When two suicide bombers struck at the Iranian embassy in Lebanon, a spokesman for Hezbollah said, “We got the message and we know who sent it and we know how to retaliate.” This statement is a prescription for continued violence in a part of the world where the violence seems never to stop. This statement could be a quotation from any party to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. It points up an attitude that seems to be rooted in the idea that for every violent act, there must be an equal and opposite response.
Every violent act expresses anger and pain coupled with a sense of helplessness that explodes in fiery destruction. Why is it that an equal and opposite response does not cancel out all that rage and pain?
Read the history of the Middle East, and you will quickly discern that it is not possible to quell the hunger for revenge by balancing one violent act with another. It is not possible to bring about peace by balancing political and military power so carefully that any aggression will surely be met with equivalent repellant power.
Conflicts are not resolved by assuring mutual destruction. The ultimate battle is only deferred while each party schemes to find ways to overcome the mutuality with an advantage that might be victorious for a time.
There is only one cure for the kind of fixation on vengeance for past wrongs that fuels the endless conflict in the world. That cure is Christ.
The same mindset that fuels violence in some parts of the world fuels economic repression elsewhere. People go hungry, children are not taught to read, families huddle in inadequate housing, and babies die of curable diseases, because people are sick with an illness that has only one cure. That cure is Christ.
When Christians ask what they can do about violence and hunger and disease, there is only one answer. The answer is Christ.
I see Christians trying to do all sorts of things to help people around the world. They should do all these things, but there is one thing that must fuel and envelope and sustain and shape all the things Christians do to help fix problems. That one thing is Christ.
Any atheist can hand out bread. Muslims can bandage wounds. Hindus can dig water wells. But only Christians can share Christ.
This is the one thing the world fears above all. Christ. The world at large does not want to hear this Word or see this Word. Christ heals the anger and outrage that political types want to harness and use for their own power trips. Christ pulls the teeth of the demons of revenge that fuel suicide bombings and the beheadings of enemies. Christ feeds love and personal responsibility that safely delivers newborns to parents who love and nurture them. The world doesn’t want that.
Only Christians can share Christ. When we feed people or give out medicine or help build houses for the poor, we must not ever permit the goals of those projects to zip our lips so that Christ’s name is not heard. Christ himself taught us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves, so Christians in Saudi Arabia following Christ’s wisdom might not demonstrate in the streets of Riyadh with signs saying “Christ is the answer.” Christians in Saudi Arabia, or anywhere else, must not, however, equate doing a good deed with testifying that Christ is what the world needs.
The world does not want to hear the name of Christ. Atheists, for example, are appalled by the presence of Christians. In the US, atheists do not want the name of Christ to come up in a prayer before a public meeting. They do not want anyone to be reminded of Christ by a visible cross. They go to court to prevent children from saying Christ’s name in prayer at school.
The world does not want to hear the name of Christ, but Christ is what the world needs. Atheists often speak with scorn to Christians saying, “Well, if God is so good, then why is the world full of evil such as starvation, enslavement, and war? If God exists, why doesn’t he do something about these terrible things?” The answer is that God did do something. God sent Christ to die on the cross in order that everyone might be cleansed and forgiven of all those terrible sins. God sent Christ because of all the terrible things atheists claim to want erased in the world. People who receive Christ into their hearts are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and people indwelt by the Holy Spirit work against the evil in the world around them. God did do something.
God made it easy to be part of God’s solution to the evil in the world. Receive Christ. Accept God’s forgiveness. Be filled with the Holy Spirit. Be a little Christ in a big, ugly world.
There is an answer to the evil. God provided that answer. It is easy for each person to receive that answer and become part of God’s solution that heals the world. The answer is Christ, and only Christians can share Christ, because they are the ones who have Christ in their hearts. Are you sharing what you have with people who need it? Am I?