Yesterday, a woman attempted to drive past White House guards. She was unsuccessful and sped up to the U. S. Capitol building where she was shot and killed. It’s not immediately clear why Miriam Carey did this, and why she placed her child’s life in danger (the child was apparently unharmed). My friend Eric Teetsel chronicled all of this on Twitter; he was feet from the scene.
This latest burst of madness in D. C. did not result in mass deaths. But it was yet another attack on authority and the populace. It was another instance of a news cycle dominated by chaos and danger. It was a reminder, if you tuned in, that our world is now unsafe.
What do I mean by that? It seems rather clear that something in our society is slipping away. There is a common fabric that has been torn. Killers pop up in the most surprising of places: in movie theaters, in the parking lot of government facilities, and in classrooms filled with six-year-olds. These shootings in American locales have threatened our sense of security. “What’s happening in this country?” we wonder. “What is producing this madness? How can we make it stop?”
I think there really is something that we as a society have lost. The Judeo-Christian moral framework of this country is fractured; a sense of morality and duty to the broader body politic is eroding; that old sense that one was safe in one’s home is slipping away. I attribute this shift, in sum, to a worldview revolution. We’re more narcissistic, more psychological, less moral, and less theistic today. In the wake of such a sea change, some turn to killing. The rest of us suffer, and our common sense of security takes a hit, and then another.
But here’s the thing that struck me yesterday as I processed yet another public attack: we’re all unsafe. We always have been. We should feel unsafe. We are. We should feel insecure. There is no security in this world. These are hard words, but I think they are true.
We’re seeing the lid ripped off of the nice little box we like to put ourselves in as relatively affluent American Christians. Even though we know that this world is shot through with sin (Romans 3:10-18), we still want to think that everything’s okay. We want the delusion that all is nice and safe and comfortable. If we just stay in our lane, and live in nice places, and do what we’re supposed to do, we’ll live a life of safety and security and ease. This isn’t full-blown prosperity theology, but it’s a form of it. It ends up trying to extract a promise from God that, while chaos and pain may strike others, it won’t strike us because of our inherent agreeableness.
There is nothing wrong with seeking calm and quiet and comfort. Nothing at all. Buy the nice home; install the security system; join the neighborhood watch; vote in such a way as to maximize community protection; do all you can to free your family and yourself from danger. But the bigger point is this: we live in a fallen world. We kid ourselves and worse if we think that life in a sin-stricken realm will mean undisturbed repose. None of us can risk-proof our lives. None of us can remove sin and suffering from our surroundings. None of us can achieve lasting security and safety here. That, as I said earlier, is a delusion.
We want our latte, a quiet fall day, and a growing bank account. We don’t want kids dying and the threat of social breakdown. But these are real, and awful, parts of life.
The mass killings and cultural devastation that we’ve seen over the last dozen years (starting with 9/11) have shaken many of us. The world seems scary today. Often, we react to this by soothing ourselves and our loved ones. “It’s going to be okay,” we say, “everything will work out.” That’s an understandable human response, but it doesn’t hold up in the end. It’s not all going to be okay. People die. Across the world, gunmen walk into shopping malls and youth camps. They murder the innocent. Abortion providers kill little babies every day in quiet little communities that pride themselves on togetherness and equality. We’re in a lost, fallen, broken, sick world. It’s always been this way; Christians in many countries now and over the ages have it and had it far worse than many of us do in America today.
The sooner we acknowledge and square with that, the better.
The foregoing is missing just one thing: hope. Jesus Christ. The living, reigning Lord who swept into our world and made a way to escape this unsafe, unfriendly place. In an insecure realm, Jesus is our security. In an unsafe society, Jesus is our safety. In a broken culture, Jesus is our wholeness. There really is no other ballast in this world. This is it. And here’s the good part: he is all we could ever need or want, and ten million times more than that.
This is the true mystery of the problem of evil: why Jesus entered into the chaos and confusion and smoke and screams and death. Why he left heaven. Why God the Father sent him. He had the ultimate security; he dwelt in inexhaustible light. But he came to us, and we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father (John 1:14).
This is the hope of every believer. This is the hope of everyone who isn’t religious or is fearful or confused or suffering. Jesus Christ is our security; Jesus Christ is our safety. He conquered sin and hell and Satan on the cross. He gives life as the one who was resurrected from the tomb. This, and no other, is the believer’s rock, the ground under our feet that never shifts.
If you’re scared by all these events, these killings, these hysteria-inducing tragedies, you should be. If you’re discouraged by what’s happening all around us in normal, seemingly safe places, you should be. There is no lasting comfort in this world. There is no pain-free life you can guarantee yourself. All the savings and the carefully purchased homes and the security systems and the excellent schools and the moral living and the shrewd investing cannot ensure that you and I will be safe, or our kids will not taste pain. We do all that we can to bring happiness and safety to our loved ones. So we should. But the only security and safety available to fallen people is Jesus Christ.
Jesus is not only our Lord; he is our model. Following the will of God in a cursed place meant braving hatred, and inviting persecution, and dying on a cross. Have we deceived ourselves? Are we thinking we’re owed something we’re not?
It’s right to be alarmed by what’s increasingly dominating headlines. It’s right to pray for peace and the restoration of civil order and moral behavior. It’s right to work to repair the natural family and protect marriage and contend for the unborn. But ultimately, this world is not our home. We are “strangers and exiles” according to 1 Peter 2:11. We are safe in Jesus Christ now, secure for all eternity through his blood. We have no guarantee of earthly peace for ourselves and our families; we have God’s own guarantee of heavenly peace for all the ages to come. That’s our encouragement. That’s our hope.
So: abandon the delusion of earthly security. Live all out for Jesus Christ. Take nothing for granted. Live like a Hebrews 11 Christian. Tell everyone you can of the hope found in the cross. Kiss, love, and pray for your children.
This world is not your home. So spend it all for God. As a wise man once said, as long as it is day, we must do the works of Christ.
(Image: Jewel Samad/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)