Timing, tact, and a call to repentance

My line about making sad eyes at each other has been quoted more than once. Here is a more complete context of the line:

“Don’t go to these links expecting to read soft words of sorrow and sympathy. We all mourn the victims and the wickedness that was done, but standing about making sad eyes at one another won’t do a bit of good.
Our nation has so much to repent for…”

I will admit that I was a little ambiguous – I meant to say (and thought I said) that just making sad eyes wouldn’t help.
In the past during times of tragedy, Americans (and Christians throughout history) have always responded by examining themselves to determine whether the tragedy is likely to be a sign of God’s displeasure.

In his commentary on Luke 13:1-5, Matthew Henry says,
“…He [Christ] cautioned his hearers not to blame great sufferers, as if they were therefore to be accounted great sinners. As no place or employment can secure from the stroke of death, we should consider the sudden removals of others as warnings to ourselves. On these accounts Christ founded a call to repentance. The same Jesus that bids us repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, bids us repent, for otherwise we shall perish.”

This reaction is not unique to Christians – it is in human nature to ask, “Why?” when such things happen.
Of course we can’t know the mind of God, but we can expect things to go badly when we are not living in obedience to Him, both as individuals (Pr. 10:24, 12:21, and as a nation (Pr. 11:11, Deut. 28:15-68). And if we have reason to believe that we are under judgment, we want to repent quickly, not wait for the grief to subside and new tragedy to fall before we broach the subject.
When is a better time to preach repentance to society at large: when the economy is strong and crime is decreasing, there’s a chicken in every pot and 2 cars in every garage? Or when we’ve been stricken by terrorists, epidemics, hurricanes and drug wars?

This does not mean that you step up to the grieving survivors of a fatal car wreck and tell them it’s all their fault. Few would be offended at being warned to drive more carefully after a horrific car wreck makes the headlines, but the grieving family would be very likely to take offense. There are different roles to be played, depending upon time, place, circumstances and other factors.

Jesus wept with Lazarus’s sister Mary. He showed compassion to those who were suffering. But when He was told in Luke 13 about the Galileans whose blood Herod mingled with their sacrifices, His immediate response was assurance that those who died were no worse than the rest and a call to national repentance.

I know and love Mr. Phillips as a Christian brother, and I think that the Vision Forum email newsletter on Virginia Tech was right on, but my point here is not to defend him. It is to rebut the claim that people should not address an important subject when it is immediately relevant because someone, somewhere, might misunderstand or find it hurtful.
Some topics are going to offend. So does the Gospel, as another reader commented.

When the Babylonians were carrying the Israelite captives away, do you think the people really wanted to hear Jeremiah and Isaiah blame it on their own idolatry? When God struck down thousands of Israelites in the wilderness, did Moses first come hug them and then much later, when their grief had softened, gently mention that they might want to consider how God felt about their complaining?

God brings disaster upon nations that disobey:

Isaiah 45:7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.

Amos 3:6 Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?

Job 2:10 …Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?…

Our nation is in disobedience:
Abortion isn’t just in existence, but it is also nationally SANCTIONED. There were always Israelites who were going to be wicked (thus God’s commands in Deut 13 on how to deal with them) but it was when there was a NATIONAL idolatry as in the time of Ahab or Solomon that God moved against his whole people in judgement.

The public school system is corrupt at its very core. Yes, I know a lot of people will be offended to hear me say this but I strongly believe that the system cannot be redeemed. It is funded by theft and founded in the tenets of marxism and humanism. That’s a whole other discussion, but if you doubt it just let me encourage you to read up on the founders of the public school system. But quickly now, ask yourself: would you send your children to a muslim school? What if some of the teachers were professing Christians, but still taught the Q’ran and the tenets of Islam as required? Would you want your Christian children to be immersed in those teachings for most of their waking hours, 5 days/week from the age of 5 or less? Yes, your child might be a Christian when he graduates, but have you done your very best to disciple him, to raise him up in the fear and admonition of the Lord?
Maybe you disagree on this point. I know many Christians do. We’ll just have to agree to disagree, and I’ll reopen that cans of worms another day.

Many of our most popular books, movies and popular music lyrics are morally repulsive (Ps. 101:3).

Never before in the history of Western Civilization has homosexuality gained such widespread acceptance.

Yes, our nation is in sin. We need to repent.

Christian leaders and pastors have a duty to respond during times like this. This response can take many legitimate forms. A call to repentance is one.

Pro 14:34 Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.

Comments

  1. Martha,
    I think you are absolutely right: our rampant materialism is yet another manifestation of our man-centered rather than God-centered lives. My list was by no means comprehensive; the list of our nation’s sins goes on and on – hence the need for repentance on a national level as well as individual.

  2. How can you you list some of America’s sins without mentioning our out of control materialism? It is idolatry, plain and simple.

