Baltimore, Nepal, #SCOTUS...What Can I Possibly Do?
Rachel and I sat to talk last night about the people suffering the aftermath of an earthquake in Nepal, the decision regarding marriage before the Supreme Court, and even longer about the situation in Baltimore and the hurt we feel for all involved. The events seem so huge; the issues involved, so complex; the people needing help, so many. We both wanted so badly to do something to bring healing, reconciliation, help, immediate relief, but what could we possibly contribute?
Trusting God’s sovereign hand, I laid to sleep saying a short prayer for it all, still grieving that sleep would flee my brothers and sisters while rocks were flying in the street outside their house. God answered at least part of our question this morning as I read 1 Peter 4, and here is what I learned. The following is by no means exhaustive, but it’s at least a start and what the Lord wanted me to see this morning.
1. Let sober-mindedness and self-control serve prayer.
When such big events hit the news media, we’re tempted to become fearful, worried, and anxious. We’re at times thrown into a frenzy. We leave our current posts to which God has called us. We distract ourselves with the latest news threads every half hour. We want to race to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets to see what everybody else is posting, “liking,” hating, etc.
But Peter says that when sober-mindedness and self-control are absent, our prayers will suffer:
The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers (1 Pet 4:7).
What the enemy would like amidst the chaos is for our panic to make us less prayerful. And our flesh likes to think we can maximize our impact with less intercession. But Peter is quick to remind us that maximizing our impact in any one of these situations will mean that we simply pray. With sober-minded consideration, with self-control in how we act and when we speak, our first move will be not to save the world ourselves, but to pray God save the world, using every one of these events to move his church, advance the gospel, and save his elect.
2. Keep devoting yourself to normal Christian living.
I was really surprised by Peter’s next couple of exhortations. He is writing a letter to Christians suffering various trials (1:6), some of which are unjust (2:18-20), and doing so in the face of an immoral culture (4:3-5), slanderous opponents (3:16), and corrupt government (2:13-17; 3:14-15). And yet, rather than a frantic call driven by the tyranny of the urgent, he simply exhorts the believers to normal Christian living. After saying something as sweeping as “the end of all things is at hand,” hear the simplicity of his next few words:
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:8-9).
In another place, he simply says,
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable…wives, be subject to your husbands…husbands, live with your wives in an understanding manner, showing her honor…have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart (1 Peter 2:12; 3:1, 7, 8).
So simple. So basic. I may not understand how to solve issues in Baltimore and beyond. I may not have the money right now to give to Baptist Global Response working in Nepal. I may not have any clout in the SCOTUS decision. But that doesn’t mean I can’t do anything of eternal significance.
Actually, I (and you too!) can do something of great, gospel-advancing significance right where we are. We can magnify the light of Christ’s love by loving one another earnestly across ethnic, economic, generational, and whatever other barriers the culture constructs, since Jesus tore them down in his death and then gathered us into one body under his shepherdly care. We can show hospitality, inviting one another into our homes, and in ways that do not make sense to our neighbors. We can serve and honor our spouse, becoming a temporary parable that points South Las Vegas trail to the Bride and his bridegroom and to the beauty of biblical manhood and womanhood.
Our lives can make a huge impact by showing the world around us how a counter-cultural gospel builds a counter-cultural community living in an upside-down kingdom where the greatest become servants of all.
3. Use your gifts to the glory of God.
The last thing I learned was both liberating and encouraging. All Christians have gifts that complement one another. Each of us are given a measure of grace, and we are to use it to the glory and praise of God. Peter says it like this:
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies, in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Pet 4:10-11).
This truth was liberating in that I do not have to be (or pretend to be) somebody I am not. The Lord has gifted some men and women to speak and labor in these situations in ways that I simply can’t and wouldn’t even begin to know how to. The Lord has saved others who have experience where I do not. And the Lord has given them to me as his gift. I can listen to them, learn from them, be built up by them, and then learn how to come alongside them. But I do not have to be them. I can stand my post and be faithful with the gifts the Lord has given me.
This truth was also encouraging in that I can also lay hold of the gifts the Lord has given me, and use them to his honor and glory. Even more immediately tangible, the Lord has given me a local church and a city in which to spend my gifts for his name’s sake, to fan those gifts into flame, to serve in the ways the Lord has made me competent to serve. How those gifts end up serving the larger picture, I may never see. But this I will be satisfied with, however I use the gifts entrusted to me, they will be to the Lord’s praise and glory, for they didn’t come from me to begin with.
A Closing Word
So, in the midst of such BIG and oftentimes overwhelming events, Peter’s, or better, God’s message is simple and straightforward. Pray, live the normal Christian life, and spend your gifts to glorify God. I don’t have to solve everything. I need only to love Jesus, depend on him in prayer, and be faithful with what he gives me today and gifts me to accomplish.