This Saturday is that day that will forever be plastered into my mind. I remember standing there in my bedroom, trying to get ready for work, on the phone with my Dad, watching the buildings burn...knowing that the world (at least the little one I had convinced myself I lived in) had suddenly changed. 9/11. They can rename it "Patriots Day" or whatever they want to call it, but worldwide all you have to say is 9/11 and people stop. They know. As this day has been approaching and the news has been gorged with debate about a mosque being built essentially a block from the monument and memorial of this tragedy, an uproar has begun. And not only is there great division over this issue - a building - now there is a group (which I refuse to refer to as a "church") in Florida that has decided the best thing they can do to supplement the hostility and hatred is to burn the Quran. I'd like to offer my thoughts on this.
Warning: The following words are mine. You might not like all of them.
Just this morning I sat in a conference with many other pastors and leaders. We were in a breakout session talking about the delicacy of "speaking the truth in love" to one another. We often use this verse as a Stamp of Approval to share our strong opinions with others about something they've done or said or made the mistake of wearing. This is off-base. Mainly because Paul expressing this exhortation (and the words surrounding them in Ephesians) was in regards to sharing the Gospel. Paul is saying that in every effort and attempt we make at speaking the Good News of Jesus Christ to others in this world is to be done WITHOUT "bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as malicious behavior." He goes on to explain that we are to be "kind" and "tenderhearted". Nowhere does it say a word about lighting anything on fire!
I've heard the arguments made about Moses coming down from Mount Sinai and throwing the golden calf in the fire and that this is in the same vein. WRONG! We must remember that these were GOD'S people turning against Him and crafting their own idols and devices. These were people who had already been delivered from the hand of slavery and were (supposed to be) on their way to freedom. They knew right. They chose wrong. God often uses radical means to awaken us from our sin through the power of the Holy Spirit.
[Looking back, that pyromaniac outburst I had in my backyard in 8th grade with some of those devilish rock 'n' roll tapes really didn't have much of a spiritual, eternal impact on my life. I think I actually own most of those albums again now. And they're amazing!]
Here's where I have to make a frustrating turn. The rest of what I want to write would be aimed at this anger-driven mob in the Sunshine State, shoving a piece of "Jesus Loves You" Gospel pie in their face and showing and telling them how wrong they are and how they're ruining it for the rest of us who are sane and rational. But I'm not going to do that. Why? Simple. They'd never listen even if I got their attention. I know - that sounds really pessimistic (maybe even fatalistic) - but you and I need to realize that there are some people in this world who have determined to preach a false gospel - one that calls people to burn books and protest mosque-building - rather than visibly, whole-heartedly, powerfully showing people the love of God through Christ Jesus. There are some people in this world (and sadly they have found some off-base justification in calling themselves "Christian") who are hardened, burned, and just mad as hell at the world and they're not going to take it anymore. They're toxic. And yell as loud as you can - scream it at the top of your lungs with all your might - and it won't matter. They are NOT going to listen. Which leads to the frustrating and lingering question: So what do we do about it?
Simple: Stop trying to prove all the wack-jobs wrong and focus your heart and mind and life in on proving God RIGHT! Know that Jesus was serious in John 13:34-35, that the world would know that we are His by our "love for one another". (And don't confuse being a "light in the darkness" with being a "burning trashcan full of books". This is not what He meant by being a "city on a hill".) Stop trying to scream louder than the idiot with the bullhorn. He has a BULLHORN for cryin' out loud! Have the overpowering faith that God's LOVE speaks much louder and clearer than someone else's fear. No, I don't believe the Quran is going to lead anyone into Truth. Yes, I desire that my Muslim friends come to know Jesus. But the idea that anyone has ever come to faith in Christ and been drawn into the Gospel through hatred and protest and barbecuing books is just as ridiculous and ludicrous as it sounds. Ri-dink-u-donk-ulous, even!
This Saturday, as our nation remembers a day that awakened us to the fact that not everyone in the world likes us, LOVE someone. Love your neighbor. Do something for someone who can't pay you back. Be a blessing to someone else. Ask the Lord to give you an opportunity for your actions - and HIS love - to speak louder than the hatred and the fear. And believe that they can!
My friend Sarah Cunningham wrote an article recently about this for Q. Check it out HERE.