Wednesday, April 18, 2007

How should I feel?

On Monday the world witnessed America's worst shooting massacre to date. Such violent events evoke many feelings in us. I struggle with how I should feel as a Christian.

Emotions are one of the most enigmatic traits of humanity. I am always contemplating and analyzing why I feel the way I do. In some way, this terrible act of violence shows where emotions go when they are sinful and out of check. The man who apparently committed these murders is a case and point- his sinful emotions led to further, greater, heinous sin.

Is it possible for anyone to go down the same path emotionally? What about for me as a Christian? I have sinful emotions also, what stops me from compounding that sin by adding violence?

This recent episode at Virginia Tech raises such questions in my mind. Emotions and passions are a difficult thing to control for us human beings. For all I know about guarding my emotions, I have to admit, when I turned on the TV to see the report out of Virginia, I was filled with all sorts of mixed, indescribable feelings. Shock, anger, grief, revenge and sympathy came at differing levels depending on what report I was reading or viewing. I remember thinking how cowardly this man was, to do what he did and to then take his own life instead of facing the hundreds of people he violated by murdering their loved ones. I confess in my sinful flesh I initially felt he should have somehow been kept alive and made to undergo the psychological torture of watching the funerals, seeing parents and friends mourn, hearing bereaved siblings wail, experience the societal outrage against him, then die himself in an electric chair or worse.

Did I really feel and think these things?

Wow. The blackness of my heart is revealed under seemingly "just" circumstances.

In such times, I must go to God's Word for guidance. If my emotions are not held in proper check, they can translate to sinful actions on my part thus compounding the sins committed by the murderer. I am not suggesting we should ignore or even suppress our emotions, but rather to be sure our thoughts are discerning (according to God's Word) so that sinful emotions can be confronted and repented of.

The book of Proverbs has much to say regarding allowing our emotions to take reign over our actions- Proverbs 19:11 The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression. The book of James also speaks to our emotions at such a time as this James 1:19-20 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

Ever since Cain killed Abel, we have witnessed sinful human conflict after sinful human conflict. We should be alarmed by the heinous nature of sin and what it leads people to do, but our day is no more grievous in the volume of sin than in times past. Note what Spurgeon said in his day, the late 1800’s-

"These are said to be very horrible times- they always were ever I have known anything of the world, and I suppose they always were in our fathers’ time. We are always at a crisis according to some people. I am not about to defend the times; they are, no doubt, very bad, for the innumerable spirits of evil are bold and active, while good men seem to have lost their courage. We find amalgamations and compromises ad infinitum, and the precious truth of God is trodden as the mire of the streets."

As awful as the events of this week were, times have not really changed that much. Sin still rears its head and manifests itself in people. Every era has witnessed similar or worse such attacks. We live in a fallen world where evil is to be expected. Therefore, as Christians, we must interpret disastrous events through biblical lenses while being vigilant to guard against sinful emotions that rise up in such times. This is what I am committing to prayer during these days of manifold graphic images coming out of Virginia.

What emotions are biblically proper for me, in light of such an event? There is an image of Christ that comes to my mind when I struggle with how to "feel" about something so horrific as the massacre at Virginia Tech. It is Jesus weeping at the tomb of Lazarus his beloved friend. Why would Jesus weep at the death of his friend when he was there to raise him again? I believe Jesus wept because of the gravity of human sin. Sin is what killed his friend. Frankly, He knew Lazarus would die again. The weight of broken humanity moved the Savior to cry. It moved the God of the universe to tears when He considered the full scope of man’s rebellion shown vividly in death.

We ought to look at the images of blood-stained sidewalks on the campus of Virginia Tech and weep. We ought to look upon the rubble across this war-torn, sinful world, and weep. Weep for the sin. Weep for those who are dying of disease and famine. Weep for the unborn who die on the altar of convenience each day. Weep for the oppressed and suffering. We ought to weep over death and misery the world over because of human sin and depravity.

I am sure much will be written and spoken regarding the events of this historic week, for me, as I consider the awful events that transpired Monday, I am moved to be wary of my emotions and where they could lead me. My primary emotion at this time should be grief. Grief over man's fallen state and the sin which produces such calamities. Grief rightly produces weeping. My weeping should be like that of Jesus, the Son of God. He looked upon fallen man, a mere shadow of what he should have been, and wept.

There is a time to grieve, no doubt. Still, I am overjoyed that Jesus didn't stop with His weeping. He raised Lazarus, then went to Jerusalem to die for Him. The experience of earthly grief is real, however, the eternal joy that comes from knowing Christ puts such events in to some kind of perspective making them bearable.


Kampfgruppe Hoppa said...

In our fallen nature it is easy to see revenge as the answer. Too many times have I thought that revenge would make me "feel" better. Revenge movies such as 'Death Wish', 'The Punisher,' etc. seem to make me feel justice has been served and the victim vindicated. However, the Almighty does not give us this option. He ordained the state as the one who carries out justice because He knew that the individual man, in his sinful nature would never truly be just. The perps of crime should be held accountable for their crimes but not at my hands; the state should perform its God ordained duty.

JDogg said...

I'm not trying to be all political here, but one of the things that bothers me is how much more this bothers me (and everyone else) than atrocities that are occuring on a daily basis elsewhere. It's like we're all numb to "regular" killing and it takes something out of the ordinary to shake us up. Deaths caused by abortion, imperial pursuits, gang violence, religous persecution all seem so much more distant. Heck, Robert Mugabe probaly kills 32 innocent people before before breakfast most days. Where's the outrage and incessant press coverage on those issues? That makes we wonder, along with you, "how should I feel?"

Frontier Forest said...

How do I feel? In reflecting on the evil we have witnessed this week, both at home and in Iraq, Pastor Tony’s probing title is THE question that every believer must ponder.
Pastor Tony exhorted, “In such times, I must go to God's Word for guidance. If my emotions are not held in proper check, they can translate to sinful actions…”

Taking this thought captive, my feelings are kept in check, focusing in and on these verses:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my anxious thoughts. And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” Psalms 139: 23-24
“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornication’s thefts, murder, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” Mark 7:21-23
“The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.” John 10:10
“Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves to be doers of the word, and not merely hearer who delude themselves.” James 1:21-22

When we don’t know “How to feel” God is waiting for us to move towards Him and speak into the darkness. His instructions for us is to choose His directions, counseled by His Word, then stop doubting or asking “why” or “how” such a thing could happen.
We need never to face evil or terror, alone. We know, “He will never leave nor forsake us”. Therefore, facing any evil, we stand boldly before God, using and speaking His Word, the darkness of fear is removed…. then His peace is made real.