    I also suggest you read the Gospel and tally all the times Jesus speaks about homosexuality. Then tally the times he mentions helping the poor. Or the Pharisee’s self-righteous attitudes.

    I did this myself, and as a 3rd generation fundamentalist, was quite surprised. I think I had been too influened by cultural Christianity. I need to gain the heart of Jesus, to be concerned by the things he was concerned about.

    What do you think? Martha

  3. Hi, I’m a longtime reader but have only posted comments a few times. I have followed this discussion with interest.

    It finally hit me today why the phrasing “making side eyes at each other” troubled me when I read it — it’s because in and of itself, the very wording seems disrespectful to those who mourn, disrespectful of grief. Having read your blog for quite a while, I suspect you probably didn’t mean it this way, as in the very same sentence you said that you mourned the victims and the wickedness that was done. And your clarification helps somewhat.

    But I feel “making sad eyes” seems kind of a flip way to discuss those who are grieving, or to refer to those who grieve with those who mourn, as Christ would want us to do.

    Plese know I don’t mean this in a harsh way, but in a conversational “discussion” way as this subject is probed more deeply; I hope it might offer a bit more explanation for why some fellow Christians have reacted as they have and felt there was more of a need for tact or greater expression of compassion.

    Thanks for an enjoyable blog!

    With best wishes,
    Laura

  4. HomemakerAng says:

    Corrie! These are all my thoughts but never could I put them down on paper as well as you have, ONCE again my dear! Thank you

  5. “”Don’t go to these links expecting to read soft words of sorrow and sympathy. We all mourn the victims and the wickedness that was done, but standing about making sad eyes at one another won’t do a bit of good.
    Our nation has so much to repent for…”

    I will admit that I was a little ambiguous – I meant to say (and thought I said) that just making sad eyes wouldn’t help.”

    Hi Kim,

    Thank you for your post and for clearing up the confusion.

    I hardly think anyone is just sitting around making sad eyes at each other and doing nothing else. I have seen numerous interviews with the parents and with the faculty and with the students and everyone has asked themself “why” and they are examining themselves. In fact, we all know that a victim of a violent crime, a surviving victim, almost ALWAYS blames themself.

    Also, while I agree with the bulk of the content of Phillips’ letter, I disagree that he can tell us why this happened any more than I can tell everyone why this happened. I also disagree with his timing and tact and with arming every male student to prevent these sorts of things happening.

    I think that we have to tell the truth and have tact. I think the timing was what people were taking issue with. I think speaking for God and telling others why this happened is what people have an issue with.

    Luke 13:1-5 cleary shows Jesus’ attitude towards those who look at tragedies and horrors and cry “judgment”.

    James 2 tells us that mercy triumphs over judgment. Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time for everything. I think there is a lot more scripture that we can read that would make us a little more well-rounded and not so lopsided.

    Wisdom and understanding call for us to think before we speak.

    The bodies were still warm and people were making statements about why this happened and how they could have taken Cho down and prevented loss of life.

    That is armchair quarterbacking at its finest. Hindsight is always 20/20.

    I don’t think is the time to rub a surviving victim’s nose in “it”, either. Do we not know that they are already condemning themselves?

    I don’t think anyone has a problem with discussing how we can be more prepared. But, cutting on the victims? Some of our dear Christian leaders are referring to the dead and surviving males as “wusses” and less than manly and “passive” That is disturbing. How do we know that all the dead just died “passively”? Does a soldier who takes cover in a foxhole die “passively”? This is so disturbing to me that it literally sickens me.

    I wonder why these words weren’t said in response to the Amish school shooting? After all, the gunman ordered the teachers and male students out of the building so he could shoot the females. Are the Amish less manly because they are pacificists? Why are we critcising them and their response?

    In fact, their response to this tragedy has caused our heathen nation to take pause and think. Their response has made an impression.

    Our response to this tragedy is causing people to stumble, to hate Christ even more and to hate Christians because we are a bunch of jerks. We are NOT getting through to the people who need it most. Maybe it would be good if we looked at our methods instead of criticizing a lost and dying world.

    Remember? “Father forgive them they know not what they do?” Total depravity. That is what we are dealing with.

    Yes, I am just as sick over abortion. It truly sickens me. But, do we know that is why this shooting happened?

    Is that why the shooting at the Fort Worth church happened? Or the shooting at the church in Waukesha happened? Or the shooting at the Amish school happened?

    Why do we only say these things when it happens at secular schools?

    “In the past during times of tragedy, Americans (and Christians throughout history) have always responded by examining themselves to determine whether the tragedy is likely to be a sign of God’s displeasure.”

    And they ARE doing that. But, we are to examine our own selves. Instead, some of us are so readily pointing the finger at others. How do I know God isn’t judging America because of my own pride, arrogance and lack of love for my own brothers and sisters in Christ? How do I know that God isn’t judging America because of His Bride who can’t seem to understand the concept of unity? How do I know God isn’t judging me because I use His word and His name in vain and as a cover for my lack of love? Or because I tell the truth but I am without love and I am a clanging gong?

