I walked down the streets of NYC in awe. In awe of the variety of people, of sin, of poverty & materialism, of smells…some good and some horrendous. I saw homeless teens taking shelter in cardboard boxes and people digging through garbage for scraps to eat. No one else seemed to be alarmed by these sights. I was taking it all in for what seemed like hours as a heaviness eventually settled on my spirit.
Then I heard someone preaching from what I thought was the Bible. There were groups of men monopolizing corner after corner on street after street. They were dressed in robes and stood on ascending, throne-like platforms. As I got closer I heard clearly their confusing message. They screamed into microphones… words of racial hatred and Bible mixed with blasphemy. They shouted loudly in Hebrew, and made hissing sounds, at several Jewish men who ran past me.
The man on the top of the platform yelled into his hand held mic “YOU, lady with blonde hair, DO YOU BELIEVE IN GOD?” Out of hundreds of people walking by, he was looking and speaking directly at me. I yelled back to him “Yes, I do believe in God.”
Later I thought about this experience and wondered how I would have felt if an evil man had held a gun to my head while asking me the question, “Do you believe in God?” The same question that the young college students in Oregon were asked this past week. They stood up and and declared their faith in God. And then were shot and killed.
[blockquote cite=”Hilary Mantel, author” type=”center”]I cannot unbelieve what I believe. [/blockquote]
Where does such faith, such belief, come from? A convicting, amazing faith that sees beyond this life and chooses Jesus over all else? Unless a person knows Jesus, God incarnate, they cannot possibly understand.
Those who lack faith will not understand how Christians can stand in the face of death with sadness, yet boldness; those with faith know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the LORD. (2 Corinthians 5:8)
Those who lack faith will not understand a belief in something you cannot see; those with faith see Almighty God and His glory in everything. We see with spiritual eyes the purpose and meaning of this temporal life. Temporal… short, fleeting and passing quickly like a vapor. (2 Corinthians 5:20)
[pullquote cite=”Isaiah 26:3″ type=”right”]Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.[/pullquote]Those who lack faith may not understand why, in the face of death one would not save himself, if even out of fear alone; those with faith understand grace and peace. How it pours over one who needs it every single day and in perfect timing. We also know that Christ gave His life for us so that we can have life eternal. I’m not sure every person who says they are a Christian would stand strong for Jesus in the presence of their murderer. But I do know that genuine Christians would; there is no other choice.
Those who lack faith will not understand why God would allow such things like the tragic death of innocent students; those with faith understand that God is Sovereign. That nothing passes through His hand without his permission and that even the most horrible things are exchanged for a greater purpose. No heartache is wasted. (Psalm 139)
[pullquote cite=”Revelation 21:4″ type=”left”]And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.[/pullquote]Those who lack faith may not understand why parents and families and a nation must suffer at the hands of such awful tragedy; those with faith feel deep sorrow and weep for the hurting. We know that God miraculously heals broken hearts and comforts those who are suffering. We know that one day all things we despise… sickness, sorrow, heartache, physical death and evil will come to an end. We know that we must walk through life so that we can understand good and evil. So that we learn to hate unrighteousness with all that is in us. We are living among the consequences of sin in a fallen world. One day there will be no more tears. It is then that we will understand the meaning of love and righteousness in all its fullness.
Those without faith can’t understand how Christians can believe in eternity; those with faith know that the dash between our birth and physical death is a tiny dot on a long line of never ending life. “For God so loved the World that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
It is open to everyone….this invitation to receive faith in Jesus; this hope beyond understanding and peace that is not explainable. This faith that gives one the ability to grasp the incredible love story of God-incarnate humbling himself to walk with us and become the payment for our salvation. So that mankind might be saved from eternal separation from Himself. So much is not fair in this upside down world. Like homeless teens living in cardboard boxes. Or people eating out of garbage cans. And, students being murdered for their faith. But Jesus promises to make all wrong, right. To settle every score and bring peace and righteous judgment. He will do away with evil and we will forever praise Him. He is the ONLY HOPE for all men. It is for these reasons that we can never deny Jesus or that we belong to Him. Not ever. As Hilary Mantel stated so simply, “I cannot unbelieve what I believe.”
My heart aches for the families of the murdered students in Oregon. Their loved ones proclaimed their faith in God through Jesus with their very lives. Then their faith was made sight and they heard ‘Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the JOY OF THE LORD.” (Matthew 25)
[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Singing hallelujah, Colette[/custom_headline]
Feature photo attribution: flickr photo by Fey Ilyas http://flickr.com/photos/renneville/3161518829 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license