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Why Outrage Must Become Lament

 

PRAYER OF CONSECRATION

Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. 

Jesus, I belong to you.

I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.

Jesus, we belong to you. 

Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen. 

Acts 17:16–23

While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.”

CONSIDER THIS

He was greatly distressed.

Did you get that in today’s text?

It’s what I appreciate about Paul’s approach in Athens. Despite being greatly distressed, he did not resort to outrage. The gospel permits great distress, but it can rarely tolerate outrage, no matter how warranted. Anger will just not get it done.

There’s a word of warning in there to the political partisans among us and, if we are honest, we must admit there is some partisan of some variety in us all. And though our side may be right (and I’m pretty sure mine is), our outrage is contagious and if we aren’t careful, it will infect our witness for Christ.

Today’s world looks a lot more like Athens (with all its idols) than Jerusalem. We have two choices. Unleash our outrage over the loss of Jerusalem or embrace the challenges and possibilities of Athens.

We will do great violence to people and a great disservice to the church if we persist in a “take this country back” approach. America, or any other country for that matter, can only be won back by the gospel of Jesus Christ, as they say, period.

There’s a third choice: Lament the loss of what once was. Whatever Christian America ever was, it is no more. Note again the opening line from today’s text:

While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.

Lament offers a healthy outlet for our outrage: the presence of God. Remember the time Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). I think this is, in part, what he was talking about.

We have a lot to be greatly distressed about, but great distress will never get it done. Only the creative, Holy Spirit–empowered love of Jesus can.

To lament the loss of “Jerusalem” (i.e., what once was) enables us to get on with the business of winning “Athens” (i.e., what could yet be). 

(I’ll say a word on the podcast today for you listeners about the perils of watching too much news and the corrosive impact it has on faith, hope, and love.) 

THE PRAYER OF TRANSFORMATION

Lord Jesus, I want to be your witness, a real Christian. To that end, 

I receive your righteousness and release my sinfulness.
I receive your lament and release my outrage.
I receive your faith and release my fear.
I receive your hope and release my optimism and pessimism.
I receive your love and release my self-interestedness. 

Come, Holy Spirit, transform my heart, mind, soul, and strength so that my consecration becomes your demonstration; that our lives become your sanctuary. For the glory of God our Father, amen.

JOURNAL PROMPTS

How much are you dealing with outrage over the way things have been and are going in your culture or country? Have you lamented the loss before God or are you spilling your outrage out on others?

THE HYMN

Today we will sing “He Leadeth Me: O Blessed Thought,” (hymn 73) from our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise. Get your copy here. 

For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

4 Responses

  1. JD, Oh how timely is this posting! I too, have come to the point where I’ve had to limit my intake of toxic social media “news”. So much of it in my opinion, is folks venting their frustration over the loss of what was “Christian America “. I truly believe that this is all happening, because God in His wisdom, is using the loss of cultural support for the “church as a religious business organization “, to be brought back to its original creation and purpose. The Church as it was originally born, was to reflect the mature, full stature of Christ Jesus (Ephesians 4:1-16). In order to recover that original image and purpose, the Church must be disentangled from secular politics, and once again become countercultural. So many believers have been praying over the years to once again experience first Century Christianity. We just might get that opportunity.

    1. Ditto. My personal journey has been from Reagan Republican to Jesus First. I came to a realization that has stuck with me through all of the turmoil in the country, today. God is sovereign! Perhaps some people need to be awakened to action, but I need to constantly be reminded that God is never surprised. And he does not need my help guiding history. I just need to focus on my responsibility to love God, love People.

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