5 Biblical Ways to Respond To the Headlines of the Past Week
If you are like me, the news since January 20th has been difficult to hear. Amazingly, it seems like a day does not go by without reading headlines that either make me sad or enrage me. Maybe this is nothing new, maybe I am just paying more attention to the news, but if you are like me, it can seem overwhelming. And if you are like me, you might be struggling with how to respond to the headlines this week.
It is at times like these that I am grateful that I have a faith that has stood the tests of time to help me navigate life. I am thankful that I have a source of wisdom, in the Bible, to help me make sense of the headlines and best respond. While everything in scripture has a specific context it is written in and needs to be understood first in that context, it has a lot to say about our context as well. The early church in Acts demonstrated their protest to the headlines of their day not in violence in the streets, but in love in their homes and communities. Sharing in food and possession to all those who needed it. I believe how the early church acted, and the wisdom of the Bible can give us good insight into how we should live and act in the world we find ourselves today. And with that in mind, here are 5 ways I believe the Bible suggests we respond to the headlines of this week.
1. Pray for those who are in power
It is not always easy to pray. I find it especially difficult when we need to be praying for people who we think are rather insane. But, scripture does tell us in 1 Timothy to pray for for those in authority and power. Why? Well Paul says here so that “we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” We pray for those in authority and power so that we may live in the hope of peace. This is what God asks us to do, and amazingly, He asks us to do that even when the political leaders are dangerous to us and others. In Paul’s day he would be saying pray for the people that are trying to run you out of town and kill you, in fact the leaders would soon be directly responsible for Paul’s death, but he wanted them prayed for anyway. If you are wondering how to pray for those in political power, some of these suggestions might be helpful. For myself, when I find someone especially difficult to pray for I often pray this: God, help me to see this person as someone made in your image and loved by you, even if I think they are absolutely evil.
2. Love your neighbour
This one really should go without saying, it is central to being a Christian. Jesus taught that every commandment in scripture could be summed up by loving God and loving our neighbour. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, taught that Christian maturity (he called it perfection) was defined by how we grow in our capacity to love God and love our neighbour.Who is our neighbour is is not defined by geographical location, or religion, or gender, or political views. Everyone is our neighbour, and we are invited to love them, because God has first loved us. That means we are to love those we agree with and disagree with. Love can look as simple as saying hello to someone, or it might mean taking a bigger risk and really getting to know someone different than you, even if you think they are the ones who are wrong. Regardless of how you love your neighbour, the instruction is clear, love them.
3. Welcome the stranger
One of the most troubling headlines in the past ten days was the ban on immigration and travel for people from certain muslim countries. Thankfully, I live in Canada, and our country has taken a much better approach to those seeking refuge. And the Bible tells us a better way to treat those seeking refuge and hope as well.
In Deuteronomy 10: 19, the people of God are instructed that “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt,” and in Leviticus 19:34 that “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” God instructed His followers early on that those who were strangers, immigrant, refugees, aliens were to be cared for, because really we have a whole lot in common with them. There is a good chance there are some newer immigrants or refugees living near you, what can you do to get to know them and welcome them? I am grateful that I get to serve at a little church that does amazing things to welcome refugees. We have helped sponsor and cosponsor hundreds of refugees over the years. Maybe you are part of a faith community that has done similar, or know of refugees in the community, take the time to love them. Invite them over, help them settle, whatever you can do to love them and welcome them.
More specifically, maybe right now because of the travel ban in place there are people displaced in your city that want to go home, but can’t. Can you welcome them into your home? Share a meal or offer them a place to sleep?
4. Help Financial Those Who Need It
As grateful as I am for what I view as a better political approach to caring for refugees in my country, Canada is not perfect, and the headlines here are equally troubling. This past week 6 men were murdered while they prayed in a mosque in Quebec. These men were our teachers, our doctors, our neighbours. They were seeking a place to pray in peace with devotion to their god. When I go to pray, I do not fear being shot, these men should not have had to fear that either.
In the gospel of Luke when the truth of loving God and loving your neighbour is proclaimed, Jesus follows it up with a story. Many of us are familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan, but sometimes miss the significance of it. In this story the Samaritan is an outcast of sorts, someone who is not liked by the Jewish audience, but in the story he doesn’t just do a good dead, he crosses political,religious, racial and social lines to save someone’s life when no one else would. The samaritan brings the beaten man to an inn to care for him, and pays for him to be cared for. The true act of loving his neighbour is at great cost to him. In the same way, we might be able to respond to help those who are hurting financially. The six men who were killed in the mosque in Quebec, some of them had families, and some of their children have become orphans because of this horrible act. There is a go fund me page set up to help these men’s families and if you feel inclined you can donate here. Or, there might also be some needs locally you could respond to if you have the financial means.
5. Subvert the Empire
To subvert the empire is to undermine the power and authority it demonstrates. In essence, the first 4 suggestions above are doing this, but I think we should take it one step further. To me, the empire is not just the political system at play, it is the way of life we in the western world have adopted and believe is beneficial. A system of life that is individualistic and self centered. We can put the blame for the headlines on Donald Trump or anyone else we like, but the truth is the issues that are coming to light have always been there, just waiting for the opportunity to arise. Our hearts are desperately wicked, and we need to fight that daily. We are subverting the empire of our Western thought when we step out of self focused desire and serve and love others. When we act counter culturally to ourselves and others by loving and serving them, we are defeating the darkness that lives in many of us and our world. This is what the church in the book of Acts did. They shared food and possessions with those in need. Those that the government of their day was oppressing found hope and life in community with early followers of Jesus.
This is what Jesus invites us into. To not act the way the “world” does in self centered fashion but to die to ourselves and love others. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus tells a fantastic story about who are the people who are with him and who is not. And a key point he makes is that when we do something for someone else in need, we are doing it for him. When we don’t do something for someone else, we are ignoring him. Subvert the ways of our society, do something for someone else today that is not for your gain. Show love in any way you can, change the world for someone.
The headlines can be overwhelming, I know. But I also know, that when I am weary and heavy burden, Jesus invites me to find rest in him, real rest. It is in Jesus that I find hope, and I desire to offer that hope to others as well. When the headlines have been getting to you, take a risk and try to subvert the narrative that is playing out. Go love someone today, do for someone what you wish you could do for everyone.