The average high temperature in Eastpointe for April 22 is 60 degrees, with the average low around 42o. However, our highs the last two days have been at or below the average low – which of course means that the lows are south of 30o. And what did you think of that snow accumulating on those newly mowed lawns? Talk about cold!
However, the cold that is on my mind this morning is a different, and much more destructive one. Jesus described it during one of his “temple talks” a couple days prior to his crucifixion. “Because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.” (Matthew 24.12)
As the media talks about all the violence in our land, I keep asking myself, “How did we get here and what can I do to help change things?” From those who followed the George Floyd / Derek Chauvin case closer than I, I keep hearing that the trial was well run and the outcome fair. I trust their opinions. The national response has been a welcomed lack of violence, with many commenting that this is only one step toward solving the issue that has stirred much of the violence over this past year and longer.
I think that the “next steps” are connected to my question “what can I do to help change things”? While I have been encouraged to hear and see national news coverage that included many prayers for our nation, as was noted by a friend of mine yesterday morning, two words I have not heard are “Jesus” and “forgiveness.” Perhaps I just missed them, but I do not see how there can be reconciliation or peace without either as a part of the equation.
I go back to Jesus’ “temple talk”. “Many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations.” (Matthew 24.10-14) Wow – in just five short sentences our Savior provides a succinct answer to both of my questions!
I believe we are experiencing in our land what the prophet Amos described as a famine “of hearing the words of the Lord.” (Amos 8.11) Thus in our land we see many falling away from Jesus or going astray, along with betrayal, hatred, lawlessness, and the love of many gone cold. This famine can only be overcome by the proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom – with its two key ingredients, “Jesus” and “forgiveness” – to the whole world. Now, I know the issues are more complex that just making sure that two key words are in the equation, yet I also believe that without these two key words our progress will be extremely limited and short lived.
I have long suggested that the first three things Jesus says to us every time he comes to us are, “I love you. I forgive you. You are mine (or you are valuable to me).” He says these things to us because he knows these are the very words we need to hear … and not just from him, but also from one another. These are words of reconciliation and peace. And they are the heart of the gospel of Christ’s kingdom.
So, my formula is neither a magic wand nor a quick fix. Rather it is simply an essential part of the next step (and part of the answer to what can I do to make things better). #1, I need to be listening directly to Jesus every day. Which means having my nose somehow in the Bible so that I can hear those three precious phrases I need to hear. #2, I need to be saying those three phrases (first in my heart and then face-to-face) to everyone who needs to hear them from me – and saying them in such a way that they are heard as gospel, not law. #3, I must be encouraging everyone I know to be doing numbers 1+2 with me. I hear that the forecasters are predicting +70o next week. I wish the cold in our hearts could be as quickly changed. Well, at least I now have a better idea of what I can do to help warm things up.