Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous!

Praise befits the upright.

Psalm 33: 1

 

There is a lot of shouting going on these days, and very little of it is spoken in praise of God. In fact, when God is evoked, it is often in some form of negative manner in which either His wrath or His irrelevance is the subject of the ideas put forth. Make no mistake about it, I believe that words are powerful tools; they are the wrenches and rulers, the drivers and the mallets that fill my writer’s war chest. Words lift up and at other times they scrape the soil from under the feet. There is power in them. People are moved to take certain actions by the careful application of language. Mothers console with expressions of love and comfort, and the Father counsels us with His powerful words of truth and righteousness. The volume and the emphasis that we put behind the delivery of our language add the element of emotion and serve to personalize the lexical statements that we utter.

 

So, when it comes to making a sincerely loud noise in our world with our words, it seems to me that the ones that should come out first and with the greatest clarity are the ones that sing forth God’s nature, character, and engagement with our lives. In my experience, the Lord is the source of true joy in my days, strength for the journey, and peace in the course of its progress. God brings forth life where nothing more than a dry expanse of wasteland existed before His presence. Through Christ we are redeemed from a life of servitude to the oppressive forces of this world and to their false promises of safety and security, and in Christ we can live in the valid security of our souls and the safety for our hearts that comes only by and through His loving grace and mercy.

 

This does not mean that I think that followers of Christ should not be speaking out in favor of justice, peacemaking, and the extension of grace and mercy to people in our world, for I hold that doing these things is a God-mandated aspect of living as citizens of His kingdom come on earth. What I am saying is that the nature and the tone of our expressions should reflect the character and the person of our Lord. In Christ, all that we do and everything that we say is directly connected to Him, and all that we set forth in our days needs to be sourced from that relationship. If it is true for me and for you that Christ is the source of the joy in our lives, then everything that we place before the eyes of our world can be prefaced and framed in the context of that joy and related to its source. Thus, each statement that we make can be an expression of the Gospel of Christ and so a message of hope that can cut through the noise of this troubled world.

 

 

The punishment of your iniquity, O daughter of Zion, is accomplished,

He will keep you in exile no longer,

but your iniquity, O daughter of Edom, He will punish,

He will uncover your sins.

Lamentations 4: 22

 

Let me risk the obvious. The world is a mess. Maybe it is a product of age or is caused by experiencing an especially paranoid patch of life, but things seem worse today than at any time in my memory. The way that people engage with each other and the manner in which they dialogue about their differences is harsh, angry, and lacking in the heart of understanding. There is a hopelessness in the air that is frightening in that it doesn’t anticipate a better tomorrow. In light of all of this, I think that the author of Lamentations helps us understand our world and our participation in it with the sort of clarity that comes from God.

 

We are not innocent bystanders to all of the chaos that fills our world. We, and I speak of all people who name Christ as Lord today and throughout history, have played and do play a role in creating and shaping this mess that is the relational and physical architecture of our world. We have not been diligent students of our God, and we are not devoted followers of our Lord. We tend to do these things as they fit our desires, wishes, and preferred outcomes. We are proficient at shaping our god to fit with our self-determined comfortabilities, and this is sinful idolatry in God’s eyes and it is fatally destructive to the world we live in. Yet, in the midst of our wandering away from Christ, there is hope beyond imagining.

 

God’s love and grace as depicted and perfected by Christ overcome all that we think and do. Jesus saves us, and He redeems us; then, He restores our lives to God’s intent and desired usefulness in our world. I believe that this intended purpose is directed toward Christ’s work of redemption. So, we are intended to be peacemakers, sacrificial lovers of people, and bearers of the light of the gospel. God clearly says that He will deal with His adversaries. So, we are not called upon to be crusaders seeking to purify our world by wielding a self-determined righteous sword. Christ calls upon His people to live as shepherds who will not rest until all of the lost are found and redeemed. This calling demands that we seek God’s grace and healing in our lives and in those of others and that we submit our anger and fear to Christ’s unfailing protection and love.