Longing for the Triumph of God
Outside Union Church (Pacific Presbytery).
Photo by Fernando Arevalos, https://www.instagram.com/bhab1875/.
Used with permission.
Longing for the Triumph of God
They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been (Revelation 6:10-11)
It’s Sunday evening, two days before this publishes. Long Beach has imposed a nine-hour curfew. Protests filled the downtown today.
Los Angeles is on its second night of twelve-hour curfews. I’ve read of protests and counter-protests in Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, and San Clemente.
The national news has become local. Tom has joined in prayer with colleagues across the nation. The horrifying, undeserved deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Aurbery, thousands of miles apart and thousands of miles away, have reached our neighborhoods. Some of our own pastors have spent sleepless nights. Please let us know if you’re one of them.
I don’t feel eloquent. I’m a jumbled mess of thoughts. But I wouldn’t be surprised if you are too. So here’s a little of my jumble in case something helps.
1. Police brutality and unequal treatment before the law violate the US Constitution. But—more importantly—they violate Scripture. It makes me heartsick that these sentences do not go without saying.
2. The Reformed doctrine of total depravity resonates more than ever. We are trapped in our own evil. Any goodness within us comes from God, and not ourselves. But if our goodness comes from God, then we have hope.
3. I used to think my experience of America was common. If I hadn’t seen it or read about it, it probably wasn’t true. I’m still trapped behind my own eyeballs. But I know now that my experience was uncommon. I am more ready to listen.
4. When one of us suffers, all of us suffer. Even if we don’t know it.
5. Humility helps. Organized, coordinated acts of official humility can break vicious circles.
6. God will avenge. God will avenge. God will Believing this produces in me both hope and fear. Both are good things.
7. Earthly passiveness is the perversion, not the logical outcome, of heavenly hope. Knowing that Christ “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead” should motivate us to lace up our boots and march out into the world to do God’s work.
8. Oh, and one more: dead men do tell tales. The Bible calls them witnesses (marturoi). Their voices call out. They can teach us if we listen.
Fifty-plus years later, our confessional summons holds true:
With an urgency born of this hope, the church applies itself to present tasks and strives for a better world. It does not identify limited progress with the kingdom of God on earth, nor does it despair in the face of disappointment and defeat. In steadfast hope, the church looks beyond all partial achievement to the final triumph of God (Confession of 1967, 9.55).
Praying that God will guide us—