    Doesn’t judgment START with the house of God? Why are we so quick to blame the lost and the dead who know not what they do? Who cannot NOT sin because they are dead in their sins?

    “This reaction is not unique to Christians – it is in human nature to ask, “Why?” when such things happen.””

    And, that is why your initial comment needed more explaining. People are already doing this. Some of us are just asking people to be more tactful. We are not just sitting around and making sad eyes at the victims’ families. We are mourning with them. We are weeping with them. But, we are ALSO examining our own SELVES and repenting of our OWN sins.

    Just because people call for tact, mercy and compassion and a little bit of thoughtfulness, does not make them a raging liberal who hugs trees. :-) That was an actual comment in another forum. I guess if you don’t agree with the knee-jerk reactions of some you are automatically a liberal. That did make me laugh.

  6. I think God sends his rain on the good and the bad. I think Job is the perfect example of this situation. His friends asked him, what in the world did you do wrong to have God angry at you? But we know that the reason for such terrible events were to strengthen his faith, and the faith of those around him. I believe wholeheartedly in what Paul says in Romans, “All things work to the good of those who serve Him.” I totally understand your point about the nation drifting from Him, and it isnĀ“t just the USA. Today abortion was legalized here in Mexico, a very sad day indeed. I think that God permits these things so that, like Job, we may lift our eyes to His greatness and remember that we are nothing without Him; AND that, like Job, we can testify of His grace to those near us who are also experiencing the pain.

    By the way, I really enjoy your blog even though I have never posted until now.

  7. Kim,

    Thanks! What a great post! I agree whole heartedly!

    MJ

  8. Thank you, Kim – especially for the thought about sending your children to a Muslim school. That definitely puts a fresh spin on it – while I am totally convinced that we should homeschool our children, my husband is still on the fence, and I pray this illustration will help him understand my reluctance to immerse my children in public school.

    God bless you!

  9. Kim, you said, “God brings disaster upon those that disobey?” and “our nation is in disobedience.” You cited abortion and the public schools as two cases of our disobedience.

    I’m curious, do you believe that our country was under God’s blessing when it was founded? And if so, at what point did America lose the blessing and begin to incur God’s judgment? Was it before abortion became legal? Was it when the compulsory school bill was passed? Or was there some other disobedient act that precipated the judgment of God and for which we are now incurring these disasters?

    I’m not trying to challenge you, but learn and grow as a Christian. And one of the best avenues is to learn from those who hold passionate beliefs and don’t shy away from expressing themselves. :)

  10. I praise the Lord that there are still other Christians out there who use the Bible as their only authority.

    Amen!

  11. HomemakerAng says:

    Your quote, VERY WELL said, “This does not mean that you step up to the grieving survivors of a fatal car wreck and tell them it’s all their fault. Few would be offended at being warned to drive more carefully after a horrific car wreck makes the headlines, but the grieving family would be very likely to take offense. There are different roles to be played, depending upon time, place, circumstances and other factors.”

    That was my exact cause of concern of VF email, the timeliness depending on “the different roles to be played, depending on the time, place, circumstances and other factors” and the grieving families “would be very likely to take offense”. (all words in quotes yours)

    I do not feel this was the time for the original VF email and public blog post to be released, as christians. You said it best by your quotes.

    Thanks for letting me share my view,
    In Him
    Homemakerang

  12. Milehimama says:

    Some of the criticism of the Vision Forum email might lie in the timing. I happened to read it right after I read that Westboro Baptist Church was planning to protest the victims’ funerals – I read those two stories back to back and then stopped reading anything VA Tech related for a few days (and so I missed your original post!)

    I think also, people react and need different things in grief. Like the 5 Love Language book – some people show love by doing things, some by saying things, etc. Well, some people turn inward for reflection in grief, some reach out to others, some look for higher answers (like your post)… I think it’s just a difference of personality.

    But what can you expect of a nation that kills its own children – somehow our legacy is NOT going to be using senseless violence to solve problems? Yeah, right.

  13. Distybug says:

    Excellent post…couldn’t agree more! Bravo!

  14. As we say here at Seven Meadows, “WOWEE WOW!”

    Well said, Kim.

  15. Chaotic Mom says:

    Great post Kim!

  16. Latte-n-Libre says:

    I agree 100% on every point! Thank you for taking the time to further explain your thoughts.

  17. Thanks for the clarification Kim. :) That helps a lot in understanding your previous comments.

    Thanks for the discussion.

    Blessings
    Spunky

  18. Lady Why says:

    Outstanding post, Kim!! I wholeheartedly agree!

  19. the one sayin it says:

    Amen! Amen! AMEN!!!

Don't just think it: say it!

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