When the World Burns, What Do We Do?

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Our nation is filled with death, destruction, disease, and division. For the American, the nation is figuratively and literally on fire. In the midst of chaos, it can feel as though our entire world is burning. But history is full of world-burning events like these. We have cycled through eras of confusion and turmoil and we will continue to cycle through them in this fallen world. So when there is devastation in the land, and confusion seems to reign supreme, what must Christians do in these times?

As my heart weighs heavy from everything that is happening in the world, I personally jotted down some thoughts to keep me focused. Here they are.

1. Pray

In a world that says, “We don’t need prayer, we need action,” we know, as Christians, that prayer is action. We know the world moves and shakes with every prayer. God hears the cries of His people, and will answer each prayer given according to His will. Prayer recognizes that no human solution or institution can replace the divine solution in these sad times. Pray fervently, pray frequently, and pray righteously. Prayer is the godly knee-jerk reaction to a world that burns.

2. Proclaim the Gospel

Legislation may bring peace for a season, but it will never change the hearts of men. The sinful depravity of man has proven time and time again that our world’s future will not get better, it will only get much worse (Gen 6:5; Rom 3). I’m not encouraging inaction or apathy towards sin. Instead, I’m calling us to recognize that our spiritual problems need a spiritual solution. Here is the problem: unrepentant men are dead men. Racists are dead men, authority abusers are dead men, looters are dead men, and all men are dead men. And spiritually dead men need more than just morality, they need new life in Jesus Christ. Consequently, the mission of the church does not change with the times and seasons. When the world burns, heralds of the Gospel are needed more and more. When chaos reigns supreme, we need Christ more than ever. The ministry of the local church can be a powerful megaphone in this season and can point others to the hope of Jesus. Our mission has not changed and will never change.

3. Communicate Well

The abuse of social media has ravaged our society. Civility and respect continue to decline into extinction. As Christians, we can help to redeem meaningful conversation in the church and society. The book of Proverbs is riddled with passages on good communication and listening. So when the world is in chaos, Christians especially need to communicate in ways that are more helpful and productive.

There are many righteous approaches toward disagreements. Careless words have consequences. It is important to listen to one another. Allow for nuance in complicated situations. Don’t make unrighteous generalizations and mischaracterizations of your opponents. Don’t demonize for the sake of winning an argument. To a contrarian, speak the truth in love. Be wise in your reaction, and respond in ways that are proportionate to the issue at hand. Don’t talk past each other, but represent others accurately and the way that you want to be represented. When someone makes a valid point, commend it. Be clear with your language and spell out what you mean and what you don’t mean. Be humble in conversation, and be willing to challenge your current position and traditions. If you’re founded on the truth, this will stand the test of time, so you don’t have to be afraid to test your convictions or refine your understanding of them. But if you are, in fact, wrong, then God is gracious to bring this to light.

One-off social media pot-shots, mean memes, or short Twitter quips may not always help the conversation. Find other ways to spark discussion. Start with one person at a time. Have good meaningful conversations with those who disagree with you. Communicate well.

4. Seek Justice Not Sin

If there is wrong in the world, then it needs to be righted. Commend the system when it gets things right, push for change when it gets it wrong. Vote, righteously protest (if you desire), post on social media, or do whatever is in your power as a citizen to bring change, but do not sin. It’s righteous to push for a law-breaker to face the punishment of his crime, and it is saddening to see murderers walk free. However, in our push for change, we cannot respond to sin with more sin. This is not what God intends for His people. Encouraging or excusing sinful actions is not God-honoring at all. We should lament and express righteous anger without expressing sinful anger (though this is understandably very difficult). We need to pursue justice without being a reckless vigilante, and God doesn’t need us to do that. God has reserved vengeance for Himself (Rom 12:19) and we can find comfort in that. There is a way to fight for justice that does not simultaneously push for sin (See this video by Dr. Paul Felix).

5. Be Discerning

Biases exist. In world of chaos, objectivity is skewed by a number of factors. Our education, experience, upbringing, and influences are all different. Once we acknowledge our partiality, our tribal tendencies, and our hobby horses, then can we begin the process of objectivity. It’s easy to spot biases of our opponents who contradict our political priors or presuppositions while, simultaneously, ignoring the very rose colored glasses that cover our eyes. We must fight for discernment and sort through all information with wisdom.

Every media outlet has its bias, so be aware of the share button. Be careful with what you read and observe from where it is coming. Learn how to separate the meat while spitting out the bones. Take the truth and filter out the lies. A mature Christian does not blindly go along with the spirit of the age and is not tossed around by the waves of the world, but the Christian is discerning, careful, and tests what is before him. Speak to other godly brothers and sisters who have biblically informed consciences and see what they think. Speak to others who many disagree and challenge your opinions. Don’t just speak to people who will affirm you in your presuppositions.

6. Sympathize with Feelings

Pain exists in the world. You may disagree about the finer points of news stories or even the media biases behind it. But the fears and feelings of others are real. Even if you think the world is in a great delusion, how can you effectively serve those you whom you love and serve those that are grieving? Check your self-righteousness. Berating or attacking people sinfully will accomplish nothing. Do not act as if you have all the answers to life, this shows great pride and will not win people over. Be a friend. Be a brother or sister. Show thoughtfulness, concern, and understanding. Affirm the hurt and pain that they feel first, and get to know why they feel what they feel. Pictures may be fabricated, news stories may be altered, but the responses and feelings to society are real. We need to take great care in sympathizing with others.

6. If You See Sin, Call It Sin. 

Call sin a sin. If sin is observed, call it out for what it is. There is no need for an apology or excuse. Don’t justify it with irrelevant side issues or excuse it with identity politics. The loving thing to do for the church and for our society is not to blur our definition of sin. The Bible is clear because God is clear about His definition of sin.  We may disagree about how sin manifests itself in certain news stories, but when the evidence is clear, we should not hesitate to expose sin.

This is not an argument for ugly social media rants or direct message disputes. It’s not simply a “see bad, Tweet more” type of proposition (because sometimes it’s better just to be quiet). However, if something is clearly a sin, then don’t be afraid to call it a sin. Don’t use nuance as an excuse to protect your politics or your pride. If sin is displayed, call it sin. And if you choose to be vocal on any platform, just make sure you are consistent in calling out sin in every circumstance. Don’t just pick your hobby-horse sins or your pet-peeve sins. Be aware of the “respectable sins” or “pet sins” that you have a tendency to tolerate and downplay. Don’t forget to call out those sins too.

7. Lament

When the world burns, sometimes there are no words or human solutions. Government constantly fails us, and we are constantly disappointed by mankind. In these circumstances, there is just pain and weeping. When injustices exist, human institutions fail, or progress is not made, then lamenting gives a voice to the groaning of the world (See Mark Vroegop’s article on lament). The brokenness of our world is more and more evident in these days. Instead of remaining silent or choosing deliberate ignorance, cry out in anguish toward the God who cares and desires to carry such burdens. Pray prayers of pain and in trust toward heaven. Cry out on behalf of fellow image-bearers and believers in anguish, and feel free to ask God “Why?” Yes, it’s okay to ask Him that question. God is strong enough to take it, and He knows how to answer it. The problems are immeasurable, and the pain may not subside in this sin-stained world. So in a time of devastation, the collective Christian voice must cry out to the Lord and plead, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus,” for our only hope is found in Him.


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