil seems to win for a time, and then...Jesus. I tell myself that I have solace in that, but in truth, it’s a justification for not becoming involved.  Apathy is a simpler response, and it requires so much less investment. It hurts to feel. And to feel powerless to end the evil and heal the hurt.

I wonder if I’m alone.

And then, I wonder if what I feel in unguarded moments is God’s intense longing for these people: these lost people who have hurt people. I wonder if the unquenchable fire that burns in my heart is His all-consuming love for them.  I wonder if I’ve mistaken His holy desire for my emotion before turning it off and tuning it out.  And I wonder if my apathetic emotional distance stands in the way of His goal. Maybe He wants me to feel. Maybe He wants me to rage. Maybe He wants to consume me with His love for these lost sheep until I can rage against their enemy. Maybe. What if that?

This is where I find myself. I don’t want to become involved. I don’t want to feel pity for them. I don’t want to pray for them, but in that, I sense the deepest kind of rebellion and hatred. How can I withhold God’s blessing from any man, when He would not withhold it Himself? I know that God would have no man perish, but all to come to repentance.  I know that I am in no way better, (as evidenced by my confessions here!) less guilty, or more deserving of salvation than the Isis militant. Christ is the great equalizer.

And yet…I find myself like Jonah, unwilling to intervene, subconsciously sitting on a hill waiting for their destruction, and bitter unto death. Like the elder prodigal son, outraged that this wayward ingrate could have the right to waltz into the Father’s grace. Just like that. It is a bitter pill to think that that they could have their slate wiped as clean as mine. I’m just telling you how I feel. I’m not justifying. I know it’s wrong on every level, but in the end, I cannot escape this truth that I’m trying very hard to suppress. 

But…what if… What if He wants to turn it all on its head?  What if, by praying for these men, I can end the suffering of the innocents on which they prey.  What if all of heaven is just waiting for me to act? Are the armies of heaven poised, waiting for the command that will come only on the heels of my intercession? Are they ready to wage war in the heavenlies if only I will commit myself to the battle? Worse men than these have lived – and Jesus asked the Lord to forgive them because they did not know what they were doing. Can I join him in that prayer?  Can I?

Yes. I can. Even with my heart guarded and reticent, I can begin. Though it feels like grievous betrayal, I can say the words. Though my voice is weak and my determination weaker, I can whisper. Though the blood of the innocent cries out from the ground, the blood of Christ is louder still. Have mercy, our Father. Have mercy.

Can you join me? Can you try? Can you set aside your need to see justice, and ask for God’s goodness to find them? Can you do it in spite your justifiable righteous indignation? Can you do it because He did it first? Can you do it to empower Christ’s heavenly armies in the true battle, and to see love win? Can you?