Recently motorcycles backfired near New York City’s Times Square. People thought it was gunfire and panic quickly ensued. Some people got trampled as crowds tried to run for safety. Fortunately no one suffered life-threatening injuries.
The same evening at a mall in Utah a sign fell and made a sound that people thought was gunfire. They also started fearfully running in panic.
People throughout our country are in bondage to fear. The tragic mass shootings that keep happening have caused many to fear any loud noise they hear. Other fears grip people as well. Some fear anybody who looks different than they do or speaks a different language. Some are scared of what will happen if this law gets passed or that candidate gets elected.
Fear can cause people to run in panic and trample others in the process. It can also cause people to trample others with harmful words. Fear of those who are different can result in looking at them as threats that need to be avoided and enemies that need to be defeated, rather than seeing them as creations of God and souls that are loved by the Lord.
This terrified world desperately needs the good news of Jesus. Sadly, however, some Christians are joining the crowd that is running and hiding in fear. Jesus did not save us so that we might cower in fear until He returns. To His disciples, who also lived in a violent, scary world, “Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you’” (John 20:21).
When the motorcycles made the backfiring noise in Times Square, most ran from the noise. Police officers, however, ran to the noise to find out what was going on and how they could serve. Those who follow Jesus are to respond in a similar manner to the problems of this world. We do not throw up our hands and say, “It’s too hard. It’s a scary world. I’m just going to look out for me and mine.” Followers of Christ are to courageously go to the world with God’s promise of hope. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:1-2).
The Old Testament prophet Habakkuk asked some of the same questions we ask. “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds” (Habakkuk 1:2-3). It sounds like our day and the Babylonians of Habakkuk’s day sound like the people of our day: “… they all come bent on violence” (Habakkuk 1:9).
We wonder why God doesn’t stop the shooters before they pull the trigger. Habakkuk wondered why God let the violent, evil Babylonians harm so many people. But he still trusted God was in control and eventually His justice would prevail. He waited patiently and trusted that, though all kinds of tough things might happen, “… yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength” (Habakkuk 3:18-19).
We mourn with those who mourn. We weep over the violence that is so prevalent in our land. We call for each human life, no matter the color of their skin or the nature of their opinions, to be valued as a priceless treasure. We plead for people to use gentle words, “to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men” (Titus 3:2). And we share the good news that we can be set free from fear and find peace in Jesus.